Living in Australia has its perks. Arapiles and Grampians stone, Blue Mountains bolts, Frog cracks, Tasmanian, central Australian and coastal hiking. What we are lacking however is a selection of any serious altitude gains. In fact, there aren't too many places where you can have a single uninterrupted climb of more than 1000m. They do however exist, and you can be sure that the guys organising the La Sportiva Mountain Running Series have found them. The series is loosely based around the Victorian Alpine National Park where majority of Australia's bigger ascents are. However they do have running events on the coast at Wilsons Prom and around the Lake Mountain Range near Melbourne amongst others.
Razor Back Ridge. Photo from La Sportiva Mountain Running Facebook page
The focus of the La Sportiva Mountain Running Series is to emulate the format of mountain running events that are popular in Europe, but in a style that is as self supportive and cost effective as safely possible. This means that there are events such as the Vertical K, where you race up a track with 1000m of ascent in the shortest possible distance, mid distance trail events from 22km to 42km, and ultras in every distance from 42km right up to the 100mile Alpine Challenge.
The strong philosophy of being self supported not only adds to the adventure and exposure of some of the longer events, but it also lets you use important skills like map reading, navigation and pacing yourself and your rations to give leeway if something went wrong. You won't find the lights and glitter of the North Face 100, nor will the track be marked every 500m and support crews are not compulsory. For the safety of participants there is often prerequisites for the longer races (such as taking part in a shorter distance trail event in the last 6 months), a mandatory gear list (which may have a few more items not required on lesser remote runs), check points and time cut-offs for those check points.
The fantastic thing that arises from the events being run in this way (apart from the lower cost) is the culture of comradeship and esteem given to making the distance rather than times or placing well. Official wording on the events website states: "This is a mutual support event; it is not a race in the traditional sense. For safety reasons all participants must offer assistance to others in distress. Participants are responsible for their own safety and assume full liability for their participation". This should sit well with outdoor enthusiasts as is the culture amongst the climbing and hiking community.
So if your are looking at getting into some trail running events and are keen for a weekend away check out the La Sportiva Mountain Running Series Facebook page for the most up to date information and their official website here. Running Wild is the organisation behind the La Sportiva Series, and although that particular series incorporates the top tear of challenging events run by the group, they also do many other smaller events throughout the year. You can find more information about Running Wild here.