Trail running Cunningham’s Gap

Cunningham's Gap (lowest point), Mt Cordeux (right of the Gap), Bare Rock (far right)

My training program listed today’s training as a 13km run with the last 1.5km at 10km pace. Last night I was telling my partner that I really wanted to hit the bush rather than having to do my run along the same old roads and she simply asked “why don’t you?”. So I did. I got up at 4:30am to ride my motorbike two hours to the top of Cunningham’s Gap and run the 12km return trail past Mt Cordeux and on to Bare Rock. On the way up to The Gap I took the above photo to show you today’s running grounds. Sorry that it’s a little out of focus, I only had my mobile phone with me.

View south from Mt Cordeux track

I was cold after my motorbike ride, the temperature up on the Scenic Rim is always a lot cooler than it is down at my home near the coast. The GPS showed that it was 15’C – perfect for running. I set off up the trail and soon realised that I had bitten off quite a bit more than I had anticipated. It’s been a long time since I walked at Cunningham’s Gap and I had clearly forgotten how steep and rocky the terrain is (though logic dictates that I should have anticipated it – The Gap is one of only two passes crossing the steep mountain range west of Brisbane).

I ran my first kilometre at 7:05 pace, which I thought was excellent for a trail that climbed steeply and included many rock gardens and mud patches. The second was much slower (10:04) because my legs and lungs were burning, and the ball of my left foot was giving me trouble. I think I also got a bit overwhelmed by the idea of trail running on an bushwalking trail on such an isolated mountain range. However, by the end of the third kilometre (9:45) I started to settle into the bush and to really enjoy myself. I took the photo above somewhere during the second or third kilometre.

Mt Cordeaux lookout (south)

Mt Cordeaux lookout (north)

The view from Mt Cordeaux was stunning. I took a few moments to drink it in and use it to fuel both my legs and my soul. This is why I am falling in love with trail running and why I want to break into adventure racing – for the wilderness and the views that come with it.

Mt Cordeaux

Overgrown trail around Mt Cordeux summit

My fourth kilometre included a stunning view back at Mt Cordeaux from a narrow rocky ridge that connects that mountain with the Bare Rock section of trail. I must have felt good because I ran this kilometre at 7:03, not bad given the rugged terrain and overgrown trail.

View north from Bare Rock

After a short respite, the trail started to climb again until I reached the Bare Rock lookout. I ran kilometre 5 at 8:40 pace and then kilometre 6, which included a rough scramble up and down Bare Rock lookout, at 9:55. I had climbed from 773m elevation to 1,168m elevation in 5.8km. While it’s not exactly Mt Everest the consistent climbing was new to me and I definitely need to work on it more.

The run back to the carpark was amazing. After reaching Bare Rock I realised that I am capable to tackling the bushwalking trails in our national parks and mountains. While it seems silly to think I was uncertain about my plans to run out here, it seems somehow different to running trails in my local bush where I am just a few minutes from civilisation. The exposure of being on hiking trails and all the warning signs about how you need to be prepared certainly affected my mental state this morning. So reaching Bare Rock and not giving in was important.

Loving the run

The run back to my motorbike was amazing! Not only because it was downhill but because I felt strong, confident and optimistic about making this type of trail run a regular event. I ran my kilometres back to the car at: 7:16 (I had to walk through some stinging nettle), 6:40, 6:28, 7:44 (I had to take it easy on a steep narrow stair section), 7:02 and 6:29,

The indicative time for the trail is 5:30 for walkers. I completed it in 1:34:44 at an average pace of 7:50min/km. It’s a fantastic starting point and confidence booster as I continue to train to move into adventure racing and off-road triathlon from next season. I also think it was a really good tough session to assist in my preparation for the Byron Bay Triathlon in 9 weeks today.

My new shoes are now worn in

If you are getting bored with running on the road, let me encourage you to explore your local hiking trails. You don’t need any special equipment except a way to carry your water. I ran the trail in a cheap pair of Pumas, which held up perfectly well despite not being trail running shoes.

Total: 12.09km @ 7:50 pace


2 responses to “Trail running Cunningham’s Gap

  1. Sounds like the sort of crazy thing I would do … except I would have under-estimated the whole thing, gone twice as far as intended and got back two hours late 🙂 Looks like a fantastic place to run and explore!

    • Haha 🙂 There was no more track to follow after Bare Rock so I couldn’t keep going. 😉 It is a fantastic place to run, though there are only a few longer trails.

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