The Margaret River Ultra Marathon takes runners on an incredible journey along Western Australia’s most cherished stretches of coast.
Starting on brilliant white sands at Hamelin Bay the course passes through an incredible array of spectacular landscapes, from towering karri trees to cliff top trails, past famed surf breaks and over iconic headlands, this is a course that has variety at its very heart.
Complete the whole course as an individual and you will fulfill an epic journey you will never forget, or gather your mates for a relay team and pick a leg (or two) each and spend some quality time in this much loved part of the world.
80km TOTAL - Leg breakdown:
Course Description IndeX:
- Leg 1, Leg 2, Leg 3, Leg 4 and Leg 5
Here is the provisional course map for the 2018 Margaret River Ultra Marathon, pending final approval from relevant authorities.
COURSE DESCRIPTION AND HIGHLIGHTS
Leg 1: 10.5km Hamelin Bay to Boranup Campsite.
The Margaret River Ultra Marathon gets under way on the crisp white sands of Hamelin Bay with a terrific journey through laid out in front of you.
Starting at the southern end of this beautiful beach, runners soon leave the coast and head inland (and uphill!) on a scenic run through a little visited part of the region. Running through the heathland you will swap the sound of crashing waves on the off-shore reefs for the sound of bird song and rustling leaves in the karri forest of the South West. Leg one follows a range of 4wd tracks and single tracks with some quite tight semi technical running in spots. The final course alignment into Boranup campsite is still to be confirmed.
- Total course distance to the leg: 10.5km
- Elevation gain / loss: 370m up / 190m down
- Expected fastest leg time – team / solo: 50mins / 1hr
- Cut off time: 9:10am (2hr10 for leg 1)
Leg 2: 18km Boranup Campsite to Lake Cave. Total: 28.5km
Setting off from the Boranup Campsite, the course takes runners on a magnificent journey through the world famous Boranup Forest with its towering karri trees and lush under growth. The sandy beaches and turquoise water of the coastline will seem a million miles away and won’t be seen at all on leg 2 as you weave through these mighty trees on a mixture of fast flowing single track and 4wd tracks. In fact many sections of the trail feel like you are running through a picture postcard such is the beauty of this section of forest.
After a short 1km section on Caves Road runners soon enter checkpoint 2 at the Lake Cave car park and café at the 28.5km mark.
- Total course distance to the leg: 28.5km
- Elevation gain / loss: 350m up / 440m down
- Expected fastest leg time – team / solo: 1hr20 / 1hr30
- Cut off time: 12:30pm (3hr20 for leg 2)
Leg 3: 19.5km Lake Cave to White Elephant Café, Gnarabup. Total: 48km
Leg 3 commences with a long, flowing downhill as you leave the hinterland and return to the coast at the spectacular Cape Freycinet for some incredible rock hopping on the ancient granite domes that make this headland so significant. Heading north from there we join the official Cape to Cape Track for one of the most popular (and most spectacular) sections above the Conto Cliffs, past Redgate and ultimately into civilization at Gnarabup. This leg includes many kilometers of beautiful single track providing uninterrupted views out to sea, interspersed with sections of beach running down at water level leading into checkpoint 3 at the stylish White Elephant Café.
- Total course distance to the leg: 48km
- Elevation gain / loss: 380m up / 485m down
- Expected fastest leg time – team / solo: 1hr35 / 2hrs
- Cut off time: 5:20pm (5h for leg 3)
Leg 4: 14km White Elephant Café to Ellensbrook Homestead. Total: 62km
Continuing north from checkpoint 3 runners enjoy some easier running on the well-formed, beachside trails past Prevelly and the famed surf breaks at Surfers Point before crossing the iconic Margaret River mouth on the beach. Leaving civilization behind once again runners traverse a more remote section of coast, past little visited beaches and coves and landmarks such as Cape Mentelle, Joeys Nose and Kilcarnup. The course sticks to the Cape to Cape Track with some short sections of beach running and long sections of single track that ultimately leaves the coast for some challenging hinterland running before descending into the historic Ellensbrook Homestead and checkpoint 4 at the 62km mark.
- Total course distance to the leg: 62km
- Elevation gain / loss: 280m up / 290m down
- Expected fastest leg time – team / solo: 1hr05 / 1hr20
- Cut off time: 8:50pm (3hr20 for leg 4)
Cheeky Monkey Leg 5: 18km Ellensbrook Homestead to Cheeky Monkey Brewery and Cidery. Total: 80km
After leaving the checkpoint at Ellensbrook Homestead, the trail soon returns to the coastline and continues its journey north on the official Cape to Cape Track. This section of the course is all off the beach and follows a weaving, twisting line of single track, along escarpments and dunes that provide extensive views up and down the coast - so keep an eye out for whales and watch the waves at the popular surf breaks of ‘Left Handers’, ‘Big Rock’ and ‘Guilotines’. Passing through the picturesque hamlet of Gracetown at the 68km mark runners leave the coast a final time at the 74km pt to head for the finish line and festivities at the Cheeky Monkey Brewery and Cidery.
- Total course distance to the leg: 80km
- Elevation gain / loss: 350m up / 270m down
- Expected fastest time – team / solo: 1hr25 / 1hr40
- Cut off time: 1:00am (4hr10 for leg 5)
The entire 80km course includes approximately 1,730m of elevation gain and 1,675 of elevation loss (you finish at a higher elevation than you start).
Leg by leg statistics:
||Total dist at end
||Expected fastest team
||Expected fastest solo
||Cut off time for the leg
Course Terrain and Textures
In the same way that the course passes through a range of landscapes, the terrain under foot also has plenty of variety with anything from hard pack dirt through to soft sand passing under your feet between the start and the finish.
Being a coastal race, sand is an overriding trail feature common to all legs. In the most part the sand is quite runnable with beaches having a hard sand down near the water and the sandy trails having a firm base. Sure, the run-ability may decrease as your legs get more tired but team runners could expect to pretty much run the whole thing.
Some aspects of the trail could be described as moderately technical with roots and rocks to jump over meaning you have to watch your step, whilst other sections provide easier, faster running on solid surfaces with few technical features.
Listed below is a very brief summary of the terrain types found on each leg:
- Leg 1: Good running on a firm base. Minimal sand or technical aspects. Quite a bit of uphill.
- Leg 2: Great running on firm, hard packed trails. No sand or technical aspects. Undulating.
- Leg 3: Varied running with all trail types. A lot of running on sand – on beaches and trails, as well as some technical aspects with rock hopping and some trail obstacles.
- Leg 4: Good running with all trail types. Quite a bit of running on sand - mainly on trails which mostly have a firm base with some sand on top. Some lesser technical aspects and trail obstacles.
- Cheeky Monkey Leg 5: Good running with all trail types. Quite a bit of running on sand - mainly on trails which mostly have a firm base with some sand on top. Some hard pack dirt roads at the end. Some lesser technical aspects and over trail obstacles. Uphill at the end.
The running is more energy sapping than it looks on paper. The distances are not great and the elevation gain / loss are not huge, but with the varied trail type and amount of sand on some legs (notably leg 3) probably makes it a more demanding course that you might expect!
Team mate computations
The Margaret River Ultra Marathon can be completed by individual runners doing the whole thing or by relay teams of up to 5 doing one or more legs each.
Because each leg is different, relay teams have the opportunity to gather team members of varying abilities who can still race together, eg. less capable runners can do the shorter legs and more capable runners can do the longer legs, or do more than 1 leg. We suggest gathering together the runners you want to team up with (regardless of ability) and then allocate legs depending on who wants to do what.
If all team members are roughly equal then here are some ways the course can be split up:
- 2 runners: Runner 1: Leg 1, 2 and 4 (42.5km) / Runner 2: Leg 3 and 5 (37.5)
- 3 runners: Runner 1: Leg 1and 5 (28km) / Runner 2: Leg 3 (19.5) / Runner 3: Leg 2 and 4 (32km)
- 4 runners: Runner 1: Leg 1and 4 (24.5km) / Runner 2: Leg 2 (18km) / Runner 3: Leg 3 (19.5) / Runner 4: Leg 5 (18km)
There are many different ways to divide the legs between a team!