Kokoda Challenge 2012 race report by Ewan Horsburgh

Ewan Horsburgh No Roads Team Kokoda Challenge

Ewan Horsburgh just ran the Kokoda Challenge and is a tough contender. He has won the Coast 2 Kosi and Coburg 24hr. He has just made it onto the Australian 24 Hour Team and it about to fly to Poland to represent his country in September. He is a dad a web designer and a husband. Ewan Horsbrugh has just notched up a team win at the Kokoda Trail in July.  Ewan is such a nice guy, and he has taken some time out of his busy routine to chat to me about Kokoda and his training techniques, nutrition and his up coming events.



Shona: The Kokoda Challenge sounds as tough. Just the word Kokoda represents sacrifice, pain, mate ship, courage and endurance. How tough was this event? Did it live up to it’s name?

Ewan Horsburgh: The Kokoda Challenge is a very tough and hilly event which covers 96km (Which is the actual distance of the Kokoda track) and crosses 12 creeks. There had been a lot of rain in the weeks leading up to the race so the creeks were full and the descents were very slippery with all the mud and clay.

After the first major checkpoint we made it even harder for ourselves by crossing a waist high, fast flowing river instead of taking the overhead road bridge which hadn’t been marked yet. It was obvious once we clambered up the other side and apart from refreshing our legs in the icy water it just added to the challenge of the day.

The highlight for the team was running into the half way checkpoint of the Kokoda Challenge to thunderous applause and high fives from the 1200 kids about to start the 50km relay leg. As good as it was to feel like rockstars for a few minutes the interest and excitement of the kids about to attempt 50kms in adverse conditions was amazing.


Shona: The Kokoda Challenge is a charity event can you tell me a bit about the values and the Charity that the Kokoda Challenge intends to promote?

Ewan Horsburgh: The goal of The Kokoda Challenge is to raise awareness of the Kokoda Campaign of 1942 and use the Spirit of Kokoda to help young Australian’s reach their full potential. The race finish was a very special place to be with the teams and support crew showing a lot of emotion that completing the challenge together brings. Each finisher was presented with a medal and handshake from the KokodaVeterans.

Shona: What was the toughest section of the race?
Ewan Horsburgh: It was a new section this year through the Army Base which was very overgrown.There was some steep fire-trails and rocky single track which required lots of power trekking.

Shona: The Kokoda Challenge is a team event. Did you get a chance to train together as a team before the event?
Ewan Horsburgh: We had a few runs on Mt Solitary, reps and a loop and then a week before the race we had a 2 hour hit out on Brendan’s local trails. We walked onto the trail through his backyard then went over Anderson Fire Trail and down to Ingar. There were some great climbs and it was a good sharpener a week out from the race. We topped it off with BQQ on Brendan’s deck overlooking the bush we had just spent 2 hours running in.

Shona. How did you get into trail running?
Ewan Horsburgh: I grew up running with my dad on the GNW and then ran everything from fun runs to the bush trail races like 6foot Track and Fitzroy Falls. I recently moved to Katoomba which is a trail runners paradise. There are still so many new trails to explore but there are many favourites like 6foot Track, Mt Solitary and the North Face course which I regularly find myself on.

Shona. What is your favourite race?
Ewan Horsburgh: There are quite a few butCoast to Kosciusko was such a special experience last year and really suited my running. C2K is a 240k road race starting at Boydtown beach and finishing at Charlotte’s Pass (After summitingMt Kosciusko).

Shona. Which event have you learnt the most about yourself from?
Ewan Horsburgh: Running the 24 Hour in Coburg around a 400m track was a real test. Everything I had learnt in the past year about training, nutrition and pacing came together. A 24Hr event has no distraction – it’s just you against the clock and your body.

Shona. Congratulations on your record setting run at The North Face 100 with Angela Bateup. You’ve had an impressive year thus far. What has been your key focus with your training in 2012?
Ewan Horsburgh: Thanks. Angela was a great partner who ran a very strong 2nd half and carried us through to the win. After missing out on an entry in the UTMB lottery, I set my sights on making the Australian team for the 24hr World Champs in Poland. This meant running over 220km which I qualified for in Coburg, covering 234km in my first go at the event.

Shona: This is so impressive. You must be incredibly tough mentally. Do you like to train on your own or in a group?
Ewan Horsburgh: I like both. It’s easy to step out the door when I can and hit the trails, but it’s also good to push yourself with other runners. There is a fantastic group of runners in the Upper Mountains (called the Leura Icebergs) that regularly run around Wentworth Falls, Leura and lately can be found hanging around Mt Solitary. I’m also lucky enough to have the opportunity to run with Mick Donges and Brendan Davies who are two quality trail runners.

Shona. What is your favourite training session? I’ve seen you on Mt Solitary a few times….
Ewan Horsburgh: I like the long 6-8 hour training runs in the bush or on the M7 bike path. It was only a couple of years ago when 2 hours would be my long run and the rest of the day would be family and couch time.

Shona. What is your day job? I’ve spotted you and your family after the Woodford to Glenbrook, how do you balance your role as a father with your training?
Ewan Horsburgh: I’m a Web Developer and work for myself which is very flexible. My wife is an Art Director, so our skills compliment each other and we juggle work and raising our son Jackson together. Bec and Jax are great support crew and are at most races cheering me on and looking after me. Jax can’t wait until he is older so he can come running with me and then eat all my running food. I have a cupboard filled with running gels, chews and bars, so his eyes widen every time I take out some fuel for a run.

Shona. What sport did you play as a kid?
Ewan Horsburgh: I gave everything a go like cricket, tennis and rugby but only ever excelled at running. I loved running the school cross country and the track season, representing my school every year in the CAS for the 1500m.

Shona. What is your hydration and nutritional plan when you are racing? Is it different from when you are training?
Ewan Horsburgh: I learnt a lot from Andrew Vize and the Hammer Nutrition bible. I only eat about 220 calories per hour using Perpetuem, Cliff shot block, gels and Hammer bars. A few years ago I was eating cereal bars and lollies so not only was I eating 3 times what I needed I also would crash out from all the sugar. For hydration I try to drink 400ml an hour which is easy with a hand held but I never drink that much if I am running with a pack. I try to fuel myself similar in training but usually don’t have anything unless it is over 2 hours.

Shona. What is the biggest recovery tip? Food? Rest? Ice Baths? Recovery Jogs?
Ewan Horsburgh: This is something I want to learn more about, as I feel bad for days after a long race. I try to have a Hammer recovery drink straight after and eat some solid food but my body is a mess after 24 hours of running.  Do you have any tips Shona?

Shona.  I try to get to Bondi Beach and I do two dips of 10 minutes with 10 minutes break time. If I can’t get to the beach, I jump into a ice bath with epsom salts. I usually have to run around the next day with PT clients, so I look at my Monday Personal Training Sessions as recovery and stretch sessions. I can have up to 7 sessions on the Monday so lost of long distance slow running and stretching. Enough about me. What mental games your tricks do you play on yourself when you are out racing to keep your mind focused, especially knowing that you have to climb over 5000m in elevation?
Ewan Horsburgh: I always have a few mantras to keep my mind off the pain and focused during the tough sections. If I am walking up a hill I remind myself I am racing, not out for a bush walk, as it is easy to ease off the pace.

Shona. What would you say is your biggest strength when you are racing?
Ewan Horsburgh: I think my cadence is my strength as I can turn the legs over pretty fast in the second half of a race. I do seem to take twice the amount of steps as everyone else though, so maybe it is a weakness!

Shona. I don’t know, Beth Cardelli turns her legs over much faster than me and she puts me to shame! What are your best achievements so far?
Ewan Horsburgh: My biggest achievements have been the C2K and Coburg 24hr wins, and making the Australian 24 Hr team.

Shona: Bloody hell. You are an endurance machine. What races do you plan on entering over the next 12 months?
Ewan Horsburgh: 24Hr World Champs in September, Coast to Kosci in December, then some local trail races and hopefully as I have got an automatic entry after missing out this year.

Shona. I’m hoping to go to UTMB in 2013 too. I just have not told my husband yet. What shoes do you like to wear? You can have a list if you like with different shoes for different terrains.
Ewan Horsburgh: Myall rounder is the Salomon Crossmax. For roads I share the load between Nike LunarFly’s and Hoka Bondi B. I just got a pair of Inov8 X-TALON 190 which I can’t wait to try out on the trails.

5 Tips for anyone wanting to compete in their Ultra Trail Marathon.
• Train on specific terrain and try and mimic the elevation
• Find some like minded souls to train with and share the experience
• Research your nutrition and test it out in training
• Get some long long long runs in to get used to using all your gear for extended periods
• Enjoy the journey!