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Competing In The 2013 Kokoda Challenge

Updated on February 17, 2014

The Most Gruelling Endurance Event In Australia

The Kokoda Challenge has the reputation as being one of the toughest endurance events in Australia. It is a 96 kilometre team event over a course located in the beautiful hills behind the city of the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. Each team consists of four members plus a support crew which meet the trekkers at designated checkpoints.

The event course is based on the real Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, where during World War 2 in 1942 Australian soldiers held off Japanese soldiers who were rapidly advancing towards the city of Port Moresby. The greatly outnumbered Australians fought bravely and battled not only the Japanese army but also the extremely challenging mountainous jungle terrain. Read on to find links to pages where you can read more about the World War 2 Kokoda events.

One of the most difficult things about this event is that you have to do it almost non stop. There is a 39 hour time limit which is in honour of the 39th Militia who were the first Australian Troops to enter the Kokoda Track. The course is also very steep in most parts and includes 12 creek crossings. Add to this the fact that a lot of the course goes through rainforest, then you can imagine how wet, muddy and slippery the tracks can get! Most teams take over 24 hours to complete the event, the faster teams that run most of the way can finish in between 10 to 15 hours, but there is also a high percentage of teams who do not make the full distance at all. It is that tough.

I Was Inspired By Friends - After they completed the event in 2012

Image Credit: kokodachallenge.com

I had wanted to compete in the Kokoda Challenge for a number of years but had never really done anything about it. I had never looked into how to enter the event or kept track of the event when it was on. This all changed in 2012 when I discovered that some friends of mine were planning on taking on the challenge.

Through their posts on Facebook I checked out their training progress, the Kokoda Challenge website and I also found out how to track their progress during the event. We were living not too far from part of the course at the time and my wife and I wanted to go out for a hike on the first day of the event but had not thought too much about where it was located until we found ourselves driving through the first major checkpoint at Polly's.

We watched the competitors coming through across the road in front of us covered in mud and I was immediately excited. (I know. I am odd!) After our (small) hike I went home and got online and tracked our friends team throughout the rest of the event. I watched their progress into the night then got back on the website the next morning and saw that they were still going! I had experienced a nice sleep in a warm bed while they were still walking throughout the night! They were still a long way from the end and it took them all day on Sunday to reach the finish line.

I was inspired by their commitment to keep going. They had encountered difficulties along the way which is why it took them 36 hours to complete the 96 kilometres, but despite the problems they still did it. I spoke to them after the event and they said it was one of the most difficult things that they had ever done, but also one of the most rewarding. I was impressed and keen to get my own team together.

So I contacted a few friends who I thought would be interested and got a level of interest back that I was happy with. I thought alright. No need to do anything now, we still have 12 months to prepare for the 2013 event. So early in 2013 I contacted those same people but no one could commit. I found myself still keen but with no team so I put a post on the Kokoda Challenge website as an available person looking for a team to join. Then I waited......

The Kokoda Challenge Course - The starting point is Firth Park in Mudgeeraba

From Firth Park in Mudgeeraba, the course travels inland through Austinville, over Mt Nimmel to Neranwood, then past Springbrook and Advancetown Lake to Beechmont and Lower Beechmont, then Clagiraba, Mt Nathan and back into Nerang through state forest, public roads and private property. We trek 96 kilometres on a course that leads mostly along fire trails, crossing 12 creeks and climbing 5,000 metres (5km) of vertical elevation along the way.

Hiking Poles Are A Must For This Event

I had never used hiking poles before I started training for this event even though I was a fairly experienced hiker. I had always thought that I did not need them. But after using them in this tough terrain, I would never attempt serious hiking without them again.

BAFX Products - 2 Pack - Anti Shock Hiking / Walking / Trekking Trail Poles - 1 Pair, Blue, Royal Blue
BAFX Products - 2 Pack - Anti Shock Hiking / Walking / Trekking Trail Poles - 1 Pair, Blue, Royal Blue

Hiking poles allow you to distribute you energy more evenly across your body. They take some of the pressure off the feet and legs and allow your core muscles, upper body and arms to take some of the burden. They also help to stabilise you as you are descending down steep, slippery trails.

 

From the Kokoda Challenge website: "The goal is to finish as a complete team of four in honour of the spirit forged on the Kokoda Track in 1942: mateship, endurance, courage and sacrifice"

The Training Begins - At first I was training with a school team.

I had not heard anything for a few weeks after submitting my name on the Kokoda Challenge website so I had started to believe that I would not be competing in 2013. They also have school teams in the event (some doing the full distance and some only doing half distance) and my daughter's high school was entering 3 teams in the 2013 Kokoda Challenge event.

So early in March I started training with them as my daughter was also trying out for one of the 3 teams. Initially they had around 40 children trying out for only 12 positions and my daughter was one of the youngest being only in her first year of high school. Nevertheless, she was determined to do it and I decided to train with them in case I got the chance to compete.

I had begun to think though that I would just end up being her support crew for 2013 though and had almost given up hope on competing myself when in April I received not one, but three emails from participants asking if I would like to join their teams. I decided to meet with one team and go on a training session with them which I did just before I filmed this video below.

This video was filmed just after my first training session with my team.

I share my thoughts on how it went and what the event is all about.

Would You Consider Doing An Endurance Hiking Event?

Would you challenge yourself by entering an event like this?

Yep, I am up for the challenge.

Yep, I am up for the challenge.

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    • sierradawn lm 3 years ago

      getting to hike through Australia with you has made my day! What a beautiful Lens and a beautiful track. I love the history behind this trail. I had a glorious time adventuring with you through this experience!

    • sierradawn lm 3 years ago

      I am 62 years old and they tell me that I am in poor health. But I have always loved hiking and still walk everywhere everyday. After watching this video I would surely love to go on this memorable hiking event! But in the meantime, you have taken me with you on this beautiful and poignant track. I would also love to see the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea where the Australian soldiers fought. Be sure to take lots of pictures and lots of notes when you go!

    • Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

      I've always wanted to participate in this type of event.

    No way, I think that you are crazy for doing this.

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      • josietook 4 years ago

        I did a half marathon in Norwich on a cool day, I would really struggle with any endurance event in the heat of Australia and not so great with hills, so probably a "no". Great lens.

      • DebW07 4 years ago

        No, not for me.

      • adragast24 4 years ago

        I am impressed by people who do this but no thanks, this is not something for me.

      • Echo Phoenix 4 years ago

        I don't think you are crazy for doing it yet I concede I am past my prime for attempting anything this courageous... this is an amazing event, cannot wait to see how this turns out for you... reading on :)

      A Video Flyover Of The Course

      If you cannot take on the event yourself, then perhaps you would like to fly over the course on Google Earth? This video does just that and will show you the course as it was a few years ago. It is slightly different now but not much.

      This video gives you a great perspective of the terrain that the event is held on.

      The Training Continued - You Can Track My Team's Progress Online

      So I met three of the guys on the team as one member could not make that training session and became their fifth member as they wanted a security measure in case one team member had to pull out of the event at the last minute. (Remember, the teams only have four members) I planned to keep training with the team and the school and just let fate do it's thing. If I got to do the event this year, good. If not then I was fine with that also.

      A few weeks later I was informed that one member indeed did have to pull out due to work commitments on the weekend of the event so I was in as a full time member. About this same time, my wife and I decided that we would pull our daughter out of training for the event due to the fact that she was consistently injuring herself and missing school time after training days.

      We felt that she would perhaps be better off trying again next year once her body had developed more muscle. Her knees were the week point as they had not grown strength wise at the same pace as her legs had grown in length. She would have kept training and really wanted to do the event this year. She was disappointed but understood.

      You Can't Do This Event Without A Quality Headlamp

      As most of the Kokoda Challenge teams take over 20 hours to complete the course, this means that most of us have to walk during the night. Our team will most likely be finishing during daylight hours the next day so we will have to walk through the entire night guided only by our headlamps which is why we all have bought good quality headlamps, not the cheap ones that you can buy down at the local camping store.

      300 Lumen Forehead Bonfire 2.0, 3-Mode UltraBright Cree LED Headlamp, AAA batteries
      300 Lumen Forehead Bonfire 2.0, 3-Mode UltraBright Cree LED Headlamp, AAA batteries

      You will want a headlamp of at least 150 to 200 Lumen. I think that this one is a bargain as it is 300 Lumen and obviously with it being LED will be kinder to batteries as well. This one is similar to one that I use myself.

       

      A Final Update On Training For The Event

      So I started training regularly with the Koko Nuts team, doing short walks of under 20 kilometres and longer walks of 36 kilometres to 45 kilometres. But we were still yet to train as a complete team together. There had always been one member who could not make training sessions due to work commitments or injury. So it came to pass that we would be walking together as a team for the first time on the day of the Kokoda Challenge itself which was not ideal, but we felt that we were all ready and that we could get through the course in one piece.

      In this video, I give a brief rundown of our training regime, niggling injuries and you also get to see some of the course and checkpoints that we will be going through in the event.

      Kokoda Challenge Training Photos - These images were all taken by me or of me whilst training for the event.

      Click thumbnail to view full-size
      A school training session with my daughter.Photos just do not do the steepness of the terrain justice.Struggling down a steep section of the track on a school training session.One of the long downhill road sections that are a nightmare for worn out feet.Magnificent sunrises was one of the benefits of our early morning mid week training walks.Later on the same training walk on a street appropriately named The Panorama.Wet feet are a given on this event.One of the many creek crossings on the Waterfall circuit part of the course.Some people choose to rock hop in order to keep their feet dry for as long as possible. Others just charge on through. Sooner or later, the first option of rock hopping is just not possible. You have to get wet!Taping the toes to stop chaffing and rubbing is a must. Some people lose toenails doing this event.
      A school training session with my daughter.
      A school training session with my daughter.
      Photos just do not do the steepness of the terrain justice.
      Photos just do not do the steepness of the terrain justice.
      Struggling down a steep section of the track on a school training session.
      Struggling down a steep section of the track on a school training session.
      One of the long downhill road sections that are a nightmare for worn out feet.
      One of the long downhill road sections that are a nightmare for worn out feet.
      Magnificent sunrises was one of the benefits of our early morning mid week training walks.
      Magnificent sunrises was one of the benefits of our early morning mid week training walks.
      Later on the same training walk on a street appropriately named The Panorama.
      Later on the same training walk on a street appropriately named The Panorama.
      Wet feet are a given on this event.
      Wet feet are a given on this event.
      One of the many creek crossings on the Waterfall circuit part of the course.
      One of the many creek crossings on the Waterfall circuit part of the course.
      Some people choose to rock hop in order to keep their feet dry for as long as possible. Others just charge on through. Sooner or later, the first option of rock hopping is just not possible. You have to get wet!
      Some people choose to rock hop in order to keep their feet dry for as long as possible. Others just charge on through. Sooner or later, the first option of rock hopping is just not possible. You have to get wet!
      Taping the toes to stop chaffing and rubbing is a must. Some people lose toenails doing this event.
      Taping the toes to stop chaffing and rubbing is a must. Some people lose toenails doing this event.

      Trail Running Shoes Are The Best For This Event

      When some people first start training for the Kokoda Challenge they wear hiking boots. These boots may be fine for shorter hikes in a drier or colder environment, but for an event like this, light weight trail running shoes are the best option. They are not only light weight, but also breathe very easily, allowing your feet to dry out faster after all of those creek crossings.

      New Balance Men's Mt610 Trail Running Shoe,Black/Silver,9.5 D US
      New Balance Men's Mt610 Trail Running Shoe,Black/Silver,9.5 D US

      I have a pair of New Balance shoes similar to these and love them! They are super comfy and really light weight.

       

      The 2013 Kokoda Challenge - My Video Footage From The Actual Event

      The time had finally arrived for us to take on this challenging event and without the experience of training together as a full team, we had a few teething problems in the early stages. But we were able to sort them out as we went and work out a game plan which would see us getting through each checkpoint as quickly as possible and also get us to the end of the 96 kilometres as a full team.

      It was definitely tough going, after about 30 to 40 kilometres of solid walking on extremely difficult terrain, the knees start playing up, as do the feet and ankles and all sorts of areas that you did not know you had. Then you realise that you are not even halfway through the event and THEN the sun starts going down! The hardest period for me during the event was probably around the 1am mark after the fatigue had well and truly set in and it was way past my bedtime. The closer we actually got to the end the easier it got for me personally, particularly after the sun came up once more. That seemed to energise us all as we pushed on hard towards the finish.

      Only 41.8% of the teams finished as a complete team, so for us to do that in 25.5 hours was a pretty great effort! As I said, this is a tough event, but one that I really enjoyed and I am keen to do it again in 2014.

      The video below is Part 1 from the first 3rd of the event. To view the video from Part 2 of our trek to the finish of this epic event, click the following link.

      www.youtube.com/watch?v=NB-ttrqV8R4

      This is part 1 of our attempt at the Kokoda Challenge and features the start through to checkpoint 4.

      The Official Kokoda Challenge Video

      This video is a few years old, but still gives a good oversight on what the event is all about.

      If you wish to get a better feel for what the event is all about then this video is a good one to watch.

      Purple Star Award

      Thank You Squidoo

      This Lens was awarded the Purple Star Award on July 26th, 2013.

      Thank you to all those who may have nominated it for the award. I feel very honoured to have even been considered. :-)

      Feel Free To Cheer Me On Here - Or if reading this page after the 2013 event, inspire me to do it again next year!

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        • takkhisa profile image

          Takkhis 3 years ago

          Great lens! You have provided a lot of information on this event. Thanks!

        • rob-hemphill profile image

          Rob Hemphill 3 years ago from Ireland

          Great effort. Sounds like a fabulous way to get to know somewhere in detail.

        • MrAusAdventure profile image
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          Bill 3 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

          @sierradawn lm: I am planning on doing the Kokoda Challenge again next year. They do week long treks as well as a Kokoda Challenge on the actual Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea. I would like to to the week long trek as you get to learn all about the history of the place along the way and have time to take lots of photos etc.

        • sierradawn lm profile image

          sierradawn lm 3 years ago

          Do it again next year! But maybe the one in Papua this time. Do they do challenges there too?

        • sierradawn lm profile image

          sierradawn lm 3 years ago

          On my way now to go watch you finish this challenge. Magnificent!

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          golfspice 3 years ago

          Well done for doing this. I wish I was fit enough to join you - great challenge.

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          Bill 4 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

          @Jo-Jackson: Thanks for checking out my Kokoda Challenge Lens. What part of Australia are you in? They have shorter versions of these events in Melbourne and Brisbane but the main longer event is the Gold Coast one. Obviously you would be aware of the real Kokoda Track in PNG though right?

        • Jo-Jackson profile image

          Jo-Jackson 4 years ago

          Wonderful accomplishment. I'm an Aussie too but had never heard of this before.

        • MrAusAdventure profile image
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          Bill 4 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

          @adragast24: Thanks a lot for checking it out, hopefully I will be able to beat that time next year with a new team of younger members. I am really looking forward to hitting the trails once more, only two weeks after the event!

        • MrAusAdventure profile image
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          Bill 4 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

          @Diana Wenzel: Thanks so much. I will be there again next year so stay tuned for that one! :-)

        • MrAusAdventure profile image
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          Bill 4 years ago from Gold Coast, Australia

          @Echo Phoenix: Thanks so much. Yes, I will definitely be doing the event again next year, hopefully in a faster time, somewhere under 24 hours!

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          DebW07 4 years ago

          Excellent lens. What a fantastic accomplishment and I hope to be reading about your experience in the 2014 event in the future.

        • adragast24 profile image

          adragast24 4 years ago

          Congratulations for taking up this challenge, for finishing the event and for the great time you got! And thanks for sharing it with us, it was wonderful to read about it.

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          Echo Phoenix 4 years ago

          Awesome accomplishment!!! and I genuinely enjoyed living vicariously through your lens... so will you compete again next year?

        • Diana Wenzel profile image

          Renaissance Woman 4 years ago from Colorado

          Bravo! I can appreciate and respect what you accomplished. Keep us posted on your next event. Very inspiring.