Well, Sunday the 29th of November 2015 saw the inaugural Australian Vertical K – Mt Donna Buang take place in the beautiful Warburton region in East Victoria and we were there to soak up the atmosphere and take on the challenge.

With over 165 trail runners and 70 Cyclists going head to head, climbing over 1000m to the top of Mt Donna Buang, this was sure to be an epic battle that would see the lycra clad warriors take the chocolates at the top.

But from the first to the last person to cross the line all had a won a special victory against the might of Rapid Ascent’s Vertical K – Mt Donna Buang.

Vertical K - Mt Donna Buang


Both cyclist and runners started at the Warburton reserve and they lined up side by side.

Father versus son, daughter versus mum & mate versus mate.

Trail runner vs Road rider

Each with a glint in their eye and a hope to finish first, finish strong or just finish at all.

Before we knew it we were off and then the race to the top had begun.

The Race facts provided by Rapid Ascent describe the course perfectly.

The cyclists were lulled into a false sense of ease as they got up to speed with 800m of flat riding before ‘The Donna’ climb started in earnest. The road then kicked up to a moderate 5% gradient as it climbed through the magnificent temperate rainforest and the fog.
Overall, the cyclists had to ascend 1,077m throughout their tough 17.8km race, over an average gradient of 6.4% that proved extremely testing for many.

We trail runners also had a nice warm-up for the race, starting out with 1.5km of flat trail along the river before cruelly being turned onto Martyr Road. This is known to be one of Australia’s steepest residential streets with an average gradient of 20% and 31% on the steepest stretch.

Overall, the runners climbed a 1,098m vertical ascent over just 8km, in what was Australia’s first sanctioned Vertical Kilometre SkyRace®.

As you can see both the cyclists and trail runners had a tough challenge ahead of them.

Here is my perspective in the pack from the trail.

We started running along beside the Yarra.

Vertical K - Mt Donna Buang

A nice steady meandering path that took you to the foot of Martyr road where the locals are eagerly awaiting the group of runners to take on this: The steepest residential street in Australia.

Vertical K - Mt Donna Buang

There was a mixture of race plans for this section.

Do you try and run it all and risk burning out to soon or do you walk it all and conserve energy?

I choose to split the difference and ran the first and power walked the second half.

Vertical K - Mt Donna Buang

As a note: on very steep ascents having a strong power hike style can conserve energy while not loosing too much time compared to running; see my tip on power walking hills here

Once we are over the top there was short downhill to shake the legs up a bit and then back onto the ascent.

Unlike other trail running events at the Vertical K you just keep climbing, no real rest bite.

It is one of those events where you look round the corner and it just keeps going up and up.

So staying mentally positive is really important. Get into a good rhythm and just keeping moving forward is my best advice.

The fact that you were travelling through some beautiful scenery really helped.

We passed through lush green fields

Vertical K - Mt Donna Buang

and towering trees

and towering trees, narrowing tight overgrown sections and the best section in my option was when you reached the mist. You felt like you were within the clouds and that added to the drama of doing a Vertical K you felt like you were high up in the mountains.

Narrowing tight overgrown sections

Vertical K - Mt Donna Buang

and the best section, in my opinion, was when you reached the mist.

Vertical K - Mt Donna Buang

You felt like you were within the clouds and that added to the drama of doing a Vertical K.

It is the people that make it

I meet some funny characters along the way and a great comment just as we hit the mist a guy shouts out.

“Is that mist or are my eyes going blurred!” We all laughed and this helped lighten our spirits and legs.

It is the camaraderie at events that get you through the tough times.

Along with camaraderie there are always inspiring moments, people that just with their actions cause a positive knock on effect to all they meet.

For this race it was a 11 year old girl named Ashleigh Gasson.

She appeared through the mist powering up past runner after runner, smiling and light on her feet.

Vertical K - Mt Donna Buang

Ashleigh Gasson being interviewed at the finish by race director Sam Maffett

I heard a women comment how amazing it was for someone so young to be in the event and another replied

“I suppose no one told her she couldn’t do it!”.

I saw every person she encountered encourage her to keep going and how well she was doing.

It was a great moment to see the cyclists join us for an 800m stretch along the road at the 13.5km point in the cycle climb and just after the 5.6km point in the run course.

I thought a few of them were going to fall off their bike when they saw this young girl running through the mist at them.

Vertical K - Mt Donna Buang

Ashleigh chasing down the cyclists

That stretch was a great rest on the legs and then it was just a 1.2km climb to the finish.

Vertical K - Mt Donna Buang

You could hear the music in the distance and that spurred us on to keep pushing up and suddenly through the mist came the finish line.

The cheers brought us home and with it a sense of pride that we had been part of the first Vertical K in Australia.

Vertical K - Mt Donna Buang

Once again Rapid Ascent has created a wonderful event that was challenging, unique and set in beautiful surroundings.

There is a great sense of community at all their events and it is a testament to the Rapid Ascent staff and volunteers who make the event special.

Vertical K - Mt Donna Buang

Catching up with David Eadie at the top. He does not even look like he has cracked a sweat

Sam Maffet the General Manager of Rapid Ascent did a tremendous job hosting the event with his usual passion and a sense of humour.

He had this to say about the event

“Today was a real test of strength and of character for all competitors,”.

“This style of event is not for everyone; you have to be able to really push through the pain barrier. In saying that, the course passes through some absolutely stunning rainforest and it was great to see competitors spurring each other on and providing support to help others reach the summit.

So big thanks to all the staff at Rapid Ascent, the volunteers, fellow competitors and the Warburton community for coming out and supporting us, it is greatly appreciated.

I may not have won but thanks to Lucy Bartholomew giving me one of her prizes I can proudly say that I was the second fastest female!

Vertical K - Mt Donna Buang

As the mist clears on another great event I look forward to what new adventures are in store and know that the Vertical K will be on my race calendar for 2016.

For more information on the event visit www.VERTICALK.com.au

and to see all listings of all their up and coming events visit: www.rapidascent.com.au

The winners are shown below:


Overall male winner: Cyrus Monk, Cyclist 00:48:27
Overall female winner: Georgina Beech, Cyclist 1:07:02

Vertical K - Mt Donna Buang

Top 3 Male  Cyclists:

Vertical K - Mt Donna Buang

1. Cyrus Monk 00:48:27 2. Tim Beardall 00:48:31 3. Adrian McGregor 00:51:03

Top 3 Female Cyclists:

Vertical K - Mt Donna Buang

1. Georgina Beech 1:07:02 2. Kate Scarlett 1:10:50 3. Nonie Carr 1:10:59 – (not pictured)

Top 3 Male Trail Runners:

Vertical K - Mt Donna Buang

1. Ralph Street 00:53:23 2. Ben Duffus 00:54:09 3. Peter Bray 00:55:29

Top 3 Female Trail Runners:

Vertical K - Mt Donna Buang

1. Judith May (not pictured) 1:09:57 2. Lucy Bartholomew 1:10:31 3. Cheryl Martin 1:11:18

A special big thanks to my Canadian support crew, you are a star!

Vertical K - Mt Donna Buang

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Until next time Happy running!


Douglas is the Trail Director at FullCourseTrails an active Trail writer, Photographer and Ultrarunner competing in many off-road distance events.

Events include The Surf Coast Century, The Roller Coaster Marathon, Buffalo Stampede Sky Marathon and The Australian North Face 100 Ultra Marathon and TDS.