Melissa Robertson

I grew up bushwalking. I did a few runs as a kid, but I didn’t seriously get into it until my 20s. I was doing a bootcamp for fitness and the bootcamp people went out for an Obstacle Race, and I joined them. I was winning the Obstacle Races, so I started training and getting faster, then as the obstacles got taller and heavier I made the switch to just pure trail running, which naturally progressed to ultra running.... and onto Barkley!

My entry into Barkley Marathons was very last-minute. I was on the waitlist and got the word that I had an entry if I wanted one ..... a few days after finishing Delirious WEST and only 3 weeks before Barkley, so it was organised at very short notice, and without adequate training. Delirious is sand and heat; Barkley started in freezing temperatures while it was snowing, and we immediately left the trail to go up the spur of a giant mountain. There was no delay in terrifying the runners. Part of the navigational challenge of Barkley is finding books hidden on course. I struggled with some of the clues for finding the books and didn’t quite “get it” until well into the lap. But I did make friends with an American runner, and we got to know each other very well when we wandered off the map and into the wilds of Tennessee… Overnight the temperature dropped well below zero. My hydration bladder hose froze, along with my snacks, and because I kept on stabbing the ice puddles with my poles (as if you wouldn’t!), I ended up with a big ice ball on the end of both poles. Fortunately I had lots of warm clothes and there’s ample freshwater springs coming off the top of mountains, so it was all fine - I was never in actual danger. We also eventually found our way back. But way, way over time. The hills are as bad as everyone says…

I’ve done five 200 milers to date: Delirious WEST in WA three times, Irrational SOUTH in SA and Unreasonable EAST in NSW. The Covid pandemic gave me more time to train, so for the Triple Crownunder (all three races within 12 months) I not only finished all three races, I came first in all three.

My most recent 200 miler was Delirious WEST in February. The race covers 350km of the famous Bibbulmun hiking track. Starting from the small town of Northcliffe, the first day is running the plains. Lots of red sand, turning to white sand, and dry open spaces without many tall trees. I managed to go out too hard and overheated this first day so coming into the night, I was feeling pretty rough and throwing up. Hitting the coastline and into the sand dunes I was trashed, so I messaged my support crew and told her I’d see her in the morning, then laid down in the middle of the track and slept through till sunrise (I had a high-vis vest on, and the temperature was fine).

The next day, as I headed into the Valley of the Giants with its fat tingle trees and giant Karri Trees, I was fairly despondent. I’d slipped back to 7th place and was still feeling a bit rough. But as the sun set and the temperature cooled, things started to pick up. I ran/hiked through some more dunes and got a ride across an inlet on a jet ski (it’s part of the race). I was feeling much better. Day 3 was just as hot as the other two days, but I was feeling better and had started to move up places. Towards the end of the day, I got to “The Shuttle”. In past races, this was a tinny to get people across the bay, but this time it was a car to travel around the bay. Which was both less terrifying and less exciting. Night 3 I felt great.  The other runners were tiring, and I’d already had more sleep thanks to Night 1. This leg was kind of annoying, lots of overgrown trail with un-runnable sections, but I must have been moving ok because without realising it, I moved into 1st place. I briefly dropped back to 2nd as I stopped for breakfast at Cosy Corner, just before the last long sand section of the race (10km). My crew looked up the placing and realising I had a good shot at this. I hit the sand at race pace and quickly overtook first place (lots of sand training paying off). Then it was off the beach, and into the Albany wind turbines before a final leg into town - which actually kind of sucked because the last couple of kms are on bike track.

I run most of my longer runs alone, because no sane person wants to come running with me at 1am! But through the week I have a Tuesday track group, a Thursday hills group, and I’ll run with Terrigal Trotters on Saturdays - or at least show up there for coffee after I’ve done a longer run.

I enjoy running and racing. Consistent training gives me the ability to race well. Like everyone, at times I get sick of the training, and then I’ll go back to what I love about it. Heading out into the bush with a map and a vague idea, and a mission to find something cool.

I saw someone in my running club (Terrigal Trotters) posting on Facebook about Run The World, and figured it sounded like fun, so I signed up. I’m on my 4th map now. I have no reason to stop. Why would I stop? I guess I’d stop if I ran out of maps. But in the meantime, I enjoy getting the emails of new places that I'm virtually visiting.

There are a few older female runners who I really look up to. Mainly because they are still running and not dead.