FKT: Ben Nicholls - Great Ocean Walk (Victoria, Australia) - 2020-09-14

Route variation
Great Ocean Walk
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
13h 40m 56s

On Monday the 14th of September I arrived at Apollo Bay at roughly 5:15am. It was cool, dark and there was a fresh westerly breeze blowing that was forecast to persist throughout the day. At 5:50am I set off from the white anchor on the Apollo Bay foreshore and began my attempt by following the official GOW100s race route, travelling East to West. Most of the first section that wasn't beach was mud which eventually gave way to undulating, mostly runnable single track and the first half was largely uneventful. The halfway point of the course is reached when you step out of the coastal bushland onto Johanna beach, a roughly 2 kilometre stretch of normally very soft sand that is bordered by the Southern Ocean on one side and Johanna River on the other. Due to the high tide and large 5 metre swell the waves were occasionally breaking over the entire beach, flowing into the river. Unexpectedly, this resulted in what is normally the softest part of the beach being firmer then I'd experienced in the past. There was a narrow neck close to the river mouth that was also unexpectedly easy to cross. The second half of the route begins with what is by far the most difficult section of the course, a long climb from Johanna beach punctuated by magnificent scenery which is followed by steep, undulating and technical terrain. It was through this section that I made the mistake of not retrieving my spare water bottle (which was also my main source of calories for the day) from the back of my pack, instead choosing to push through to Ryans Den campsite. Halfway between Ryans Den and Devils Kitchen (the final hike-in campsite and 84km point) it became obvious that I hadn't consumed enough water or calories for well over an hour and my condition deteriorated quickly. Upon reaching Devils Kitchen I couldn't maintain my body temperature and I knew I had no choice but to rest for as long as it took to rehydrate and recharge, a process that ultimately took just over 30 minutes. After starting slowly for a few hundred metres I managed to get running again, well aware that I was only 8kms from Princetown where I was hoping to see some familiar faces. It was a painful 8 kilometres. Just East of Princetown I came across my friend and Oxfam trailwalker team-mate Matt who was waiting for me in the sand dunes with some well chosen words, which lifted my spirits greatly. Shortly afterwards I saw my wife and kids as I crossed the Gellibrand river and another friend (also a Matt) at the trailhead for what is the final 8 kilometre section. As the sun went down and I switched on my headlamp I suddenly felt brand new and genuinely enjoyed running the flowing single track as fast as I could. I came across another friend, Mark, who had hiked in to offer encouragement and soon after I reached the Gibsons Steps where I again saw people cheering me on- my wife and kids again, my friend Stephen (another Oxfam team-mate) and my Dad. From there it's only 1.5 kilometres to the 12 Apostles vistors centre, the official race finish line. I arrived at 7:30pm and was greeted there again by my amazing wife Camille, my 3 kids- Dane, Elise and Callum and my parents. Due to Covid-19 restrictions we were unfortuntely unable to gather in a larger group. All in all it was a thoroughly rewarding experience and I am extremely grateful to everyone that offered encouragement before, during and after. I would finally like to encourage anyone that is considering breaking my record to get in touch with me, I'd love to help and be there at the finish to congratulate them. Ben