ABOUT THE MARATHON
The Blackwood Marathon is a relay race held annually on the last Saturday of October. It was originally a vision that some members of the Bridgetown Rotary Club had in 1979 as a way for the town to celebrate Western Australia’s 150th Anniversary. From humble beginnings, of just 54 teams (220 competitors), it has grown from strength to strength and now boasts over 750 competitors, including many iron-men and iron-women. The Blackwood Marathon is a unique event and has attracted many top athletes.
The competitors enter this event in teams comprising of 5 members, or ironmen and ironwomen. A runner, a canoeist, a swimmer, an equestrian and a cyclist. The race begins in the town of Boyup Brook and finishes in Bridgetown after journeying around 60kms through some of Western Australia’s most picturesque countryside in the Blackwood River Valley.
The relay begins with the running leg. A 12km course, along bitumen and gravel roads that take the competitors from Boyup Brook to the Blackwood River. At the end of the running leg, the team number, which is on a bib worn by the competitor, is handed to the canoeist who begins their journey of 8.5km. The course is mostly open water, with some narrow sections of running water over rocks or downed trees. The canoe leg finishes at Jayes Bridge. The race is then suspended while all the competitors and their supporters come together for a picnic lunch and a swapping of stories. At the end of the lunch break the swimmers begin their leg in the order that the canoeists arrived at Jayes Bridge. The swimmers have a distance of approximately 1km before running up the riverbank, where they are handed their team number. This is then passed to the equestrian who begins their leg of the race.
The 16km horse course takes part on gravel roads, through lush green paddocks and along the side of the Blackwood River. The course is quite undulating with several challenging hills that does require a fit, well trained horse if the team does not wish to be vetted out. Teams are vetted out if, 30 minutes after finishing their leg, the horse’s heartbeat does not return to below 60 beats/min. Horse riders pass their team numbers onto the last team member - the cyclist. Then the final leg 22km course with some challenging hills takes the race into the town of Bridgetown. The course is along bitumen except for the first 50m and the final 200m which is a gravel track that takes competitors onto the trotting track for a lap to the finish line.
The race concludes at the Bridgetown Sports Ground where everyone meets for good old fashioned country hospitality and the presentations. There is a variety of food on offer, massages(!) and of course a bar to help you celebrate a successful day. This time is often the highlight of many people’s day. While waiting for all teams to finish and the timing to be completed, everyone has time to socialise and spin a few yarns about how they went.
Once all the teams have completed the race, the timers begin the task of collating all the data collected by computers, which then sorts out the winners and place getters of the many divisions. After presentations, each team receives a time sheet which informs the team of their final placing. The time sheet also gives the placing of the team after each individual team member’s leg and also the place of each competitor within their leg.
The Blackwood Marathon is a great day for all, competitors, supporters and spectators. Some teams enter to be highly competitive but many teams come back year after year simply to be part of this great day, to catch up with friends and enjoy the tranquil beauty of the country that is the South West.
This highly organised and superbly run event is a credit to the Bridgetown Rotarians, who are on the Marathon committee, and the many volunteers who ensure the day always runs like clockwork.