Weather tests 500km runners

Hundreds of athletes braved wet and wild weather to run a gruelling 500km race around regional south-east Queensland over the weekend and raise thousands of dollars for charity. 

The iconic 500km Team Endurance Relay, which started back in 1980, has raised more than $700,000 over the years for Endeavour Foundation – a not-for-profit organisation which supports more than 3,350 people with a disability to have the choices of an ordinary life. 

This year’s course took 14 teams of 16-22 runners each from Mount Gravatt to Beaudesert, Rathdowney, Boonah, Killarney, Warwick, Toowoomba, down the range to Gatton and on to a grand finale in Fernvale between Friday November 16th and Sunday November 18th. 

The 500km Team Endurance Relay – described by Race Director Phil Hungerford as one of the toughest events that runners encounter – requires participants to start running at the break of dawn and keep going in a relay format until sunset over the three-day course. 

 Lung-busting hill climbs, sweltering temperatures and fatigue are all part and parcel of the iconic endurance event – but this year the athletes were really tested by extreme weather conditions. Friday was marked by searing 39-degree Celsius temperatures followed by gale-force winds, while Saturday’s racing had to be stopped early due to the ferocious storms that battered south-east Queensland in the afternoon. 

 “We had to make the decision to stop on Saturday because of the lack of light and the lightning,” said race director Phil Hungerford. 

 “We had such a range of weather conditions over the three days – 39-degree heat on Friday, a howling gale Friday afternoon, storms on Saturday and on Sunday morning it was windy, raining and cold. We had every contrast possible – the most contrasting weather I’ve ever seen on the relay over the years.” 

But the extreme weather wasn’t able to dampen the runners’ spirits, according to Mr Hungerford. “Not at all – everybody had a good time and the teams all seemed to be pretty happy,” he said. 

The veteran race director reckoned this year’s relay ran very smoothly despite the inclement weather and said much of the credit for the event’s success should be given to Queensland Police Service. “We really appreciate the assistance from QPS – without them the race would never be able to continue in its present format,” Mr Hungerford said. 

Generous locals also pitched in along the relay route, with Gatton Girl Guides, supported employees from Endeavour Foundation Warwick and Fernvale Lions Club all preparing food for the runners. 

 The coveted Overall Winner trophy was taken home by Victory Sports from the Gold Coast, while The Run Inn team from Brisbane were named Highest Fundraisers. 500km Team Endurance Relay newcomers Achieving You, based in Windsor, Brisbane, were presented with the Team Spirit Trophy. 

Endeavour Foundation is one of Australia’s largest non-government providers of services for people with a disability. We provide accommodation, education, training, vocational and lifestyle opportunities for more than 3,350 people with a disability at 230 locations across Queensland and in Sydney. Find out more at www.endeavour.com.au.