By Brett Kennedy
NARACOORTE Caves National Park has long been a window into the region’s past but a group of dedicated trail runners are breathing new life into the World Heritage fossil site.
The second annual MegaFest trail run event is just weeks away with around 400 participants expected to tackle the varying courses, ranging from the 1km Fossil Dash through to the Mega Fauna 23km.
An estimated 500 volunteer hours have been spent preparing the sprawling National Park precinct for the November 22 running festival, which organisers hope will become a flagship community event.
Following a successful 2019 debut, the MegaFest has expanded its trail network and will offer 23km, 15km, 5km and 1km course options, along with a team category.
Naracoorte residents Charlie Legoe and Matt Drew are among the small but dedicated crew of runners working diligently to grow the event and the year-round trail offerings.
“We are just trying to showcase this World Heritage area,” Drew said of the globally significant fossil site.
“At the end of the day it’s about people coming out here and if we can help increase the number of people coming out, that will hopefully lead to an increase in funding and infrastructure for the caves,” he said.
With strong backing from the caves site management and Naracoorte Lucindale Council, both runners have a long-term vision for the event and expanding trail system.
While other running events have valiantly tried but struggled to gain widespread community support, it appears the MegaFest event is gaining traction quickly.
“The 23km seems to be the most popular other than a whole heaps of kids running around in the 1km and 5km,” Legoe said.
“Us runners can sometimes forget, given the amount of running we do and distance we cover, that 23km is a pretty good achievement,” he said, urging Limestone Coast residents to challenge themselves to run, hike or walk one of the distances.
Returning participants and new entrants in the two longer distances will be treated to new sections of single-track trail developed over the last 12 months.
“Previously it was all across CFS access tracks but we have implemented a whole heap of single track this year,” Drew said.
Volunteer groups have done the bulk of the work, widening and linking existing tracks frequented by animals to create new trails while minimising the environmental impact.
The trail now boasts a diverse range of terrain, including bushland and pine forest trails, which take runners past the area’s kangaroo population and other native wildlife, sheep farms, vineyards and the iconic Naracoorte Caves formations.
Off the course, food vans and stallholders will create a festival atmosphere at the start/finish line with organisers developing a COVID-Safe plan for the event, which will include staggered start waves.
For the registered team with the best average time on the day, an inaugural hand-carved perpetual trophy awaits.
Individual accolades will also be awarded to podium finishers, with all participants required to carry mandatory equipment set by the organisers.
Visit www.megafest.com.au to register or for more information on the running festival and entry requirements.