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Saturday, July 05, 2014
Day 4 Update - the calm before the long run

While most events might consider 15 or 30 kilometres to be a long event, today the competitors enjoyed the ‘short day’ where the Big Red Run covered 30K while the Little Red Run event covered 15K. Most of the athletes are managing some level of injury, from minor aches and strains through to some very serious blisters, even some of the seasoned athletes are sporting new blisters. There are only a handful of runners who are reporting no injuries of any type. Yet they each continue their journey, fighting through the pain barrier, striving for the end of the 6th day.

We will update you with the full list of results once they are at hand, but we can announce that today’s Big Red Run event was won by Wayne McMurtrie in 3h:13m:32s. Dan Casey was second at 3h:21m:39s and Andrew MacPherson was in 6 seconds later, so will maintain his overall lead.
The Little Red Run had the trio of Janelle Murfitt, Linda Henry and Mandy willis cross the line together in 1h:55m:54s and demonstrating that an event of this size, the achievement is often in completing and not always the position. 

An event of this size does not happen by accident. An example can be found in the medical volunteers, mostly student doctors, who are getting invaluable experience. Their day often starts before the competitors, checking the course and setting up checkpoints, and they stay behind the last competitors, following them in to the finish each night. They help with all types of needs, from stretching muscles through to taping knees and ankles and other wounds. They also assist in the monitoring of the type 1 diabetics who are competing and volunteering at the event. The students are lead by practicing Doctors and Nurses who ensure the treatment of the athletes is appropriate.

Tomorrow (Sunday) is the big day. The Big Red Run competitors will cover 84k while the Little Red Run covers 42K. The athletes will start at 6:30am, and your messages of support are a big part of lifting spirits before the start line, so please visit our Facebook page and let your friends and family know you will be thinking of them.

Friday, July 04, 2014
Half way through the 2014 Big Red Run

Andrew MacPherson continues to lead the field at just over the half way mark in the 250 kilometre Big Red Run. Competitors had a tough day, dealing with injuries from their first two marathon distances in the Simpson Desert on previous days. It is still too early to call the winner at this point, and there are at least 5 other athletes well within reach of the top spot.
Janelle Murfitt leads the Little Red Run at the 86 kilometre mark at the end of day 3. Injuries in the form of blisters are the most common amongst the runners, with some other injuries ranging from knees, calves, and hamstring.
Competitors and Crew were treated to a talk from Lucus Trihey (Event Director) on his walk across the Simpson Desert, and got to learn why he is the best person for the job of directing this event. This was followed with some photos from the event so far, just to remind the competitors how far they have come so far.
There were loads of images added to Facebook today (, and the full results are here:
Big Red Run
Little Red Run
If the huge efforts that these competitors have put in has inspired you or your friends, get involved next year as a competitor or volunteer or make a donation to support research in to Type 1 Diabetes. Visit

Thursday, July 03, 2014
Day 1 Results and more photos

The first camping night was spent by most of the Competitors and Support Crews enjoying the warmth of a roaring fire and good stories at the base of ‘Big Red’ on the edge of the Simpson Desert. 

Camp food and lots of rest was had by all, with a cold night under a clear sky, with the promise of perfect running conditions today.

A full field of 58 athletes presented to the start of todays racing, with the Little Red Run comprising of a 20K course, while the Big Red Run completes a 42.2K course. Athletes spirits were high at the start with lots of smiles and only a few people getting in early at the medical tent, to strap blisters and other preventative measures.

More photos are filtering in from photographers, and these can be seen for Day 1 and some magical night shots that are worth seeing here.

We also have for you, the official full results from Day 1;

Big Red Run 250k (Day 1, 42.2K)
Little Red Run 150K (Day 1, 42.2K)

Wednesday, July 02, 2014
Day 1 of Big Red Run 2014

At 7:10am this morning athletes started to gather outside the Birdsville Hotel in Western Queensland, for the start of the 2014 250K Big Red Run and the 150K Little Red Run, in order to raise money for Juvenile Diabetes Research.

Type 1 diabetes is a life-long autoimmune disease that usually occurs in childhood. It affects over 122,300 people in Australia alone and is caused by the immune system mistakenly turning on itself, destroying beta cells within the pancreas and removing the body's ability to produce insulin. Insulin allows the body to process sugar to create energy - without insulin, the body literally starves as it cannot process food. 

View a gallery of todays Start

Todays 42.2K’s was the first leg of 6 days running over sand dunes and across the gibber plains. Tonight’s camp and finish line is at the base of ‘Big Red’ The first of the big sand dunes outside of Birdsville on the edge of the Simpson Desert.

Athletes were pushed along by a strong tail wind most of today, making life a little interesting for some of the support crews as they battled to erect the tents and marque’s for the checkpoints and tonights camp ground.
Some runners are showing signs of plenty of training and some are showing blisters and hot-spots causing some minor discomfort. At the time of writing, there have been no reports of any injuries, and all competitors are expected to be ready for another 42.2K tomorrow.

When the author left the finish line around 2pm*, we had about 20 people across the line. Andrew MacPherson took line honours today with an excellent effort of 4 hours 20 minutes. 

The following are un-official results from both the Big Red Run and Little Red Run, and includes only the first 10 to cross the line. (full results will be published as soon as we practically can.)

Place Name Time (HH:MM)
1 Andrew MacPherson 4:20
2 Dan Casey 4:42
3 Wayne McMurtrie 5:02
4 Phill Dernee 5:05
5 Sandy Suckling 5:06
6 Anne Ziogos 5:20
7 Matt Rolfe 5:24
8 Luis Fowler 5:24
9 Matthew Raso 5:35
10 Paul Griffiths 5:37

* We have a long trip back to Birdsville to bring you these updates, although we might get the occasional update out, directly from the first nights camp, the extra video’s, emails and photos are being carried back to Birdsville so you can hear what is happening.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Welcome to Big Red Run and Little Red Run 2014

Competitors and Crew spent the day soaking up the Birdsville atmosphere, between briefing sessions and registration. Highlights included the Birdsville Bakery, with the best Camel Pie in the country, and a Pre-Race Dinner, with words of encouragement and inspiration from the Mayor - Geoff Morton, National Parks Ranger and Traditional Land Owner - Don Rowlands, and Land owners David and Nell Brook, as well as our safety director Lucas Trihey who shared with us his experience of walking 17 days across the Simpson Desert.
The runners are off to an early start tomorrow, facing the first marathon, of six days running in either the Big Red Run (250K) or the Little Red Run (150K). Some of our runners were in last minute fundraising mode, in full costume, raising money for JDRF

Saturday, July 13, 2013
Big Red Run Shows Big Heart

Among ultra runners it is known that their pursuit is not an individual one. The one-foot-in-front-of-the-other process that is the central focus of achievement is most certainly individual motion, but getting to the finish line is most certainly not accomplished alone. 

When distances being run are marathon plus, day in, day out; when the territory is both as brutal and other-worldy beautiful as the Simpson Desert; when the forces that attempt to halt your progress attack from within your body – fatigue, blisters, torn tendons, bruised feet – and from without – heat, sand, wind and no water – you need help.
And so it was a fitting end in Birdsville, Queensland, to the inaugural 250km Big Red Run multiday with the entire field running as a close knit group down the broad, dusty main street of Birdsville to finish on the steps of the iconic Birdsville Pub. They ran into the bar and a few cold beers to boot as a newly formed family group, each having conquered the same overall obstacles of the desert along with their own, very personal demons of mind and body to finish an adventure run odyssey like no other.

There was little talk of winners and times. None, in fact. In place of the usual run gathering stopwatch fests, were hugs all round, tears, congratulations and perhaps a pint of beer or two. The first was chugged down by a beaming Greg Donovan, the instigator and dream builder behind this event that will no doubt become as iconic as the Simpson through which it runs and the pub at which it culminates. 

The genesis of the Big Red Run multiday event began with Greg’s determination to raise money and awareness for Type 1 Diabetes, which affects the life of his youngest son Steven Donovan. Over the course of a year and with an inkling of cause related running, that journey ventured through four multiday desert runs across the Gobi, Atacama, Sahara and Antarctic deserts. Greg took with him the five-member Team Born To Run, made up of what would come to be the oldest and youngest to finish the Four Deserts series, the first couple, and the first with Type 1 Diabetes. 
His journey, or at least a major chapter of it, ended with a mixed group of elite ultra runners, weekend warriors, and Type 1 Diabetic entrants capping off a big week of running by completing the final 8km stretch untimed, with results settled on the previous day’s double marathon leg. 

As it happened, Team Born To Run member, Jess Baker, took line honours after chasing down an almost impossible lead of near on an hour held after four days of racing by ultra young gun, Matty Abel. Struggling with knee issues, Abel had gone out hard from the first day’s marathon effort, a decision that cost him (and many other inexperienced multiday runners) dearly. 

As each day’s 42km course unfolded in a stream of unending gibber plains, sand dunes, mud flats and sharp scrublands, the front pack settled with Jess’ fellow Team Born to Run members Matt Donovan and Roger Hanney toughing it out alongside up and coming trail runner Lucy Bartholomew. Behind them and Abel were 36 more runners stretched across an unforgiving landscape, each looking for answers to all sorts of personal questions, podiums and places furthest from everyone’s minds, including those at the front. 

One of the most inspirational stories of all was that of Mark Moala, an Australian-Tongan who set out to inspire his family and his Tongan community by taking on a challenge that was to all intents beyond his judged capacity. After six days gutting it out, Mark crossed the line last and was quickly mobbed by media and supporters to become an inspiration to everyone.

Legendary ultra runner Pat Farmer – known for running from the North Pole to the South Pole – bear hugged Mark at the finished. 
You’re my hero, mate. You inspire me.
As event ambassador, Pat had joined the fray each and every day, setting out on foot from checkpoints, heading across the plains to cajole and encourage those flagging at the rear. He spent the penultimate 84km day with Mark; the legend and the legend-to-be leaning on faith and passages of verse (and likely a few famous Pat Farmer quotes) to pick Mark back up from the brink of quitting. The pair eventually lumbered into the final night’s camp under the glare of bobbing headtorches and to the tune of Chariots of Fire at four in the morning, both silent, exhausted, and broken but safe in the knowledge Mark would indeed tomorrow achieve the seemingly impossible. 

The media scrum around him was deserved and tomorrow a Tongan community will know his name, perhaps a few will follow in his image and Mark’s decision not to quit, to continue on will resonate well beyond the finish line cheers.  
No, the Big Red Run is not about times or places, it is as one competitor said, about people and camaraderie and the idea that anything is possible.  
Pat Farmer’s starting line speech this morning was pertinent, sending the runners off with: “So long as you don’t quit, you’ll get to where you are supposed to be in life.”

Not quitting was pertinent to more than just Mark. Matty Abel admits “I’ve never ever cried before like I did on that leg,” referring to the frying pan hot day that squeezed life from runners over the 84km distance. Yet like Mark, he continued on, hobbled, limping, almost writhing in pain. He did not quit; he endured his self doubt and ceased legs to complete the entire course. 

There was Carmen Boulton, who, never having run a marathon, entered in memory of her father who passed away from Type 1 Diabetes complications. She finished. 

There was Duncan Read, a long time Type 1 Diabetic, out to show the disease is no barrier to achievement. He finished. 

Belgian-New Zealander, Patrick Rousseau, had only signed up to do a 100km leg, yet he got into the spirit by running the first day’s marathon on a warm-up whim, and went on to complete his first and entirely unexpected 250km multiday race.  Previously, he had only ever run one road marathon. 

And of course there is Steven Donovan, the inspiration behind his father Greg moving heaven and earth to make the Big Red Run a reality. On Monday morning, Steven had never run a marathon. Come that evening, he had a notch on the marathon belt, having struggled with wavering insulin levels and a gammy knee. Within 48 hours, he had two marathons done and very dusted, surpassing what many would aim for in an entire year. 

There were moments for Steven, as there were for all runners, but with his Dad taking every step beside him on every day (apart from when Steve found a burst of energy and burned his father on Big Red, the desert’s biggest sand dune, to cross the line well ahead), it was a team effort. Finishing the event stronger than ever, Steve now has the equivalent of six marathons completed within a timeframe of six days. Diabetic or otherwise, Steve, and all the runners who took part in the inaugural Big Red Run, showed that in the big heart of a big country, with a big crew of runners, medics, volunteers, organisers and friends supporting each other to, anything truly is possible: even running mind and body-bending distances through one of Australia’s harshest deserts. And keeping on going when your mind and body is shouting to stop. And when you do keep on going, you do indeed, as Pat Farmer said, end up where you are supposed to be in life: with a satisfied smile drinking a beer at the Birdsville Pub musing on how life will never be the same again. 

By Chris Ord

If you would like to donate to the cause, please visit;

Thursday, July 11, 2013
Results and Photos from Day 4

Today we have more photos than you can poke a stick at. The photographers had a little spare time, with a late start and fewer kilometres by the runners today.

We have for your viewing:
The results, with movement in the overall standings!

Day 4 Race Gallery
Day 4 Camp Life
Landscapes of the Big Red Run

And the video review in 30 seconds;

Big Red Run Day 4


Thursday, July 11, 2013
The Inspiration behind the Big Red Run

Steve Donovan, from the Northern Beaches in Sydney, is a little overwhelmed by the lengths his father, Greg, will go to, to help find a cure for him and all type 1 diabetes sufferers. The twenty-year-old describes the lead up to the Big Red Run, from diagnosis to preparing to run alongside his dad, brother Matt and the rest of the Born to Run team. Embarking on the road trip to Birdsville in a 4WD convoy of family, organisers, and girlfriend Ashley, he tells of his determination to reach his simple goal: to finish the Big Red Run, whatever it takes.

What led to your type 1 diabetes diagnosis as a teenager? 
I was diagnosed a couple of weeks before my fifteenth birthday. What ultimately led to my diagnosis was a tooth infection, which brought on the diabetes. Any autoimmune disease can be triggered by an infection. Leading up to diagnosis I lost a lot of weight, was going through fluid a lot, urinating a lot. I was also constantly tired, lethargic. I remember I was falling asleep every day on the bus to and from school and at the bus stop. 

I knew there was something wrong but being a typical male I didn’t do anything about it until one day my Mum and Dad said that I looked awfully skinny. I took off my shirt, looked in the mirror and thought, “holy crap, I actually am!” I truly looked anorexic. My parents looked up the symptoms, which indicated diabetes. We booked in the next day for a doctor’s appointment, did the blood sugar levels on the spot and they pretty much diagnosed me then and there. I think my blood sugar level was 16mmol at that time after fasting overnight. The normal range is 4-8mmol. 

Had your family ever heard of diabetes?

Mum’s been a nurse most of her life, firstly in hospitals and then in aged care so she obviously knew quite a bit about diabetes. Dad knew a few bits and pieces but no one knew what it was like living with someone with diabetes. At fourteen, I had no idea at all what it was. I’d heard people needed sugar for it and that’s really all I knew about it.

What was the experience like, having that diagnosis?

It was like diving into the unknown. It was a bit scary. The first year was about getting used to it and I felt like I was in control of it. That’s because I paid a lot of attention to it. Being new to the world of diabetes, I wanted to get it right but there was a lot of struggle I guess in the first year. After that it kind of comes more naturally, just becomes part of everyday life.   

What was the reaction of your school friends?

Being young teenagers, they were not very educated about what diabetes was. Some had relatives who had type 1 diabetes and knew about it but most of my close friends I had to teach over and over again. They always asked the same questions (laughing), “What is it? What do you have to do? What happens if this happens?” so it felt like I was repeating myself a lot. But I needed to teach them all about hypos and awareness and what they needed to do in that situation. Or if they found me acting a bit strange! But I felt a lot of love at that time. I got a lot of support from my friends and family.

What would you say to teenagers who find out they have type 1 diabetes?

Probably, “don’t stress about it too much”. The first year or so is tough but it all comes eventually, pretty naturally. It just becomes part of your life. And you can always hope for a cure. They say a cure is not too far off now, so you’ve got hope. Just don’t stress about it too much.

You played a lot of sport as a kid. Did you still continue to be active?

I played a lot of sport; rugby, soccer, tennis, all sorts of sports, and at diagnosis I continued to play rugby until it just got too hard. I couldn’t do it anymore. I felt that diabetes took over and I just couldn’t play rugby because it was too much effort. But after I took control of it I felt more confident and got into sport a bit more. Obviously now I’m running which is the ultimate challenge for my diabetes. Being an endurance sport it takes a lot out of you – I have to be really careful with the sugars. 

When did you first start getting into running?

Probably when I heard that my brother, Matt, and Dad were going to do the Four Desert series about two years ago. I got into it a little bit then, just doing some small runs, 5kms or so just to see what it was like. Not too much. I didn’t anticipate I’d be doing this event until a bit later. 

How have you been going about preparing for the Big Red Run?

I started by building up to a few 10km runs. Then I did a half-marathon, and began training through the week until my legs started feeling more comfortable with longer distances. I had a big run with my Dad in early January at the Narrabeen All-Nighter. That was 12 hours of running as a tag team. Unfortunately, I pushed myself a bit too hard, injured my knee and wasn’t able to run for a good two months which was very frustrating. After I managed to get running again it was going well for a while. The symptoms didn’t reoccur until a 12km run that I probably ran a little too hard because it was up and down hills putting a lot of strain on my knee. 

I’m having a lot of trouble with my knee at the moment and I haven’t been able to do much training. I’ve been seeing a doctor and had cortisone injections to stop the inflammation. Hopefully, that will be enough to get me through this run. As I haven’t been able to do a lot of training I’m just hoping my willpower will get through. And if I can’t run it, then I’ll walk it. And if I can’t walk it, I’ll crawl it. My goal is to just finish the race. 

You’re putting some pressure on yourself to finish?

Yes, a lot. That’s my worry, mostly, about this race, being able to finish or not. As long as my knee holds up I think I’ll be fine.

Your girlfriend, Ashley, will be a Big Red Run volunteer. Where did you meet?

We met through my best friend. We were friends for about 6 months and then I asked her out. That was one and a half years ago. 

In what way does Ashley support you, day-to-day?

She’s just always there for me. She knows a lot about the disease and all the symptoms of hypos. She understands if I’m a bit grumpy if my levels might be a bit high.  As I said, she’s just always there for me.

How do you feel about what the Born to Run Foundation is trying to achieve?

I’m just very, very proud of my Dad. I feel like I owe him a lot because of what he’s done through the Born To Run foundation. It’s just amazing he is able to do this for me and try to find a cure for type 1 diabetes.

What’s he like as a person? 

(Laughing) Well, he’s a bit crazy! He’s always been crazy. He’s done a lot of weird adventurous stuff; I don’t think there’s a sport or an activity he hasn’t done. He likes to do everything. On holidays he doesn’t relax - he likes to do all the activities. He’s one of the smartest people I know. A very business-savvy person. I admire him a lot. 

What about the rest of your family?

Mum’s really, really supportive. I couldn’t ask for a better mum. She supports my Dad and me, and the rest of the family. My older brother Matt’s obviously very sporty! He’s one of the Born to Run team. And my sister Laura, who is Event Administrator for the Big Red Run, is like Mum. She’s really supportive, friendly and nice. I couldn’t name one person who doesn’t like her and she’s willing to help out all the time. A very generous person.

How do you feel about being the inspiration for raising awareness and raising money for research towards a cure for type 1 diabetes?

I feel very grateful that this is all done for me or because of me. I was recently thinking that a lot of parents set up foundations after their son, daughter or relative has passed away to raise awareness for whatever their condition was. But my family is doing this while I’m here and so I get to see it all come together. I feel so grateful for that.

What are you expecting at the BRR? 

I’m picturing everyone supporting each other, all the competitors encouraging the other competitors, just getting behind one another. It doesn’t matter if you’re a good runner or not so good runner, everyone’s going to be supportive. Also the volunteers are obviously going to wonderful. It’ll just be a very supportive atmosphere.

What are you hoping for the future when it comes to type 1 diabetes?

Ultimately, I’m hoping for a cure to type 1 diabetes, and also awareness about the disease, to get it out there and get more and more people getting behind the cause.

You’re half-way through studying a Business degree at university. What would you like to do once you have finished?

I haven’t really put much thought into it, but I’ve been thinking maybe I’d be interested in being involved in the Born To Run business that Dad’s set up, and all the events that he’s planning. It’s already quite a family affair, so possibly I’ll get on board with it too.

Make a donation in support of Steve’s Big Red Run.

Thursday, July 11, 2013
Day 3 Results, Photos and Video

All in one post for you;

The video:

The Photo Gallery

and, Day Three Results.

Thursday, July 11, 2013
How To - Type 1 Diabetes

By Liliana Lees (volunteer from 2013 Big Red Run)

I try to describe type 1 diabetes in one line: it's not easy, just like the disease. It's a disease where the pancreas fails and insulin must be injected up to six times a day to stay alive…every day for the rest of your life. Your body starves to death without insulin. 
When my son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. He was 18. I have gone from knowing nothing to having an obsession. As soon as the specialist made the diagnosis, I was starving for more information. Every spoken word on TV or radio related to type 1 diabetes I will research further. Anything I see in print, I read twice over. 
I have joined every chat room, every Facebook page, every website and every group from all over the world. I search for a cure. There is no cure. Why my son? Why now? What have I done wrong? What could I have done differently? There are no answers. 
It's more common in young children. Although rare, it can occur up to the age of 40. Words like Bolus and Basal are thrown at me. What's an endocrinologist? I also thought counting carbs was for losing weight. Science, maths nutrition, medicine - my head is spinning. It's overwhelming. 
I am one of the lucky parents. My son is able to inject himself and calculate his insulin requirements. It's unrelenting. There is no break from type 1 diabetes. The countless finger pricks and blood glucose checks. I can't imagine trying to inject a young child or baby. How would you? How could you? But I guess you do. You must. 
I've learnt that a hypo can kill, so can a hyper. I quickly learnt to recognise them and treat them both. Any illness needs to be monitored closely for Ketones. 
They tell me that diabetes can be managed. Well, yes, it can. However, there is also a huge margin for error. Any mother of a type 1 will tell you of her fears. 
This is not a choice my son made. I know his battle and his strengths and weaknesses. He is stronger much stronger than I will ever know. 
I can do something. I choose to make a difference. I find JDRF in my many searches. Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. They are dedicated to finding a cure and they are all about improving lives for type 1 diabetics. They have many fundraising events. Jelly Baby Month is one of them. In 2012 I helped to raise funds for JDRF at the Grand Prix in Melbourne. In 2013 I will be brave the elements of the Simpson Desert and volunteer at the first ever Big Red Run in July. We will share stories around the camp fire. I would love to hear yours. 

Below are some useful links. The last one is an excellent timeline of the history of treatment for type 1.
Woolworths is proud to support Jelly Baby Month in May with merchandise on sale at Woolworths stores nationally. Please show your support.


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The Big Red Run is a unique high profile fundraising event, which draws significant media coverage. If you are interested in Big Red Run sponsorship opportunities, please contact us, and our sponsorship manager will respond to you.

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