Thousands of people have visited the Shoalhaven to take part in the hugely popular 100 Beach Challenge, some have put their own spin on it and completed in just three days, but one Sydney woman is set to embark on the challenge in a whole new way.
Vanessa Cullen is an ultra trailrunner and has mapped out a 230km route to cover the 100 beaches entirely on foot, via running, hiking, wading and paddling, all in just nine days.
Starting from Boxing Day, Vanessa aims to cover between 16 and 30km per day.
She first became aware of the challenge, which stretches from Seven Mile Beach in the north to Depot Beach in the South, after she passed a sign on the Princes Highway during a work trip.
“I looked into the website and wondered if it might be possible to do on foot,” Vanessa said.
“On a running forum I later saw some women asking the same question and everyone decided that it seemed impossible.”
The possibility of completing the challenge on foot bugged Vanessa for weeks, so she asked her trail running coach if he thought it was “possible or crazy”.
“He knows the area and his opinion was that I could do it,”she said.
“That led me to think more about how sad it is that as women we often don’t feel like we can freely and safely adventure and explore even our own ‘backyards’. So then I just had to give it a shot.”
What makes Vanessa’s plans even more incredible, is that she’ll also be raising money for charity.
“I am an ambassador for PKD (Polycystic Kidney Disease) Australia and I have this incurable degenerative condition,” she said.
The challenge will test Vanessa, but she’s feeling prepared. She trains up to seven days a week, running between 7 and 42km at a time.
While the majority of the challenge will be solo, she will be crewed by her partner Jason and his sons aged 9 and 11.
“A few of my friends and training buddies are coming from Sydney and Melbourne to run sections with me here and there and some are holidaying in the area already anyway,” she said.
“My parents are also trying to make it down to see me finish at North Durras.”
While she’s feeling prepared, Vanessa said all that was missing was support for the inlet crossings.
“I’m mostly relying on crossing at low tides when the land bridges form, but some of the inlets, rivers and creeks never become shallow enough to run across,” she said.
“It would be great if I can have any local backup support from anyone with kayaks to help me do the whole thing under my own steam, and, or just in case I get stuck anywhere.”
The 100 Beach Challenge is an initiative of Shoalhaven Tourism and recently took out a gold award at the NSW Tourism Awards.
If you can help Vanessa out, or if you’d like to donate, contact her via her Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/morethanpkd/.
Vanessa’s planned route
- Day 1 (Boxing Day) - Seven Mile Beach to Culburra
- Day 2 - Culburra to Lobster Bay
- Day 3 - Lobster Bay to Callala
- Day 4 - Callala to Jervis Bay
- Day 5 - Jervis Bay
- Day 6 - Jervis to Conjola
- Day 7 - Conjola to Tabourie
- Day 8 - Tabourie to Pretty Beach
- Day 9 - Pretty Beach to North Durras