Would you enter a race that goes straight up a mountain? That’s the aim of the kunanyi Mountain Run, a full throttle race 1km straight up to the top of the famous peak behind Hobart.


We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the palawa people who have occupied and cared for kunanyi and nipaluna – Hobart – for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

A few weeks ago, I participated in the inaugural kunanyi Mountain Run Vertical Kilometre (VK) – a 5km trail run with 1,000m of elevation gain (or ‘vert’ as trail runners like to call it). The event had a mysterious air about it – no maps were released and the exact course remained a secret right up until race day.

Reaching the start line was an adventure in itself, involving two bus rides and a short uphill walk to a fire trail in the foothills of kunanyi. After one last briefing, we were sent off in waves of ten or so runners, tackling a course that traversed some of kunanyi’s steepest and most iconic tracks, as well as one secret track that I’d never followed before.


Photo by Gavin Johnstone


It was challenging, thrilling, and revealing – exposing my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to moving uphill as quickly as possible.

Here are five lessons I learned from the experience.

1. Training is Always a Good Idea

I have a habit of signing up for trail running events due to a fear of missing out. This often results in me showing up either undertrained or burnt out from other adventures, but never short on enthusiasm. I often count on muscle memory, the adrenaline that comes from running with other people, and a few chocolate bars to see me through.



The kunanyi Mountain Run was one such event. As soon as the event was announced, I wrangled together a team for the 68km Ultra Relay and signed up the minute entries opened. The idea of following up the relay with the VK the next day was tantalising, but at the time I was dealing with some Achilles tendon issues and I could feel my Achilles screaming in pain at the mere thought of ‘running’ up that kind of gradient.

As the event came closer and my Achilles healed, my fear of missing out increased. On a whim – actually, it was a few days after another trail running event when I was still riding the high of completing an ultramarathon – I signed up for the VK. I couldn’t resist.

Did I train? Kind of. Incidentally. I hiked up some mountains. I spent many hours on my feet guiding bushwalking tours. I went for a bunch of easy runs and the occasional focused training session. I could have trained on much of the course itself, as I was familiar with all but the secret track, but I like the novelty of trail running events and didn’t want the trails to feel stale. I wanted race day to feel fresh and new and exciting.

Did I finish the VK? Yes. Could I have been faster if I trained more specifically? Probably. Would it have been easier? Probably not, because I would have pushed myself harder. That brings me to my next lesson…

2. It’s Only a Race if You Want It to Be

One of the beautiful things about trail running events is that everyone has different goals. Some people are there to race and aim to win, especially in an event such as this where the winning male and female get to represent Australia at the Skyrunning World Championships. Others might be aiming for a particular time, to race against a friend, colleague or partner, or to survive their very first trail running event.



I was exhausted after a huge day of driving, supporting my teammates, and running the 20km Leg 5 of the Ultra Relay, so my number one priority for the VK was, as cheesy as it sounds, to have fun. Runners caught up to me, passed me, and disappeared up the trail ahead of me. I had fleeting desires to keep up with them or chase them down, but my shaky legs quickly put a stop to that.

Besides, I was having a blast enjoying the views and the trails, particularly the boulder scramble. The wind was picking up, and my wobbly legs made some sections feel a little precarious. But I’d settled into the discomfort and was enjoying the hands-on challenge. I was almost disappointed when the finish line came into view.

Maybe next year, or in my next trail running event, I’ll be in a more objective, goal-oriented, competitive mindset. But for me, this run was about enjoyment and exploring the concept of a VK for the first time. I crossed the finish line with a feeling of content exhilaration, with little interest in the time I recorded other than being satisfied that it seemed like a nice round number.

3. I Didn’t Run Much, But I’m Still a Trail Runner

Sometimes I feel like calling myself a trail runner is a bit of a lie. After all, in many events I don’t tend to run that much. And definitely not when the ‘run’ is almost entirely uphill.

Race Director Lincoln Quilliam even acknowledged that ‘the best kept secret of trail running is that you don’t really run uphill anyway‘. Of the 5km, I ran less than 1km. The rest was a mix of ‘power hiking’ (trail runner speak for walking fast-ish), rock-hopping, and hands-on boulder scrambling.



In my experience, the lines between trail running and hiking often become a little blurred. For me, this event wasn’t dissimilar to a hard hike or bushwalk. I might have covered the distance in a similar time if I was wearing my hiking boots instead of my trail running shoes. But the shoes and the running vest and the race bib meant that I was a trail runner that day. I am a trail runner. Even on the days I don’t run.

4. My Backyard is Incredible

As I was making my way up kunanyi, I couldn’t stop thinking about how lucky I am to live in the foothills of this beautiful mountain. Her network of trails winds through such varied and spectacular landscapes and terrain.



When I reached the iconic Organ Pipes Track and was greeted with stunning views of nipaluna / Hobart, I couldn’t help but feel incredibly grateful for living here. Could my backyard playground get any better than this? kunanyi really is a trail runner’s dream. The landscape and trails are just one part of that, which brings me to my next lesson:

5. The Trail Running Community is Super Friendly and Welcoming

I already knew this. It wasn’t a revelation that occurred during this event, but I was reminded of it once again. Even though the VK had a bunch of labels and certifications and stats that made it sound somewhat intimidating, it still had that casual and welcoming feel that comes with many of the trail running events I’ve attended here in Australia.

The organisers, the volunteers and all of the fellow runners with whom I shared a word of encouragement or a conversation, all had a smile on their faces. The volunteers always said just the right thing to put a fresh pep in my step.

‘If it makes you feel any better, nobody has run up this section!’, one marshall said as I was scrambling up some steps with my hands on my knees, struggling to catch each breath. Next time I volunteer at a trail running event I hope to channel that same joy and enthusiasm to help runners feel welcomed, celebrated, and motivated.

Want to get into trail running but don’t know where to start?

Read more: The Ultimate Beginners Guide To Trail Running

So there you have it, five lessons learned from my first VK. Would I do it again? For sure. Maybe I’ll have a crack at beating my time this weekend…


kunanyi Mountain Run will be returning on the 24th-26th of March 2023. If a VK doesn’t sound like your thing, check out the other running events, runHub and cultural activities, or volunteering opportunities.


Additional photos by @jaymeeknoll, @mulletcocktail and @inciteimages