Hiking the length of a marathon over remote and challenging terrain might not be everyone’s cup of cocoa but if you’re ready to take on 42km in one day then you’ll need to be well prepared. Luckily our seasoned Explorer Lisa Owen is here to share her kit list and learnings from her first marathon hike experience.
When I told my work colleagues I planned to tackle a mammoth 42km hike in one day, I was met with horrified looks.
“But why?” They asked.
Because I wanted to see if I could.
I knew that hiking 42km in less than twenty-four hours was a pretty crazy proposition even for me. The longest distance I’d hiked in the lead up was 31km on a graded track. My feet were pretty dead after that effort.
But because I suffer serious bouts of FOMO, when I was given the opportunity to do a marathon hike through a section of Lamington National Park that I hadn’t been to before, I was there with my hiking boots on.
I did seriously wonder through if my legs were going to seize up mid-hike and I’d spend a night having a nap on the track. But you never know your limits until you try, right?
My First Marathon Hike
My seventeen hour test of endurance started at 5.00am in the Binna Burra section of Lamington National Park. We hit the trail in darkness with head torches on.
Over the next seventeen hours of the marathon hike we had to tackle some pretty rough terrain with slopes so steep that the only way down was to slide (or tumble). We got caught by wait-a-while plants – their barbs still in me the next day; dodged huge stinging trees; and crawled under and over tree falls. We were covered in scratches by the end.
We found out that when a tree falls in the forest it certainly does make a sound – like a huge crack of thunder reverberating through the trees – very eerie.
There were also lots of highlights: beautiful waterfalls deep in the forest, a southern angle-headed dragon, a bandicoot, huge hoop pines, mystical Antarctic Beech trees and crystal clear waterholes shining golden in the sunlight.
Our hike ended at 10.00pm, finishing like we started with our head torches shining bright in the darkness as we reached the carpark back at Binna Burra.
There were more than a few grumbles, delirious comments, and swear words along the way as my little legs trudged along the track. The last 10km was definitely the hardest slog. I really wanted to go to sleep.
At one point I’d mumbled that I was a little bit broken – about 5km from the finish. It was a weird feeling for me, I’ve never been that spent after a hike. I felt like I couldn’t go one more step once we got to the car. I fell asleep in the car on the way to a Macca’s run.
Here’s what was in my pack for this marathon hike, what really came in handy and what I wish I had.
I soaked myself in Bushman insect repellent in preparation for the leeches and ticks in Lamington National Park. While it was too dry for any leeches, ticks made their presence felt about a third of the way through our marathon hike. From then on, we doused ourselves regularly and no more ticks were found. I also had a pair of tweezers in my bag, but never used them as we noticed the ticks before they burrowed in.
Water bladders are an essential part of any hike as it means I can easily sip water as I walk. This goes a long way to making sure I keep hydrated.
Hat And Sunscreen
These two items proved invaluable for a day on the trails. It was a 35°c day in Brisbane that weekend and while it was cooler in the shade of the rainforest, I still slip, slop, slapped.
Luckily I only needed one of these – for when the pressure on one of my big toes started to rub. Thankfully no blisters, but I was glad I was prepared.
All The Snacks
Because hiking long distances gives you the perfect excuse to eat high calorie treats, my backpack was stuffed with them. I had almonds, dried banana chips, a Kit Kat, an apple, mandarin and banana, two wholemeal breadrolls with avocado, and lots of lollies.
I also had some energy gels, but only ended up having one as we tackled the last 15km. I also had a few muesli bars stuffed in my pack but didn’t end up eating them.
On long hikes, water is not enough, you have to replace all the electrolytes that your body loses through sweat. I added Hydralyte to my water at the beginning of the hike and guzzled it down for two whole days after.
A head torch was essential on a hike of this length, as we started and finished in the dark. All up we were hiking for about five hours by torch light so make sure you have plenty of battery life.
Also in my pack was hand sanitiser, a Personal Locator Beacon, toilet paper (or you could try a pee patter), warm jacket, beanie, gloves, wet wipes, Stingose, dry bag, rubbish bag and a camera.
What I Wish I’d Had….
By kilometre twenty-five, my right heel and ankle were getting pretty sore and I still had 17km to go! I was told that the insoles my shoes came with were not padded enough and it would have been a great benefit on this type of hike to have added insoles.
Refillable Water Bottle
I took two litres with me in my water bladder knowing that there were water sources along the way. What I didn’t think of is that it’s a little tricky to refill a water bladder from a creek. In hindsight, a water bottle would have come in handy to make it easier to collect water.
I didn’t treat the water, seeing that it was running fast and clear but I had water purification tablets on me if I felt the need to treat it.
About halfway through the marathon hike I had a solid craving for salty snacks due to the salts my body was losing through sweat. I really wanted some potato chips. Next time, I’d be bringing some crisps along for the adventure.
With the pain in my ankle increasing as we trekked, one of the guys in my group lent me their trekking pole. This helped a lot to get a bit of weight off my right leg and the pain eased off as long as my muscles stayed warm and we didn’t stop for too long. I don’t normally use trekking poles but would definitely consider them on another hike of this length.
An ankle support strap might have come in handy too.
More kit list wisdom…