Ultra-marathon runners take on remote Gibb River Road to raise funds for Melanoma Institute

Ultra-marathon runners take on remote Gibb River Road to raise funds for Melanoma Institute

A pair of ultra-marathon runners from WA’s South West are planning to run one of the country’s most challenging four-wheel-drive courses.

The duo believe they will be the first people to run the 660km Gibb River Road in the state’s Kimberley region and aim to complete the distance in 10 days.

As well as attempting to run around 100km a day on the journey, Margaret River residents Katie Lovis and Jarrad Bolton will be raising money for melanoma research and awareness – a cause close to their hearts.

Surviving stage four melanoma

Mr Bolton visited his local hairdresser in 2018 when a spot was found on the top of his head.

“I brushed it off for a while but eventually I said to my partner, ‘My head is really itchy’ and she booked me in to the doctor,” he said.

“Within a few days I was diagnosed with stage four melanoma.

“A few days later I had surgery to cut everything out, and started treatment.”

Mr Bolton in action during the 2022 Busselton Ironman. (Provided: Jarrad Bolton)

After 18 months of radiation and immunotherapy, Mr Bolton beat the odds.

“I don’t know how I did it. I’ve always been a positive person and I still brush it off a bit to this day,” he said.

“I think it affected my family more than me because being told that the treatment wasn’t there or that it was very expensive was pretty hard to take.

“But I came through the other side.”

Mr Bolton got the all-clear about 12 months ago and has found happiness in taking on incredible athletic feats such as ironman events and ultra-marathon races.

The waves on the Gibb River Road will be a big challenge. (ABC Kimberley: Emily Jane Smith)

Ms Lovis has been riding all her life, but it wasn’t until she moved to Margaret River that she really found a passion for trails and ultra-distances.

She recently broke the women’s record for running the 123km Cape to Cape course and said she had always wanted to run the Gibb River Road when she lived in Broome.

The infamous, mostly unsealed road runs from Derby on the west coast to Kununurra on WA’s eastern border and is typically open during dry season from May to November.

“I really love the landscape of the Kimberley and really enjoy running outside,” Ms Lovis said.

“It’s going to be a real trial and error thing for us.

“We’re going to try to do it in anywhere from six to 10 days with the hope of hitting 100km a day, but there’s room for movement in that.

“At least every day we will finish over an ultra distance, which is anything longer than a marathon.”

Ms Lovis is taking part in The Pemberton Trail 50k ultra marathon event. (Provided by Katie Lovis) Eat, sleep, run, repeat

The runners travel to the Kimberley in early May with a team of about 10 people and five vehicles.

They will start each run in the early hours of the morning with a few stops for meals, before crashing into their swags at night.

“I feel really sorry for Jarrad because it will just be me talking for 12 hours every day – I don’t listen to any music and I’m never quiet,” Ms Lovis said.

“Food and hydration are very important. We will have hydration packs and the support teams will be constantly replenishing them.

“It’s not really that wavy, but the waves, the heat and the exposure – it’s huge. It’s just so open, so all those things will be very challenging.”

The pair will raise funds for the Melanoma Institute. (ABC South West WA: Ellie Honeybone)

The Gibb River Road Mountain Bike Challenge takes place at the same time as the ultra-marathon runners take on the course, so there will be plenty of people around to cheer them on and drop coins into their fundraising tins.

Ms Lovis said the pair aimed to raise $200,000 for the Melanoma Institute.

“The general public enjoys seeing you suffer. I think we discovered that by looking at what some of my friends have done,” she said.

“So I think for the charity it would be beneficial if we could achieve the 100km a day … and also be the first people to do the course.

“I think it would be nice to give it a good crack so that if someone in the future decides they want to give it a go, we’ve made it bloody hard to beat.”

The runners will join competitors in the Gibb River Road Mountain Bike Challenge.(ABC Open contributor Simon Rimmer) Find more local news

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