Venz achieves major ultra-marathon milestone

Blackall 100km race

Howard Salkow

Senior Journalist

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Blackall 100 finisher Gary Venz pictured at the giant cow bell which is rung each time a finisher crosses the line. All images supplied
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When Port Douglas optometrist Gary Venz sets his sights on a gruelling challenge, you can bet he'll meet it every step of the way.

And for the past five years, the popular member of the Coral Sea Eyecare team, has not faulted in his quest to conquer the Blackall 100, a punishing 100-km road race held last month in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.

First run in 2014, the Blackall 100 recognises runners who have completed the event on five occasions and they are inducted into the ‘500 Club’.

“I've done it every year from 2017 and my fastest time was 13h 50 min back in 2018. I've been working towards entering the ‘500 Club’ for the past few years and was one of six new inductees this year,” said Venz. His time this year was 16:27:23 finishing 117th in a field exceeding 200 runners.

First home this year was Nicholas Bamford in a time of 10:17:28.

The race is rich in tradition and includes the ringing of a giant cow bell when runners cross the finish line. All finishers receive their own smaller version of the bell.

This magnificent trail-running-ultra takes you across the Blackall Range on the Sunshine Coast hinterland, experiencing vibrant ferny forests, subtropical rainforest, tall eucalypt trees, picturesque waterfalls and quiet hinterland hamlets.

With strong ties to the local Indigenous tribe, this unbeatable event is loved as much for its tough terrain as its traditions.

First 100km

With his love for running, his motivation to first run the event was to challenge himself because it was his first 100km.

“I had previously done one ultra-marathon which was 75km and wanted to see if I was capable of stepping up to the next level of doing a 100km event,” he said.

“I'm always running, but I start training specifically for a race like this about 12 weeks prior to the event. My weekly mileage peaks at about 100km a week, and I then taper off about two weeks out from race day.

“Comparing this year's runs to previous years, every year is different. I found this year that while I felt quite good physically all day, the hot and humid conditions on the day sapped my energy more than I expected, so my pace was quite a bit off what it has been in past years.

“This event always throws up some surprises on race day, and in the five years I've done it, the conditions on the day have ranged from floods to thunderstorms to heat and everything in between.”

Future plans

Venz said he has not yet decided if he’ll be going back next year.

“I've been very focused in the past few years on just getting the five races completed to join the ‘500 club’. Now that I've achieved that, I'm looking at what other challenges I want to tackle next year. Having said that, the Blackall 100 is my favourite race and I will definitely be back again, albeit next year or the year after,” he said.

Venz said the reason he loves running ultra-marathons is the physical and mental preparation and challenges that it involves.

“It's a way of testing your limits and there is no better feeling than crossing the finish line and seeing all of that hard work and preparation come together on race day.

“And the camaraderie among the ultra-marathon community of runners and supporters is amazing.”

Race website:


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