The concept for a fun run in Wangaratta was born in the minds of Sharon and Justin Scholz shortly after they started running for fitness in 2007. With fun runs in many of the surrounding towns and cities it seemed reasonable that Wangaratta should also be able to support and event of this type and, hopefully in time an ultra running event.
Through their desire to lose weight and gain fitness, Justin and Sharon lost about 30kg in body weight between them through 2007 and 2008. They entered many local fun runs and larger city runs including the well-renowned Run 4 The Kids. They also entered and completed the Melbourne Marathon in 2007 in a time of 3:38.
The Scholz’s looked to run further rather than faster and each started to complete longer distances in ultra-marathon events (any event longer than a standard 42.2km marathon). Sharon in particular excelled in the sport and quickly achieved selection as a National 24 Hour team member, thanks initially to achieving a distance beyond 184km in 24 hours at the 2008 Coburg event.
Sharon and Justin had a desire to share their commitment and passion for running with the local community and in 2010 set about planning the inaugural Wangaratta Fun Run. It was in 2010 that Sharon also achieved the global accolade of being declared the International Female Ultra Athlete of the Year, as adjudicated by the International Governing Body – The International Association of Ultramarathons.
With no idea about how an event may unfold, the Scholz’s planned and delivered the inaugural Wangaratta Fun Run. The event started and finished at Bachelors Green and included a 5km and 10km run, plus a 1km run for kids. The course followed the One Mile Creek fitness path from Bachelors Green to Waldara Drive and back.
In total there were 178 finishers from that first event, an outcome not expected by Justin and Sharon.
Thoughts of an ultra running event started fester and with the Rail Trail and other beautiful path networks, the planning began.
The fun run took place again and with a new website and additional promotion, a tripling of event numbers was again achieved. 478 finishers made it across the line and it became clear that the manual timing system wouldn’t be appropriate in future years if the event continued to grow, nor would Bachelors Green be able to manage the increasing event logistics needs.
The concept of a 100km event was also finalised, and the “Ned Kelly Chase” was born. Planning for this event made it clear that due to logistical difficulties it would need to be ‘stand alone’ and conducted on a different weekend to the fun run.
The WMFR was essentially rebuilt from the ground up ahead of 2013. This saw the event move from Bachelors Green to the Wangaratta Showgrounds, the addition of a marathon and half marathon and the inclusion of chip timing. Entry numbers again tripled and with 1500 finishers across all events it was clear that the Wangaratta event was becoming increasingly important to the local and regional community and well received from a State and National perspective.
The first Ned Kelly Chase took place, and saw entrants run a 100km loop along the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail to Gapsted, then along the Snow Road to Milawa, and alsong cycle paths to and through Wangaratta. A 4 x 25km relay and a 100km RunNBike were also a part of the program.
The 2014 NKC course was changed and now saw entrants run 2 x different 50km out and backs. This gave the event a better social feel, was safer for participants as the Snow Road was removed and also allowed for a slightly less intensive marshalling and aid stations setup to be adopted. This allowed more aid stations for entrants and also meant that the course was 100% on cycle and fitness paths in the district.
This course was well regarded by entrants and has remained in place since.
2014 also allowed for the introduction of shorter events now that a full and single loop did not have to be achieved. A 50km solo run and 10km fun run were added.
A marathon and half mararthon were added to the calendar, as were the 100km and 50km “bicycle chase”. With all entrants in longer running events aiming to finish at the common time of 2pm, it seemed reasonable to allow cyclists to start later, chase the runners down and arrest them on course. This has been received well and enjoyed by both the cyclists and the runners in the event.
The only event change in 2016 was changing the goal finish time from 2pm to 12pm to avoid hot conditions if they were ever to eventuate. Weather for this event was pleasant, however the 12pm goal finish will stand in case a hot year ever does come along. This also allowed the 10km event to start at 9am, which entrants favoured over the 11am start the previous year.
Due to flooding in 2016, only the north side of the course was used, with 100km entrants completing two 50km laps in that direction. One each in the darkness and the light.