After slogging his way for hours through mud, snow and ice along Tasmania’s gruelling Overland Track, trail runner Piotr Babis did the un-thinkable — he turned around and went back.
- Piotr Babis ran 160km over 30 hours across the Overland Track to Cradle Mountain and back again
- His friend joined him for the second leg from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair
- Mr Babis is thought to be the only person to have ever run the arduous track there and back again
He hadn’t lost his keys along the way, rather it was part of a historic attempt to run the state’s Overland Track from Lake St Clair to Cradle Mountain, and back again.
His journey began in the dark at 7:00pm on Saturday afternoon, when he set off with a fellow runner at Lake St Clair on the south end of the track.
“The trail is pretty well marked out and I had a headlamp,” he said.
“It was pretty hard to get lost.”
But running in dense bushland at night has its ups and downs.
“It was wet, a lot of puddles, some snow and ice as well.”
Mr Babis approached Cradle Mountain in time for dawn on Sunday, where he picked up fellow trail enthusiast Lincoln Quilliam.
A small pitstop for a change of clothes, shoes and extra supplies, and he was off again — this time with Mr Quilliam in tow.
“The hardest part was the last 20 kilometres. I had run 140 kilometres. The last stretch to Lake St Clair it just felt like it never ended,” Mr Babis said.
For Mr Quilliam running the track in the winter months was a unique experience, with the pair only seeing one pair of walkers along the way.
“Running in darkness, it smashes you mentally,” he said.
“You can go off in the wrong direction or down a wallaby track.
“The track is quite high in terms of elevation and it was either ice or snow for a fair portion.”
‘My feet were wet for the entire 30 hours’
After more than 30 hours and 160 kilometres, Mr Babis crossed the finish line — in this case the car park — at 1:00am on Monday morning.
“My feet were wet for the entire 30 hours, my feet almost melted,” he said.
The official time of the run was 30 hours and 20 minutes.
But there was no time for beers or celebrations at the end.
Mr Babis had to be at work first thing.
So he and Mr Quilliam drove to Deloraine where Mr Babis collected his car and kept driving to work.
The Polish backpacker is in Australia on a working visa and is a supervisor at a dairy farm near Cressy.
While the conditions were challenging they didn’t faze Mr Babis who is an experienced mountain runner in his native Poland.
“I enjoy running and adventure and nature,” he said.
‘It was harder than I thought’
For Mr Babis the answer is simple — during COVID-19 lockdowns his usual calendar of racing fixtures had been cancelled.
“I wanted to have some kind of a goal, something to keep me motivated,” he said.
For training, Mr Babis regularly ran along the country roads near his home in Cressy and did one serious expedition up Frenchmans Cap two weeks beforehand.
Mr Quilliam said he had been making inquiries among those in the trail running community in Tasmania and there was no known knowledge of someone having run the Overland Track in both directions in one go.
“Certainly Piotr is the only person we know of who’s attempted and completed the mission,” he said.
For Mr Babis the reward is going through his photos of the experience, and checking his Strava data, of course.