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

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

A pair of ultra-marathon runners from WA’s South West plan to attempt running one of the country’s most challenging four-wheel-drive tracks. 

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 about 100km per day on the journey, Margaret River locals 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 was visiting 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’s really itchy’ and she booked me into the doctor,” he said.

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

“A few days later, I was having an operation to have it all cut out, and started treatment.” 

A man runs down a road wearing an ironman suit
Mr Bolton in action during the 2022 Busselton Ironman. (Supplied: Jarrad Bolton)

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

“I don’t know how I did it. I have 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, being told the treatment is not out there or that it is super expensive was pretty hard to take.

“But I came through the other side.”

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

Gibb River Road gravel and corrugations.
The corrugations on the Gibb River Road will be a major challenge.(ABC Kimberley: Emily Jane Smith)

Ms Lovis has been running her whole 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 female record for running the 123km Cape to Cape track and said she had always wanted to run the Gibb River Road when she spent time living in Broome.   

The notorious, 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 I really just enjoy running outside a lot,” Ms Lovis said.

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

“We are going to attempt to do it in anywhere from six to 10 days with the hopes of achieving 100km a day, but there is room for movement in that.

“We will at least be completing over an ultra-distance every day, which is anything longer than a marathon.”

A woman is running through a forest at the head of a pack of runners
Ms Lovis competing in The Pemberton Trail 50k ultra marathon event. (Supplied: Katie Lovis)

Eat, sleep, run, repeat

The runners will 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 at night in their swags.

“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 is really important. We’ll have hydration packs and the support crews will constantly top those up.

“It isn’t really that undulating but the corrugations, the heat and the exposure — it’s huge. It’s just so open so all of those things will be very challenging.”

A close up photo of a cap with the words Gibb River Run written on it
The pair will raise funds for the Melanoma Institute.(ABC South West WA: Ellie Honeybone)

The Gibb River Road Mountain Bike Challenge will be taking place at the same time the ultra-marathon runners attempt the track, so there will be plenty of people around to cheer them on and throw coins in their fundraising tins. 

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

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

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

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

Woman on mountain bike
The runners will be joining competitors in the Gibb River Road Mountain Bike Challenge.(ABC Open contributor Simon Rimmer)