Passions: On the track


Topalovt-tallDespite pouring rain, painful blisters and mud, Dr Tim Topalov of River Dental in Gympie, Qld, was determined to finish the Kokoda Challenge

The Kokoda Challenge is a 96-kilometre endurance event that must be completed in under 39 hours. It takes place on the Gold Coast hinterland and the 2012 event was the wettest challenge in its history. The toughest part was the five-kilometre climb up to Duncan Park. It’s a very steep hill that was wet and slippery with mud. For every two steps forward, you slipped half a step back. We had to tackle it at three o’clock in the morning, having already covered 70 kilometres. People around me were really struggling and there were plenty of tears. It took about an hour and a half to get to the top and then it was just as steep on the descent. That was a real killer on the knees and toes.

“It was Tania, our receptionist, who got me involved. She likes to run and mentioned there was a 30-kilometre Kokoda Challenge in Brisbane. I found myself teamed up with Tania, her friend and my son’s girlfriend.

“Once we finished the 30-kilometre challenge, we had no intention of doing the 96-kilometre event. We all agreed it was a stupid idea and we shouldn’t do it. Our attitude gradually changed as the entry date approached. With some apprehension, we decided to give it a go. At first the muddy paths were a bit of fun but they soon became nothing but hard work. It’s a non-stop event but none of us ever considered giving up. We had done a fair bit of training and were mentally strong. The only way we would toss it in was if we were physically injured. We completed the 96 kilometres in just over 30 hours.

“Waking up the day after I finished, I felt like I’d won a grand final. I was on cloud nine for a week. If there was a team that needed another member, I could probably be talked into doing it all again—but don’t tell anyone!


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