Outback Marathon beckons for Mandy and Helen

Mandy Ellis and Helen Reeves are running the Australian Outback Marathon. photograph kate withers

Mandy Ellis and Helen Reeves are running the Australian Outback Marathon. photograph kate withers

Churchill's Mandy Ellis and Traralgon's Helen Reeves will set off on a girls' trip to rival all girls' trips next week, but unlike others theirs won't involve much rest or relaxation.

Both members of the Traralgon Harriers and participants of parkrun, Mandy and Helen will face their most mammoth athletic pursuit together when they travel to tackle the Australian Outback Marathon.

Run over 42.2 kilometres in the Northern Territory, the marathon course takes in the sights of Uluru and Kata Tjuta and the pair intend on enjoying them.

Helen received an email announcing entries were open for the 2018 running of the event and without a second (or first) thought, she signed up.

"I received an email last year saying that entries were open for [the marathon], and without my brain being in gear I just clicked enter," Helen said.

"I just thought 'if I don't enter straight away I won't do it', and all my friends apart from Mandy said 'you're mental'."

Helen "planted the seed" for Mandy, who seized the opportunity to visit the red centre and tackle "a bit of a run with [her] friend" in the process.

"We were talking about it and where it was and I thought 'I've never been up there'," Mandy said.

"There is an eight-hour cut off [to finish the marathon] and I thought 'well, I can do that. I can walk it if I need to', so I said to Helen 'want some company?'

"It's a girls' weekend away with a bit of a run thrown in there."

The pair ran a half marathon together last year but the Australian Outback Marathon marks the first full-length race for both.

Mandy and Helen snapped up two of just 400 spots in the 2018 event and have ramped up training accordingly in the lead up to July 28.

They also have a coach who has designed a specially-tailored program for them to follow to the letter to ensure they are right to go for the big run.

"We do a lot of parkrun ... and the Harriers, and they all just put up with us and they've been so encouraging," Helen said.

"It's been a lot of early mornings, a lot of frost and a lot of ice."

For Mandy, "the running journey has been up and down", but it was her example that led to Helen's first foray into the sport.

"I saw Mandy running a few years ago ... I'm thinking 'she's running 10 kilometres ... wow, what a woman'. I was so impressed," Helen said.

"The next year I thought I'd had a crack so I did."

They will compete in the 55-59 age group at the marathon next week but as veritable rookies of the sport admitted the competition side of things was not a high priority.

"We just want to finish in one piece and have a smile at the end," Helen said.

"We just want to finish and not feel like we're dead ... and we have to be able to get onto camels at sunrise the next day."

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