Recently described to me as the "Blackall Diesel Engine", Andy is the no-nonsense Blackall luminary who is counted among the tiny group of brave souls who've toed the start-line every single year since the inaugural race in 2014. He's one of just 3 runners who've amassed 800km, and is right in the hunt to be the first person to make it to 1000. It's rare to capture a photo of Andy sporting a big beaming smile, his steely race persona has been forged by his gritty performances year on year. It's been a delight to dig a few of those rare moments out of the archive as we induct Andy as our latest Blackall Icon!
Andy, great of you to be part of our Icon series - thanks so much for taking part. First things first - will you be back for Blackall 2023?
Will definitely be there for 2023.
What initially drew you to the event, and what brings you back each year?
I had been running the other Run Queensland events for a year or two when Brett announced the inaugural B100. I remember thinking I was going to make it my home ground event. I remember saying to Brett at the end of the first year that I was planning on doing it every year until I was the only one left. Too much adrenaline and endorphins running around my body at the time but thought id give it a crack anyway. 10 years later...
Image: Andy finishing the inaugural event, 2014
You're right in the mix for being the 1st to achieve the coveted "1000 Club". Do you think about that in your planning and prep and does it motivate you at all?
Being one of the first to the 500 club was awesome at the time, and 1000 was so far away. The concept has definitely kept me motivated but my prep has remained the same. I train and go out there to finish not hurt myself. As most runners know, a DNF is a horrible feeling so I avoid it at all costs by adjusting and adapting to conditions and how I'm feeling on the day.
Image: Andy ringing his way into the '500 Club', 2018
What's the plan after you hit 1000?
These days I'm starting to feel all the kilometres. I've cut down on the amount of races I enter, but will always front up for the B100. Once I hit the 1000 mark, I will probably call it a day for the 100s but will instead continue on with the 50km. But, then again....
If you're a betting man, do you have a wager for who gets to 1000 first?
The odds-on favourite to be the first to 1000 is the Trail Queen Meagan Brown, without a doubt [Meagan is also a fellow Blackall Icon]. She lives a few streets away from me and we cross paths on the trails and at the shops often. She is so dedicated to the sport and representing women in sport. A real icon of not only B100, but trail running in general.
Your one and only Blackall DNF was in 2021. Can you tell us about it? What happened, and did it change your thinking/approach for 2022 and future races?
My one DNF was in 2021. I broke one of the cardinal rules and changed up my nutrition without testing it. It was a real hot year and I got really dehydrated. By checkpoint 4 I was in a fair bit of pain and peeing blood. Not ideal. I had contemplated continuing on but realised that was a seriously stupid idea, so pulled the pin. Difficult to do but necessary.
Image: Battling the bluff before Andy's one and only DNF, 2021
What's your favourite part of the Blackall weekend?
My favourite part of the Blackall weekend is usually running the last 5 km. The adrenaline really kicks in and the end is close, its usually the fastest section of the race for me. Running the road section and into the finish line is always a buzz with family and friends waiting and the atmosphere. Presentations the next morning is also a highlight.
Image: Andy all smiles as he rings the bell for the 2nd time with his family watching on, 2015
They say that a road marathon "starts at 30kms". What is the equivalent moment for Blackall (i.e. when the preparation - or lack of it - really starts to come into play and things get really tough).
For me, the hardest part of the race is making it through the first 50. After that I start counting the kms down instead of up and it helps keep me moving and motivated. If I had to put a number on it, I'd say around the 70km mark is when your metal is tested.
Ironically, its the 70 km mark every year I start looking over my shoulder for Stewy Grills. He has a habit of catching me there nearly every year, and then he disappears leaving me in his dust. The man's a machine. [Stewy is also a fellow B100 Icon]
Image: Andy and Stewy sharing a moment after crossing the finish line, 2018
Favourite all-time moment at Blackall?
Strangely enough, I think my favourite time at the B100 was the year it belted rain all day. I'd come prepared with a wet weather jacket and love running in the rain and it was also my PB that year. Probably because I was in a hurry to get home!
Image: Andy, resplendent in rain jacket, achieves his Blackall PB, 2017
As one of the most capped Blackall runners, do you have any advice for a first timer who is planning their B100 debut this October?
My advice for first timers running the B100 is; don't put pressure on yourself. There are no rules against walking. Adjust your effort to how you feel. At times you will feel rubbish, but it passes. Eat well on course and hydrate properly. At the end of the day, most of us don't line up thinking we are going to win the race, so pace yourself, enjoy the day and the company, and avoid DNF at all costs. Stay positive. Don't question yourself and your ability. The fact that you showed up and started usually means you have the stones to finish.
Image: Andy exorcising his DNF demons with a gutsy finish the following year, 2022
What's your post-B100 recovery routine?
My post B100 recovery is pretty standard. Beer and rest!!
Where do you go to mentally during an ultra race?
People often ask me what I think about during an ultra. The short answer is: "zero"! I just keep moving and aim for the next checkpoint. Sometimes I focus on the massive endorphin release that comes with a finish. Lasts for days. It's one of the things I like about running, it clears your head of all the rubbish you don't really need to be thinking about in the first place.
Image: Grinding down the miles into the Cooloolabin Dam section, 2016
Are you a headphones and music and/or podcast type runner?
I'm not a tech person while running. I prefer to be aware of my surroundings and take it all in.
Image: Taking in the surroundings, 2014
Any particular tech or equipment that you can't live without on a long run?
I don't have any particular equipment I can't live without, but my baseline gear includes 3B anti chafe cream, Endurolytes and Pickle Juice for cramps. However, I find it difficult to train without my Kelpie "Rebel". She pumps out about 50km a week with me but stays home on the longer runs. She's nuts for a run.
Do you have any pre-race rituals/superstitions or lucky charms that you rely on for race days?
The only semi-ritual I sort of have is starting the race in the same running shirt, where possible. Inevitably I change it several times through the race but like to start with it. It has 'Run Happy' written on it given to me by [former B100 women's champion and fellow 500 club member] Jess Schluter and her partner Aaron at the finish line of UTA one year. The announcer gave it to them for yelling out my name in support while I was crossing over the finish line. That's sort of why I started wearing it each year. We all make smart arsed remarks about it each year, some quite funny (but not publishable). "Run Happy" is a bit of an oxymoron by about 60km.
Image: Andy sporting the 'Run Happy' shirt, 2018
How did you get into ultras and trail running?
I got into trail running out of a conversation I had with another mad ultra legend, Susanne Chatterton. I didn't know her at the time but we went to the same gym and would often see each other. At the time I was only running half marathons and did a lot of treadmill training. It taught me to hold my pace and cadence.
Susanne came up to me while I was running and said "jeez you run on treadmills a lot!". I laughed and we started talking running. She suggested I try trail running. I said "what? What's that about?" She explained it to me and that was it. It sounded perfect to me and right up my alley. I entered a 50km race and within a month completed my first 100, The Glass House 100. That was over 15 years ago. Little did I know, Suzanne and I would enter multiple Oxfam 100 team events together in the future, as well as UTAs and assorted other ultras.
Any trends in races or running that worry you, or you don't agree with?
I haven't really known any trends in racing that concern me. Ultra runners are a certain breed of person and generally good people. I wouldn't really expect cheating or anything dodgy from them.
Now and then you come across a race that isn't very well organised and sometimes has safety issues which can be a concern, but most are well run and safety is paramount.
Image: Andy and Paul "Jacko" Jackson pre-race, 2020. Andy describes Jacko as "a fellow Paramedic, and old friend that has always supported and guided me through my running exploits. He is a 500 clubber as well and real speedster"
If you could choose anyone (living or dead) to go for a run with, who would it be with and where would you run?
A lot of runners would like to go running with a legend in the sport like Dean Karnazes. Well, I can say I've done that. I spent about 2 hours running with him on the B100 the year he entered. We chatted about everything and anything, strangely enough very little about running. He had a surprising knowledge of AFL football and at one stage was singing "Up there Cazaly".
Having done that, I'd like to run more team events like Oxfam, maybe a new format of some description or even a relay type event. Maybe a miler at the B100??? Brett???
If I had to pick a particular person to run with, I'd love to run with Courtney Dauwalter on some of her home trails.
She seems so laid back and into running and looks like she would have a lot of interesting things to say. She has a real no frills approach and seems quite modest about her success as a trail running icon. [As it happens, as we were busy working on this interview in June 2023, Courtney was busy smashing the women's WSER100 record]
Thanks for chatting with me Andy! Looking forward to seeing you back in action at Blackall '23, and all the best as you hunt down that 1000 Club milestone!
Check out our other Blackall icons here.
Check out all our images of previous Blackall races on our Past Events page