Jo Van Gorp
Jo is another Blackall stalwart who lined up for the inaugural race in 2014, and is the first in our countdown thus far to have competed in every single subsequent event. She shook off a DNF in 2015 but has managed to ring the bell 8 times*. Her distinctive running outfit, boundless energy and glorious smile are hard to miss on race weekend. She epitomises the Blackall experience with a great respect for the course and her fellow runners. Blackall race day is Jo's favourite day in the calendar, and she's one of our genuine favourites too. She is Blackall Icon #7.
Jo! Such a delight that you're here willing to share your experiences with us. Before we get into it, let's get the most pressing question out of the way; will you be back for Blackall 2023?
Absolutely I’ll be back. How could I miss my 10th year on course? My 8th 100k finish.
What initially drew you to the event?
Back in 2014 I was having coffee catch up with Run Buddy Dave after one of his epic runs. He mentioned a new run course that he wanted to do and he said the organisers were pretty awesome and would definitely put on a good event. I said I’d come do the 50k. He said (very convincingly) that it was too far to travel for just a 50…. So sign up for the 100 I did. Complete madness as my longest trail run was 17k prior to lining up on that start line.
I said I never wanted to do it again …. Until sign on day 2015 then I quickly hit enter again.
Image: Jo explaining to Dave that she "never wants to do this again" as they finish the inaugural race, 2014
So you were back in the 2nd year... and every year since. Let's talk through your record year-on-year.
2015 - I DNF’d that year. Lots of leg cramps and feeling sorry for myself. After that I was so mad with myself that I DNF’d.
2016 - I had to sign up for 2016 and redeem myself after 2015. (I can’t remember if that was the year that I dragged an injured off course for a few extra k’s coz of my inability to follow signage. Sorry Baz.)
2017 - Was a wet year. I only did 70k*
2018 - PB. Beat Dave
2019 - Beat Dave
2020 - Beat Dave
2021 - PB, and sadly Dave did not run due to a recent mishap in a race (in short - 200 miler … 4km from finish … collapse … ambulance trip to hospital … 5 day stay ….Rhabdomylosis …. And still to this day is not running)
2022 - new run buddy to stir on course …. my mate Pete … he was a pacer for another run friend at our 200 miler. There is photographic evidence that I beat Pete. Thanks Steve, you’re the best. Sorry Pete hahaha.
2023 …. PREDICTION…. Jo beats Pete again. How could I miss all this fun?
Image: Exhibit A - The photographic evidence that Jo beat Pete, 2022
You achieved the 500 Club in 2020, Is the 1000 club inevitable for you?
Absolutely. At a minimum. I have to be last one standing. I am a back of the fielder just having a tonne of laughs on course.
Image: Tonnes of fun, 2018
Blackall is renowned for having a bit of everything in terms of terrain and scenery. Do you have a favourite section? (What is it, and why). Any sections that you particularly dread?
That’s a tough question for me coz I get lost all the time so I no idea where I am at any time hehehe.
The bluff is tough. I always think Steve’s at the top waiting to take a happy snap. Just a bit further little vegan, and you’ll spot him. You always spot me first though.
I recall you and I pitifully trying to shelter from a storm whilst perched on the Bluff back in 2019... it wasn't too fun at the time but it was certainly memorable! Any favourite memories (or other low points) from Blackall?
Funny you mention that storm because run buddy Dave were discussing that year this morning. He thought he was going to beat me because I am petrified of storms.
Image: Jo putting on a brave face whilst weathering a storm on the Bluff, 2019
There are so many fabulous memories. I seriously don’t know where to begin.
Every year is like a big reunion of friends.
I do love hugs from Stewy Grills and Neil Collie every year.
Image: Post-race hugs from Megan, 2022. (Not pictured: Stewy or Neil)
Your running outfit and kit is iconic on its own! It changes every year but it's unmistakably you. Can you talk us through it?
I like to be sun smart in the day and warm at night. And of course super colourful and mismatched so if I get lost (highly likely) you can easily find me hehehe. Plus easier to find my photos.
And hopefully if first timers (or anyone stuck in a rut) needs help out there and they will spot me and know that I am a walking aid station. I always carry Imodium, trail money (toilet paper), wet wipes, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, toothbrush (not sharing that), toothpaste, zen, magnesium spray, electrolyte, food, food, some more food, battery packs, mobile phone with emergency numbers on it, spare clothes, wet weather gear, hiking poles, sunglasses, picnic rug, table, chairs, kitchen sink … hehehe
Dave reckons I have my own Qantas flight to carry all my stuff down. 😇😇😇
Image: The walking aid station; Jo sporting the 2022 edition of her iconic running kit
You're always bringing friends and family to participate in Blackall... what sort of sales pitch are you giving them to convince them to join you??
I know my sister cried and cursed me the first year …. And she keeps coming back now too.
I just tell her she doesn’t have a choice 😇😇😇. It’s a given. I like to see her at the finish line. The finish hall is pretty empty when I come in so I have to wake every one up ringing the bell.
I think it’s a great course for anyone wanting to do a 100k and it’s sensational as a first 100.
The checkpoints are sensational. The photographers are brilliant. And 99.9% of the folk you meet on course are happy. The other 0.1% are just going through a small patch of feeling sorry for themselves and questioning life’s choices.
Once you finish your first ultra, you feel and you know that you can do anything.
You hail from Cairns in far North Queensland so you must be well conditioned to the heat and humidity. What's your preferred running climate? (warm/cool? day/night? rain/dry? etc)
The heat and humidity at times knocks me for a six however I do run at lunch time closer to race day to prepare a little for heat. A little rain isn’t too bad however I do need to change clothing because I feel the cold in seconds. That’s what knocked me the year I only did 70k*.
Image: Blackall 2017, otherwise known as "the wet year"
Are you a headphones and music and/or podcast type runner? If so, what do you listen to?
I never listen to music when I run. I talk to myself lol. Especially at night time.
Any particular tech or equipment that you can't live without on a long run?
Even for a 5k run I carry a hydration pack and a snake bandage lol.
I recall you attributing your B100 DNF in 2015 to your unlucky orange shorts. LOL. Do you have any other race rituals/superstitions or lucky charms that you rely on for race days?
My Zen spray. Gotta have my pink hat too.
Image: The unlucky orange shorts directly contributed to Jo's only DNF, 2015
Image: The beloved pink hat, 2019 (Jo also pictured)
How many races do you normally do in a year?
March - Yandina 50
April - A local Cairns event
May / June - nil
July - 9 marathons (around Cairns) - 4 with races and the rest are just course marking and de marking with a friend and Guzzler 100.
August - local Cairns event
September - my birthday … 🎂🎂🎂
October - my signature race BLACKALL100. My favourite day of the year.
Nov-Feb - small local events only - mostly volunteering.
What is running for you and what place does it hold in your life?
It's my way to be social, keep fit, keep my dogs happy
Image: Jo being social in the opening kilometres, 2020
What lies ahead for you in the coming 12-18 months?
Lucky you didn’t say 2 years coz I’d have to say I climb up an age category lol.
I’d like to win lotto so the bank stops sending me love letters asking for more money each month. Clearly my Nigerian uncle is not paying like he promised. Oh I’ll be at BLACKALL 100 and Yandina 50 and local Cairns runs.
Any trends in races or running that worry you, or you don't agree with?
Grumpy people. I don’t agree with grumpy people.
If you could choose anyone (living or dead) to go for a run with, who would it be with and where would you run?
In October 2002, I lost my dad to cancer and he was a runner so every year at Blackall I feel he runs with me. In 2021 I asked if he could help me and next minute two Dutch runners ran past me. I reckon my dad is with me every year at Blackall. I think he skips the bluff though.
Image: Jo celebrating her 7th finish, 2021
I’m super sad that the worlds greatest run buddy still isn’t running after our epic adventures if 2021. That was my longest ever run of 200km. 140km of my own run and 60km pacing. I feel I let Dave down because I was too tired to recognise the onset of rhabdomylosis. I had read all about this before my first Blackall. I should have known. It plays constantly in my head. How could I have done better? What could I have done differently?
When I have my next crack at the 200 Miller I’ll have a checklist. Intake of food, intake of water, intake of electrolyte, weight, how do you feel, what’s hurting, how long has it been like that, what the gait like? Hands? Speech? Are they stumbling?
Anything has gotta be better than nothing, I’ll never leave anyone on trail. Especially a first timer and especially if it’s cold.
Image: Jo and Dave (World's Greatest Run Buddy) pre-race, 2014
What's the best way for people to follow you?
Don’t follow me. I’m lost. My GPS is broken. And I’m vegan. We always have to tell you that 😇😂.
See you in forums and see you on the track. Don’t forget to say hi. If I don’t respond it’s coz I’m trying to breathe. I often sound like Darth Vader. No cause for alarm. Heheheh
Jo, you're one of the absolute greats. Thanks so much for the chat, can't wait to see you on your favourite day of the year in October!
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Check out all our images of previous Blackall races on our Past Events page
*Note: In 2017 the 100K course was truncated mid-race due to deteriorating weather conditions. While some competitors managed to complete the full 100km before the change, those who completed the 70km option got the opportunity to ring the bell and were not considered as a DNF. Therefore, Jo has 8 finishes to her name, but only 7 full 100s.