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Linking central Victoria via the old railway line
A record 1,180 entries in central Victoria’s 2021 O’Keefe Challenge participated in the event’s Friday night ride, as well as the Sunday running and relay events. The event raised much needed funds for the Heathcote Dementia Alliance, as well as being a great physical test.
Runners set off on Sunday 2 May, in either the Mandalay Resources Marathon, the Fosterville Gold Mine Half Marathon, the Emu Downs Contracting 10km run or the Connallys Real Estate 5km Run / Walk against Dementia, all events held on sections of the picturesque O’Keefe Rail Trail between Bendigo and Heathcote.
Winner of the Men’s Marathon, Peter Reynolds, was running just his second ever marathon and finished in a time of 2 hours and 45 minutes. The Castlemaine resident won by over three minutes from Jarrod Mullavey. In the women’s marathon, Chelsea Warnes claimed victory by less than 2 minutes from Sally Prymer.
“Wow – what an event: we had awesome weather, a fantastic turn out, and after 2020 it was just so nice to have an ‘in-person’ event,” Kerstin Brauns, Chair, O’Keefe Rail Trail Marathon Inc. With the weather being picture perfect, athletes followed the spectacular O’Keefe Rail Trail from Bendigo to Heathcote, as the trail weaves its way through forests, natural bushlands, farms, and ‘through’ Lake Eppalock.
All proceeds from the event go back into the community, supporting the various community groups that man the aid stations along the route and the event’s charity partner, the Heathcote Dementia Alliance, supporting the fight against Dementia. This O’Keefe Challenge weekend could not have been planned and managed without the assistance of over 200 volunteers from 13 community organisations
With 54% of the record 1,180 entrants participating in all of the weekend’s events plus their support crews/families coming from outside of the local region, this provided an important economic boost for local accommodation, restaurants and cafe businesses from what is a truly community driven event based upon the popular O’Keefe Rail Trail.