By Ben Hope
PAKENHAM resident Natalie Maddock was excited and “pretty happy” when her relay team crossed the finish line in the 2009 VicSuper Murray Marathon, a five-day canoe marathon along the Murray River that ended in Swan Hill on New Year’s Eve.
The 20-year-old was part of the relay team ‘Dilligaf,’ who took turns to paddle 404 kilometres of the Murray River in a two-man TC2 canoe.
“I was a bit sore by the end, but not as bad as some of the boys on the team,” Ms Maddock said.
“I paddled first on the last day so it was pretty exciting watching our team cross the finish line in Swan Hill.
“We weren’t far behind the front of the pack on the final leg.”
Now in its 41st year, the race began December 27 in Yarrawonga and attracted 786 paddlers in 203 boats with more than 3000 support crew and volunteers.
The race passed through Tocumwal, Picnic Point, Torrumbarry, Cohuna and Murrambit before the official closing ceremony at Swan Hill’s Pioneer Settlement on New Year’s Eve.
Ms Maddock was introduced to the marathon by her sister’s boyfriend, Endeavour Hills resident Brett Sutton, who completed the event for the ninth time this year.
“Brett had been training pretty hard and when I heard the team needed an extra member I thought I would give it a go as well,” Ms Maddock said.
“We trained three times a week at Lakeside in Pakenham to make sure we were ready for the marathon.”
The Dilligaf team was well-known during the event for their antics at the end of each day’s racing.
“As we crossed the finish line we would try to stand up and paddle the canoe,” Ms Maddock said.
“As you would expect, we always ended up in the water.”
Ms Maddock said the weather was perfect during the race except day four, when windy conditions provided an extra challenge, and a thunderstorm that dampened New Year’s Eve celebrations.
“It was pretty hard going on the fourth day when we had to row against the wind but other than that the weather was really good until New Year’s Eve,” Ms Maddock said.
“After the presentation at the Pioneer Settlement in Swan Hill we stayed around to celebrate New Year’s Eve but it began to rain right on midnight so we only had time to say happy New Year before we all rushed back to our tents.”
Dilligaf finished the marathon with a total time of 29 hours 40 minutes and 24 seconds.
Overall winner of the marathon was Tony Hystek from Liscombe, New South Wales who took out the event in 26 hours 11 minutes and 52 seconds.
YMCA Victoria managed the 2009 marathon for the first time, taking over the event after the Australian Red Cross announced it would end its association with the race in 2008.
Funds raised during the event will be reinvested by the YMCA into projects within the Murray River Region.
The marathon began back in 1969 after a group of 10 friends decided to paddle the Murray River in a bid to raise $250 for the Australian Red Cross.
By Ben Hope