Students in the The Run Beyond Project will form part of record Mount Panorama Punish field

Dave Criniti won the 2019 edition of the Mount Panorama Punish and this year students who are part of his The Run Beyond Project will tackle the event. Picture by Alexander Grant

IT’S a race that will undoubtedly burn legs and test lungs, but this year’s edition of the Mount Panorama Punish will also be about empowering a group of young people to succeed beyond the finish line.

As joint race director Jenn Arnold eagerly anticipates seeing a capacity field of 1,200 runners line up to tackle the slopes of Mount Panorama on October 23, but she’s just as delighted that students who are involved in The Run Beyond Project will be amongst them.

It’s an initiative which was founded by Dave Criniti, the man who blazed around the 6.213 kilometre track in a time of 21:09 to win the 2019 edition of the Punish.

“He’s a teacher at Chester Hill School and he started the Run Beyond Project,” Arnold explained.

“It’s to empower kids that are a little bit at risk of falling off the tracks a bit and not really engaging, kids who are refugees or low socio-economic. It’s teaching them goal setting and perseverance and resilience through running – it’s a great program.

“Already eight kids from Gulgong are registered, for many of them that’s their first trip away, to come to Bathurst and race in the Punish, and we’ve got a big group of about 30 or 40 coming from Killarney Heights High School to support them.”

Whether or not Punish record holder Criniti decides to push for a new hot lap mark or run in support of the students remains to be seen. But in any case those who will line up at Mount Panorama in The Run Beyond singlets will have a lot of people alongside them to offer encouragement.

“I think we’re probably headed for the biggest that one we’ve had, it’s touch and go,” Arnold said.

“Given COVID and all the different things that have been thrown at us, it’s really exciting to have to prospect of people coming back to run around with us.

“We didn’t expect that it would be this big so quickly. By all accounts with a lot of other races, they are saying there’s a really big spike in the last week or two of entries when people know they’re not sick, family members aren’t sick and they’re confident to travel, so that’s what we are expecting for the Punish as well.”

While entries close at midnight on Wednesday, October 19, Arnold said they’ve already had to order more more medals given numbers have already reached 85 percent of capacity.

They’re medals which rank as some of the best bling on offer for runners as well.

“I think because it’s a little bit different because it’s in the shape of a track, it’s not a regular circular medal that you can pick up a lots of other races,” Arnold said.

“It’s really, really unique and exciting to be presented with something eye-catching, it’s iconic, a lot of people will instantly recognise that is the shape of Mount Panorama.

“It’s hard work too, people really earn that medal, it makes it worthwhile at the end because you work so hard to get around.”

Mount Panorama Punish race directors Jenn Arnold and Steve Jackson are delighted the fifth edition of the event has attracted huge numbers. Picture by Alexander Grant

Though it’s called the Punish and it features 174 metres of elevation gain, Arnold pointed out that reaching the finish line inside the 60-minute cut-off mark is not as daunting as it seems.

“If you can do five kays at parkrun or five kays around your local loop in about 43 to 45 minutes, then meeting the cut-off at the Punish should be achievable for you,” she said.

As well as overall and age winners plus the coveted King and Queen of the Mountain honours for those that reach the 3km mark first, there are plenty of other prizes on offer.

“We’ve got trophies for a whole range of things, we’ve got one for the most average runner. So we’re going to take the average time and the nearest time to that gets the trophy,” Arnold said.

“I’m never going to win a fastest time trophy, but I might win an average person trophy,” she laughed.

“It’s also really exciting to acknowledge our oldest male and female runners, and of course this year is the first time we’ve got the teams event so we’ve got a trophy for the largest team entered and fastest team time.”

The Mount Panorama Punish is on Sunday, October 23 with runners to set off at 8am.

Western Advocate 11/11/2022 by Anya Whitelaw