History of Fat Ass

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The term "FAT ASS" was coined by Joe Oakes, who founded the original "Recover from the Holidays Fat Ass 50" which was run from Santa Cruz to Half Moon Bay along the shoulder of Highway 1 just south of San Francisco, USA. The original event was a VERY low key post-Xmas run. Joe, being an organizer at heart, encouraged other folks across the country (and now the world) to do the same -- devise a course and invite their running buddies to share in a little post-holiday fun. Interestingly, the original run is no longer. The San Francisco Bay Area Fat Ass 50 is now run on trails in the Big Basin area starting and finishing at Saratoga Gap. Read more about Joe Oakes.

In recent years, the number of these runs has mushroomed and there are now many FAT ASS runs all over the USA and even Worldwide Fat Ass Events. The vast majority are in very early January, just after the Xmas/New Year break and are generally 50 miles or 50km. The purpose is to burn off all those extra calories you consumed from Thanksgiving to New Year's that contributed to you getting a Fat Ass.

One of the original pioneers of FAT ASS was Alan Firth, an englishman living in the USA. He produced some T-shirts with the pig logo that can be seen on this page. He eventually moved back to the UK, and started the "Firth's Fun-Filled Formidably Fabulous Footslogging Fight the Flab Fat-Ass Fifty Four Finally Finishing in Farnham" run. Kevin Tiller was lucky enough to attempt this run in both 1997 and 1999. See a race report here.

I suppose that's what got us thinking about putting on some runs here in Australia.

Australian Fat Ass : How It Started

Sean Greenhill's view

Well I guess the origins of the Fat Arse races in Sydney were probably on a run Kevin Tiller and I did a week after last year's (1999) Canberra Marathon/50K. We ran from Kevin's place out to an old hotel ruin overlooking Berowra Waters, accessible only by some old fire trail. It took 5 hours (we were knackered after the race the week before) and we threw around various issues as we ran, including an idea that both of us had had independently for a while - running a double Six Foot Track. Would it be possible to have this as a race, even part of the "other" Six Foot Track run.

As weeks and months passed we'd toss around other, new ideas for races that we'd come up with. The night before Brindabella last year, we'd sat on the balcony of our rented apartment and come up with some truly outlandish ideas. But could we "organise" these things? Or would these not need to have much organisation?

Kevin had, a few years previous, run a "Fat Arse" event in the UK where there were no course markings, no entry fees, no timekeeping, just a map. When you finished, you were expected to contact the organiser and let him know what your time was. Similar Fat Arse events are often discussed on the Ultra List, an email group we subscribed to. We decided any race we did would not be marked or supported, and abide by the concept of "No fees, no aid, no wimps". With Kevin's injury, he devoted a lot of the energy that would go into his running into the event, and we came up with a course in his backyard, so to speak. (The next event - the Blue Labyrinth run - will take place in "my" backyard - the Blue Mountains). Half the course is the "ruin run" Kevin and I did in April 1999, the other half is mostly part of the recent Sydney Trailwalker's course, with some extras added on we have run before.

There you are - in a nutshell, the story behind Sydney's new low key 60K, the Lost Worlds of Kuringai 60K- the name comes from the old hotel ruin, and the Sphinx monument on the Bobbin Head section of the course.

Kevin Tiller's view

I think it was during the run out to the ruin with Sean last year where we'd made the comment about the lack of ultras in the Sydney area, the Brisbane Bush Bash was not on that month for the 2nd year in a row, and it looked permanent this time, and the Royal National Park was not on. We'd said something like "we could just have a low key run, turn up and get a map". We then talked about the Out'n'Back Six Foot Track, which I called the Twelve Foot Track. We'd start from Jenolan at about midnight and run back to the start just in time for the real Six Foot Track. I got the idea for this from two brothers that did the same thing at Comrades. We talked over some other ruyns that would be good, as you do, although we did feel both in the mood for being serious about organising something to fill the void.

As Sean said, the 1999 Brindabella we spent the afternoon talking about all the different races we could put on, all low key, but all ones that excited us in some way and are all very feasible to do. I remember Guy Griffin trying to sleep, groaning at all the outlandish ideas we were having - he thought we were totally nuts.

I suppose that whilst I was injured (Dec 1999 - June 2000) I had a good think about all the runs I wanted to do when I became healed, and 10ks and half marathons just don't cut it. All the runs I wanted to do were the ones we'd discussed back at the Brindabella - and the only way to do them is to tell everyone about it and then just go and do it.

We decided to put on a run in 2000, and I was dead keen on one in my backyard, and am still keen on others doing them in theirs, but certainly around Berowra, it is just excellent running country. So there you are ...