Duval Dam Buster. Woman running through the forest in a red jumper

Duval Dam Buster

The Duval Dam Buster (DDB)  Trail Run consists of four events 3km, 8km, 15km, and 30km. It’s a great opportunity for the entire community to get involved in something active and push yourself a little further within a great atmosphere and support group of local legends!

The DDB is an annual event hosted by the Armidale Athletics Club and a volunteer committee, the location is within the ever scenic Mt Duval and Dumaresq Dam areas.

We spent a little time with Lee-Anne McKinnon, the organiser to find out more.

What where did the idea for the Duval Dam Buster come from?

The DDB is now in its 3rd year in 2020 and originated after a casual training run up Mt Duval with friends a few years ago. I was thinking about all the wonderful trail running events I’d attended over the previous year and thought how wonderful it would be if Armidale had its own trail run and wouldn’t Mt Duval be just the place for it!

Can you explain the DDB course options and who can get involved?

There are four distances – 3km, 8km, 15km and 30km.

The 3km is a great, family-friendly event (although not pram friendly), and is suitable for runners and walkers.  The 8km event provides a great ‘taster’ for anyone wanting to try their first trail run or those who would like to move up from a 5km event.  This distance takes participants up to the foot of Mt Duval where it turns back and then completes the loop around the dam track.  The 15km is where the real fun begins!  Taking competitors from 1000m above sea level to 1400 within the first 6km, it is quite the challenge.  Runners will reach the tower at the top of Mt Duval, taking in the beautiful woodland forest along the way.  The 30km event is a double lap of the 15km course.

Duval Dam Buster from David Waugh on Vimeo.

How can people physically prepare for the event?

Run and hike as many hills as possible, and as many trails as possible. If people are new to trail running, the 5km loop at our local Blue Hole/Gara Gorge track is a good practice one, and people can also obtain permission from UNE to use the Mt Duval track.  Armidale has a casual running group called the Armidale Panthers Running Group  anyone local can request to join the group. Often someone in our group who is planning a run to Mt Duval (with permission from UNE) will post that they are going and if anyone would like to go along, the more the merrier!

Duval Dam Buster Start Line

Running thirty kilometres on a rough bush trail, up and down a mountain, sounds like a tough challenge! How long does it generally take the fastest runners to finish?

It certainly is a tough challenge. Since the 30km competitors need to complete a double lap of the 15km course, they’ll climb the mountain twice, making their total elevation about 800m.  The fastest male competitor in 2019 was Rod Packer from Port Macquarie who did it in 2hrs 40m 43s and the fastest female was our local vet, Hannah McRae, who did it in 2:41:46, which also made her the second-fastest overall.  It was a fantastic race between those two!  The event has generous cut-off times so as long as all competitors are finished by 1pm, it actually makes the 15km very ‘doable’ for a lot of people.

Can people volunteer to come along and support the event?

They sure can.  If anyone would like to volunteer to help out on the day, we would love more helpers.

There are many roles including marshalling on course, helping out at bib collection, parking patrol, handing out medals,  and lots more.  With the current COVID-19 restrictions we can’t have too many spectators but if the Government restrictions are lifted before the event, we’d love to have lots of people cheering home our runners.

How many people are you expecting to participate in the event in 2020?

We had over 400 registered across all four events last year so we are hoping for similar numbers this year.  There is currently a 500 person limit on outdoor sporting events, due to COVID-19 restrictions, which includes volunteers and spectators, so we have capped our registrations at 400.  If anyone is interested in participating, they should register very soon 👉🏻 here and we have standard (cheaper) pricing until 31 Aug 2020.  In previous years, we’ve had competitors travel from Queensland and the ACT, as well as all over northern and central NSW, and the coastal areas as well as Sydney.

We are closely monitoring the public health regulations and our COVID-19 Safety Plan will be in place.  This will likely mean no lingering or milling about after the runners complete their events, and a few changes, but I think people will be happy to have an event to run!  With a lot of event cancellations this year, it would be wonderful to be able to go ahead with ours.

The event is held at Mt Duval (Duembandyi) and Dumaresq Dam – can you tell us a little about the area and the track?

The event starts and finishes at the Dumaresq Dam Recreation Area, which is a very scenic location, with lots of birdlife around the dam.  We’ve even seen pelicans and black swans in the water this year!  The Anaiwan name for Mt Duval is Duembandyi, and this area is owned by UNE.  The 8km course takes participants up to the base of Mt Duval and returns with a final loop around the dam while the 15/30km takes runners up to the Tower Trail at Mt Duval and they get to experience the beautiful eucalypt woodland which is up the top.  With the beautiful rain we’ve had since January, the mountain is looking spectacular and it’s lush, which is very different from the last two years when it’s been so dry all over the dam area and the mountain.  Duembandyi is very significant for the local Aboriginal people and we ask that everyone who participates or uses it for training, respects it, and appreciates it.

Check out this great interview with Mr. Brad Widders, a local Anaiwan man, and previous Councillor at Armidale Regional Council, who has joined us for the past two years to deliver a Welcome to Country at each event.

Duembandyi: pre-race with Brad Widders from Duval Dam Buster on Vimeo.

Who is sponsoring DDB this year and how can sponsors get involved in the future?

Our major sponsors this year are New England Locksmiths and Armidale Regional Council. Both organisations have been with us since the first event in 2018.  We also have Costa Group, The Untold Space, and Armidale Town & Country Real Estate as our Silver partners and LGHM – Lawn. Garden. Home. Maintenance and Great Hops Brewery as Bronze sponsors.   We’re also thankful for all of our 2019 sponsors. We decided earlier in the year that with the onset of COVID-19, that we could operate at a very low budget this year to not add pressure in an already tough time.  We’re pretty excited that our 2020 sponsors could come on board and we’ll be able to deliver the best event we possibly can.

We’re also grateful for UNE and Armidale Regional Council for allowing us to use the land at Mt Duval and Dumaresq Dam.  We also have some wonderful photos taken by Simon Scott Photo, and our branding, logo, web and video and all things ‘back end’ are by Verso Design.  We have some wonderful organisations who have helped get the DDB off the ground and we continue to grow because of them.  Huge thanks to Armidale Athletics who are our parent/hosting club.

If anyone is interested in sponsoring, they can contact Lee-Anne at info@duvaldambuster.com.au – they still have some bronze spots available this year!!


Course information.

  • 3km Duval Dash – Starting from the Dumaresq Dam picnic area, the 3km course will run clockwise on the fire trail on the western side of the dam then continue on the single track loop around the dam perimeter.  The course is relatively flat with a few undulating low rises. There will be a small amount of ‘rock-hopping’ as the track makes its way past the dam wall and onto the finish line.
  • 8km Duval Base run – Starting from the Dumaresq Dam picnic area, the 8k course heads out on the fire trail on the western side of the dam until reaching the north-western point where participants will veer to the left, and follow the track to the turnaround point at the base of Mt Duval, returning along the same track to the dam and then joining the dam loop track to the finish.
  • 15km Duval Dam Buster – Starting from the Dumaresq Dam picnic area, the 15km course heads out on the fire trail on the western side of the dam until reaching the north-western point where participants will veer to the left, and join the track towards Mt Duval. The course follows single tracks until reaching a fire trail and at a marked intersection, heads off in an easterly direction on the Duval Fire Trail to follow a loop around the top of Mt Duval. At the return to the marked intersection, runners will head back to the north-western point and follow the Dumaresq Dam loop track to the finish. The course starts at 1080m above sea level at Dumaresq Dam and steadily climbs to around 1400m in the first 6km.
  • 30km Double Duval Dam Buster – This course completes the 15km route, twice.

Keeping active can be hard – especially at these times!

If you’re struggling to keep motivated check out the Wellness Hub it’s an online community full of motivation for all and a great place connect with link minded people.