‘Do you think a runner could beat Puffing Billy to Emerald Lake Park?’
In 1980, a conversation just like this between Puffing Billy volunteers led to the Great Train Race, a run that is now one of the oldest and most iconic on the Melbourne running calendar.
The 38th running of the event will take place on Sunday 5 May, with more than 3000 runners expected to take part.
The first Great Train Race was organised in 1982 with 1600 competitors.
Since then 80,000 people have taken to the Dandenong Ranges to try to out-run Puffing Billy, who tends to chug into Lakeside Station in about 52 minutes.
The race record stands at 42 minutes 27 seconds, clocked by Steve Kelly in 2015.
Melissa Duncan broke the female record in 2018 with a time of 48 minutes 27 seconds.
The Great Train Race is popular with runners due to the unique challenges it presents. While relatively short in length, the 13.5 kilometre course includes three hill climbs in the first 10kms and a fast-paced downhill run for the final 3km to 4km.
The Puffing Billy whistle echoes through the forests and gullies all the while, with runners never knowing if they are in front of the train.
The event is a major fund-raiser for the not-for-profit railway, which operates under the steam of more than 600 volunteers.
Visit www.greattrainrace.com.au for more information or to register for the race.