THRILLED: Neil Collie was the first man to cross the finish line in the 150km Little Red Run in the Simpson Desert.
THRILLED: Neil Collie was the first man to cross the finish line in the 150km Little Red Run in the Simpson Desert. Contributed

6 days, 150km, 1 desert: Runner faces dunes in 42C heat

SIX days in the desert running 150km was a gruelling task for Coast man Neil Collie, but it was one of the best things he has ever done.

Even after the scorching 42 degree heat on the first day of the run through the Simpson Desert, near Birdsville in Queensland's west, gave him heat exhaustion and forced him to change his run plan from the 250km race to the 150km race, Mr Collie said the experience was unbelievable.

"One day we were doing 12 dunes across the 21km," he said

"It was just the most amazing experience of my life," he said.

Mr Collie was the first man across the Little Red Run finish line, after running two marathons and two half marathons in six days.

"The terrain is so varied from sand, to rock, to salt platforms," he said.

"We've got this amazing countryside that we live in and hardly any of us see it and it's in our backyard.

"I'd stand up on top of the sand dune and ring (my wife) Sharon and say 'I love you heaps and I'm having a blast and wish you were here'."


Neil Collie completes the Big Red Run desert ultramarathon.
Neil Collie runs through the Simpson Desert. Contributed

But what really made the epic race so special for Mr Collie was the camaraderie.

"Imagine going to the desert and there's nothing around you and you're not given anything apart from water, and all you have is what's in your pack," he said.

"There's this amazing group of 55 people who didn't know each other, but by the end they knew what made you tick and they were best friends.

"Someone might walk up and give you a high five, or you come into a station and the volunteer there gives you a hug and says 'you're awesome', and the next day they're there for you.

"When you crossed (the line) first or cross last you got as loud a cheer as each other."

All going to plan, Mr Collie, who recovered from a stroke about seven years ago and has been reaching for the stars ever since, will be back again next year, and will take with him the lessons he learned in the desert last week.

"I'd do a lot more sand dune training; I didn't realise I'd be doing that many crossings of sand dunes," he said.

"I'd probably have someone else out there with me as a support crew, and I would adjust my pack and have more water in there."

But in the mean time he is about to start training for the Blackall 100 - a one-day, 100km run in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.

Neil Collie will be speaking about his Little Red Run experience at Jamie Milne Training at Warana on August 27.


  • Day 1: 42.195km Birdsville Marathon
  • Day 2: 21.1km Adria Downs Half Marathon
  • Day 3: 21.1km Arpilindika Marathon
  • Day 4: 15.4km Sprigg Sprint
  • Day 5: 42.195km Mohan Marathon
  • Day 6: 8km Birdsville or Bust