AT 420 METRES, the Balmoral Burn is hardly a marathon. But the steep course on Awaba Street, Mosman, had runners falling in exhausted heaps at the finish line of yesterday's race.
Campbell Hogg, 69, of Naremburn, has competed in every race since the event began 12 years ago. ''I'm vintage,'' said Mr Hogg, who walked with four others.
''It really is a struggle … It's deceptive and you get two-thirds up and you hit a crest. You think you're going to do well and then there's another crest. Once you have a glimpse of the finish line, that helps you.''
The pain pays off - 11,000 competitors raised more than $3 million for the Humpty Dumpty Foundation to buy equipment for children's hospitals.
The foundation's chairman, Paul Francis, said the fund-raising figure was a record.
''The beauty of it is, it's not just about elite runners, we've got people running up the hill with their dogs, we've got people just walking up the hill,'' he said.
The rugby union great Phil Kearns started the event after his son was treated at Royal North Shore Hospital. It has raised millions for children's health services in Australia and East Timor.
At first, the money bought basic equipment, like stethoscopes and cots, but it now extends to ambulances and specialist equipment, like a $250,000 machine to diagnose eye problems in premature babies.
Among the competitors yesterday was the Paralympic champion Kurt Fearnley, who came first in the Para Burn with a time of five minutes and 26 seconds.
Fearnley loaned one of his old race chairs to a five-year-old competitor, Cormac Ryan.
In the elite female and male categories, Frances Schmiede of St Ives and James Gurr of Pymble took out first place.