Here at Ultra168 we also like to run races below the official ‘ultra-distance’ (shhhh don’t tell anyone!), so in a change from the usual blabberings about ultras, for this feature we go short. For us, short(er) races are just as important as the megalong distances that we try our hand to a couple of times a year as it’s a good chance to build up some speed and also test yourself too ahead of the big dance, which ever dance that might be. You may have noticed on our Facebook page we asked you, our insightful readers to offer up some suggestions as to what races you believe are the best shorter ones around, and from this, we’ve complied a list of mainly Australian, but a few international ones too.
Of course, we accept that there are many other shorter races around the world, and we all have our own opinions as to which ones we think are the best. What we’ve tried to do here is offer a variety of different races that we hope you’ll find interesting and some day, will race too.
There’s not too many races that can lay claim to having viewing of one of the most pictured buildings in the world. But this is precisely what the Footpoint Trail Series offers its competitors as it meanders its way through the inner city ‘bush’ of Sydney affording views of the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. Now locals may take this for granted, but as a foreign imposter, I have to pinch myself silly as I’m reminded of the fact that I’m so lucky to be running in an amazing city with these views.
The races, which have just started up are 5km and 10km and for the most part begin in Mosman/Balmoral, making their way up the headland and alongside the Harbour foreshore through singletrack bush area. The second race is just around the corner on May 6th, so if you’re keen, click here for more details.
Now in its second year, this series of races contains six short course and three longer course races. It’s hard to pick one of these as a standout so we thought we’d just include the lot, but our personal favs have to be the Kedumba half marathon, probably one of the toughest halves around, as well as the Mount Solitary race – technically an ultra, but who’s worried about a few kms!).
The Running Wild guys came along just at the right time. With so many people moving from a marathon, straight up to an ultra distance, there was a huge gap in between and these guys have filled it, as evidenced by the fact that they regularly get over 200 people per event. Coupled with the fact that all of this is staged at various locations in the Blue Mountains and you have the perfect recipe for successful race organisation.
Making sure we show our Victorian cousins some love, the Puffing Billy Great Train race is described as Australia’s longest running ‘fun run’ and has its own rather unique twist. While competitors race each other, one of the major draw cards is the fact that competitors race against the steam locomotive, Puffing Billy, over 13.2 kilometres through the hills and fern gullies of the picturesque Dandenong Ranges from Belgrave to Emerald Lake Park. The race is on May 6th, but unfortunately has already sold out, and get this… over 3,200 people are entered to have a crack at beating the steam locomotive – how good is that? The Great Train Race is organised by Puffing Billy Railway volunteers and all proceeds go towards the maintenance of Puffing Billy’s family of locomotives. If you fancy some of this action, get yourself lined up for 2013.
Showing the Kiwi love is the Routeburn Classic, an ‘adventure run’ over New Zealand’s world-famous Routeburn Track. Staged in late April (be quick there are 14 spots left for this year’s run) it is an exclusive event and limited to 350 people. The track is 32 kilometers long and climbs to 1127 meters above sea level.
Set in a New Zealand National Park and inside a World Heritage Area in Fiordland on the south-west of New Zealands South Island. The event encompasses changing terrain from lush native bush to an exposed alpine environment. In sections it appears the track has been cut by nature rather than by man. There are some aggressive up hill climbs and a challenging technical down hill. The track for the most part is technical in nature with rocks and tree roots all a part of the challenge. The descent back to native forest follows rivers and waterfalls to the finish line.
Given that half of Ultra168 hails from the Motherland, it wouldn’t be right unless we added in one of our own to the mix. The Grizzly, which is held in Devon, is a twenty-ish mile run of mud, hills, bogs and beaches. The 2012 edition has just been run, but for 2013 the hundreds of mud-tastic runners will be towing the line on March 10th. The people behind the scenes at the Grizzly go by names like ‘Dave the Dung-Beetle’ and ‘Lean Mean Runner-Bean’, meaning that this is no ordinary event.For more details if you’re ever in the UK in March and fancy a trot out, click here.
Put on by the Bennelong Northside Orienteers, this run is now in its staggering 38th year and remains a firm classic in the Sydney running calendar. Competitors can run or walk on a traffic-free course from Lindfield Oval via Roseville Bridge to Seaforth Oval through some of Sydney’s most spectacular bushland. The course is 15.25km, mostly on bush tracks and fire trails, with some steep sections. This is another one that sells out faster than a fat kid can knock through 10 donuts, so if you’re keen, watch out for race day which is on Sunday 3rd June – entries open now.
Up there for the views and scenery with the Footpoint Trail Series is the Coastal Classic, a 29km trail run along one of the most stunning tracks in Australia. It has everything to offer from rocky terrain, sand running and beaches, to cliff-tops, bushland, rainforest and steep hill inclines. The scenery is spectacular with breathtaking coastal views on the beach and from the cliff tops. This event sells out fast than an Apple fan-boy can get his arse down the Apple store before the launch of the next iPhone. The next event is on September 1st – be quick.
Now in its fourth year, the MoonTrekker race aims to challenge the hearts, minds and legs of Hong-Kong’s most intrepid adventurers. The 40km and the shorter 25km endurance hikes begin at 9:00pm/11:20pm in Mui Wo, on Lantau Island, and take participants though the island’s stunning scenic country trails. The last section of the route passes through the sleepy Po Lam Zen Monastery in Tai Tong Tsai and leads hikers up Hong Kong’s second highest peak—delivering racers to Hong Kong’s famous and best dawn panoramas. The question on most people’s lips as they make their way through the trails is whether they will it make home before sunrise? For further info, click here.
This one is a personal fav of mine, having run it twice, and all for a great cause too. This event has become one of the must do trail races in NSW for those that fancy a good old thrash before ultra season starts. The course distance is 34.4km, with 20kms of undulating hills, a few of them a little steep, along fire trails and bush. The last 15 km’s includes 8kms of downhill dirt road and then 7km graded ascent to the finish. It’s that final ascent that makes or breaks a runners race, and I remember pipping a certain Running Mad Kiwi to the line a few years back 🙂 Around 300 people will line-up for this one, and the next race date is on August 25th this year. if you’ve never done it before – do it.
You can’t have a non-ultra list without including the world’s largest participated run in the ranks. Whatever you might think of the race, it still draws around 70,000 people each from pram-pushers to the country’s elites. Starting at Hyde Park, the 14km route finishes on the infamous Bondi Beach with plenty of after-race refreshments consumed at some of the many bars on the strip. The next race is on August 12th.
The Lightning Strike race is a 30km event starting in the Brindabella Mountain Range and running back to the Event Hub at Stromlo Forest Park. The course takes in some of the stunning features of the surrounding Canberra region and is designed to commemorate the 2003 Canberra Bush fires by starting close to the original lightning strike which ignited the fires. The event is part of the fast-growing Stromlo Running Festival, which contains a number of events, including an inaugural 12hr track race too. Held in February, you can find more details here.
We’re sure you all will have an opinion on this, so if you feel hard done by, or want to share a non-ultra with us, let us know about it!