Heck, where did 2014 go? It seems like five minutes ago I was packing a bag and heading down the coast to crew the eventual third placed runner for this event in 2013, Mat Dore. And now we find ourselves at the arse end of 2014 profiling a new core of runners all bidding to make their epic journey from the coastal resort town of Eden on the South Coast of NSW, inland and upwards, all the way to the very top of our nation’s highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko.
I like this race for a number of reasons. It’s firstly run and created by two very lovable individuals, Paul Every (should have been in the most influential Aussie runners list – my mistake), and his equally lovable wife, Diane Weaver. Secondly, it has a great concept… the lowest point in Australia to the highest, and lastly, it’s epic – 240kms across road, bush and high plains.
Each year, C2K only accepts 50 entrants which in itself, makes the race special and the racing adds to that too. It wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that as far as this year goes, I’d say the field is probably at its deepest for any year this race has been held. Whereas previously there were 3-5 runners who would duke it out for the top placings, there are probably around 15 people across ladies and mens who could all shout for a podium. It’s going to make for some cracking racing up front. For others, the race is never about racing others, but about a more personal journey across that 240kms. Their run is no less for it and while we do focus on the top placings as part of the preview, it should be recognised that everyone faces a battle of sorts along the dusty roads to snow topped resorts.
So who’s who in the zoo? As always, we’ll begin our preview with the fairer sex and the ladies of C2K.
For me, I think there are three ladies that really stand out, namely Nikki Wynd, Pam Muston and Deb Nicholl. All three are proven over the really long stuff. Nikki claimed a third place at Badwater this year and a sub 30 hour time. Deb Nicholl is one of Australia’s (Yeah I know she’s a Kiwi) leading ladies when it comes to this sort of stuff, knocking up an incredible 239kms in 24 hours last year, ranking her third on the global list of distances for that event – wow! Pam Muston, ever consistent and you know what you’re going to get with her. A solid, never say die performance where she’ll just keep on running and running and running. Pam could probably get to the top of Kosci, turn around and head back down to Eden if she wanted.
But that’s not to undermine the crop of ladies that also have a great chance of taking out line honours. Ralene Bendall from Queensland has had a very solid year, including third place at the Blackhall 100, as well as a sub 24hour Glasshouse 100 miler to her name. Last year’s second placed female, Sabina Hamety returns for another crack after finishing in a very respectable 32 hours in 2013. While ‘youngster’ Larissa Tichon will be there or thereabouts too. Annabel Hepworth has done an incredible amount of racing this year, and while she certainly has the experience it will be interesting to see how her body holds up after an incredibly long year of racing.
In the gents, there’s a plethora of talent, but again three names stick out like a sore thumb – Andrew Tuckey, Brendan Davies and Grant Maughan. The latter you may not have heard too much about as I don’t think he’s ever raced in Australia – yet. But Grant Maughan has the quality to take out this race. He’s finished second-place at Badwater the last two year’s in a row, a few months ago he also knocked out a very tidy 15hr 100 miler over in Yellowstone as well as finishing second place in the Brazil 135 mile ultra earlier in the year. This guy has massive racing experience and if you thought it was a two-horse race between Brendan Davies and Andrew Tuckey, think again. This guy is going to be on those two tails right up the mountain side to the top of Kosci.
Brendan Davies needs no introduction. He’s one of Australia’s most successful ultra marathon runners of modern times and like last year, has had another bumper racing year. A few weeks back he casually knocked out a sub 7hr 100kms, but we all know that his pride and joy is that top ten placing at Western States, which will see him lining up with the other elites in Auburn 2015. A true global elite runner.
But, Australian ultra running has a massive soft spot for Andrew Tuckey. In some respects, always the bridesmaid, but never the bride, which may sound a little harsh, but is meant in good humour after his sprint finish with Stu Gibson at this year’s TNF100. Tucks has moved up a notch in a massive way. He had his own WSER moment, finishing an incredible sixth place at UTMB this year and I believe he sits alongside Brendan as a true global elite runner. This race has Tuck’s name written all over it. It’s long, gradually builds and hits you right from behind, which is Tuck’s race strategy in a nutshell. If the three of these guys are within 500m of each other coming up the hill to Charlotte’s pass, as a betting man, I’d stick my $1 on Tucks for the win.
While these three might seem like obvious candidates for podium, it would be unjust not to mention many others whom have a very good chance at mopping up the carnage should things star to go wrong. There’s a huge crop of extremely good male runners who will be biting at the chomp to get a piece of some podium action.
Dave Graham is a guy who’s times have improved massively over the last 12 months or so. Not even on the radar this time last year, but I’ve been noting his training on Strava and the guy has big balls and is knocking up huge kms. Mick Thwaites is another for whom a massive improvement has come about in the last 12-18 months, culminating in a cracking 236kms in the Auckland 24hr event earlier this year. He likes to go out hard, and did so in last year’s race -I’m thinking he’s more level-headed (and fitter) this year so will be a threat.
Kevin Muller was for me, the Aussie male ultra runner of the year in 2013 where he had a barnstorming year. Not much get’s highlighted in the 24hour+ category of running, but this guy is made of balls of steel too. A little like Pam Muston in that he will just never back off – expect a top five placing if fit and ready.
David Kennedy, the race director of the WTF 100s over in WA is another Aussie rep over 24hours that has cracking ability. He’s been pretty quiet in 2014, so not too sure of his form, but when in form, is a definite threat for a top five place too.
Then there’s Jo Blake, a stalwart of this race and a champion runner. Another that likes to go hard or go home. One thing you’ll always see from Jo is 100% commitment and kahunas on the line. And finally for our preview, Mathew Eckford, another runner who’s come pretty much from nowhere to claim a spot on the Aussie 24hr team. Mathew recently completely an awesome challenge of doing 100km a day for eight days across our eight different States and territories. A monumental effort. He also has I believe knocked up 240kms in a 24 hour race, so has the pedigree to challenge for the top placings too.
As always, there might be a dark horse of two we miss, but let us know whom you think will take out what I think will be one of the most competitive C2K’s ever run – one thing I do think will happen is a new race record.
Feature image credit: Paul Every and one of the most iconic pictures in Australian ultra running