We might have said goodbye to 2016, but there’s still the small matter of taking a quick look back and giving some due recognition to our Aussie girls and guys in the form of a top five, based on their performances over the last 12 months.
In deciding the order of both the male and female top 5’s, I’ve taken into consideration a number of factors (see below). There’s no scoring system here as such, I’m not really a believer in trying to quantify things by allocating points, that’s too hard when you have such a wide variety of racing as we have in our lists. It’s pretty much based on a judgement call, so there’s a fair degree of subjectivity that comes into this – of course, subjectivity makes for good discussion too. But in deciding, I’ve taken into account these four main things:
- Number of wins overall
- Number of podiums
- The quality and depth of the field
- Overall context of performances i.e. Aussie records, international fields and racing etc..
We’ll begin with the ladies…
Female Ultrarunners of the Year
#1 Kirstin Bull
While Kirstin has raced very lightly compared to the other ladies in this list, it’s the quality that gives her the deserved number one spot. To be honest, her performance at the IAU World Championships probably gets her to number one alone. Not only did she take the gold medal, but she also broke her own women’s 100km Australian record too.
I don’t think we’ve had a ladies world champion at this prestigious 100km distance, so in achieving that, Kirstin takes top of the table. Not only that, but she won the Two Bays Ultra for the third year in a row earlier in the year, as well as the Great Ocean Road marathon (44kms).
#2 Lucy Bartholomew
Lucy has clocked up three very significant wins with the most notable being the obliteration of the Bogong to Hotham record almost a year ago to the day. She also clocked wins at the Buffalo Stampede Ultra, as well as the Northburn 50km, winning that one overall. But perhaps one of her most significant performances was in the depths of the European racing season where she scored 9th at Matterhorn Ultraks in a high quality field of female mountain runners from Europe. Lucy has her sights set on UTMB this year and I think she’s certainly capable of a top 5 or 10 finish there if her training all goes to plan.
#3 Nikki Wynd
Nikki has been doing great things on the track and road for a number of years now, and this year was no different. She won the IAU 24h Asia and Oceania Championships, was 3rd Badwater, 2nd at the Princes Park Ultra and also achieved the very prestigious title of the world number one in 48hr track racing where she ran 343kms at the Canberra 48hr. In fact, that race capped a very good year for Aussie 48hr racing as you’ll read further on down the list.
#4 Beth Cardelli
Beth completed what was another storming year for her, confirming her title of Queen of the Blue Mountains by winning the UTA100 for the fourth time. When you think of the international talent that comes along to this race, her record there is second to none.
Not only that, but Beth won the Hounslow Classic for the second year in a row and is unbeaten in that race, she also won the Mount Solitary Ultra, Knapsack 6hr ultra, which as you may have guessed, are all in the Blue Mountains. I think it’s high time Beth was awarded the keys to the Blue Mountains!
#5 Jess Baker
Like a few others, Jess has had a quiet year in racing, but when she has, she’s gone big and well. Spartathlon was probably the massive highlight for Jess, becoming I think the only Australia resident to finish this extremely challenging run and clocking up fifth in the process. For those not in the know, at Spartathlon, you have to start hard to hit the first few cutoffs, which in a 135 mile race, is not something you really want to do. It’s then a case of hanging on for dear life, which Jess did rather admirably.
She also bagged a casual 230kms in 24hrs at the Canberra 24hr track meet, which placed her 9th overall at that event in the world this year.
Male Ultrarunners of the Year
#1 Brendan Davies
What’s interesting about placing Brendan at number one is that it’s been a year where he’s not actually won an ultra! Despite that, there’s one standout performance that slaps him straight in the top spot, much like Kirstin, and that was his 19th place at Comrades. OK, 19th place may not sound particularly great to the uneducated ultra mind, but when you consider that Comrades is the most competitive ultra on the planet with around 20,000 entrants and some seriously good talent on show, 19th place is pretty darn amazing. I’d probably rate that as the performance of Brendan’s running career to date.
But the thing with Brendan is his versatility. He backs performances up time and time again, and probably his second best performance of all time came just a few months later at the IAU 100km champs where he scored 10th place and a 100km time of 6hrs 44mins. I must admit that in his very late thirties, I thought Brendan couldn’t get any better, but he’s proved me wrong. And just top it all, he scored second place at Six Foot Track and 3rd at the highly competitive Victorian race, the Two Bays Ultra.
#2 Mick Thwaites
Mick’s story is a cracker. One of an average Joe, overweight and probably drank a little too much who decided to change his life for the better and we’re certainly all the better for it in Australia. Mick’s had three standout performances this year, which like Nikki, includes being ranked number one in the world over the 48hr track distance, running a mammoth 413kms at the Canberra 48hrs.
He’s also made a very good friend in the form of Dan Lawson from the UK, with whom he’s shared a couple of results. First at Badwater where they finished joint third and then at the Mount Gaoligong 100 miler in China, which they won.
Mick is just your average guy who works damn hard to be successful and is a great role model to those looking for a bit of inspiration.
#3 Francesco Ciancio
If you don’t live in Victoria, you might be forgiven for saying, who? But Francesco has had a string of top results which includes no less than nine wins. The highlight of which was probably the win at the Surf Coast Century in a time of 8hrs 26mins, as well as the rather speedy 4hrs 5mins run for the Great Ocean Road International Ultra (60kms). He also bagged second place at Two Bays back in January last year ahead of Brendan Davies.
#4 Barry Loveday
Victorian based Barry Loveday has had an unbeaten year, winning the IAU 24hr Asia and Oceania Championships, the Run River 100 in Brisbane, the Caboolture 6hr and the Canberra 24hr race, clocking a rather large 257.9kms and landing sixth overall in the world in 2016 at that distance. My big question is when will we see Barry have a crack at Coast2Kosci? I think he’d give the record a serious nudge and some.
#5 Kevin Muller
Another(!) Victorian is ultra stalwart, Kevin Muller, a serial racer on the circuit and one who perpetually scores great results too. And perhaps the sweetest of those was the very recent win at Coast2Kosci, where Kevin has podiumed a number of times. Big Kevin also bagged 242kms at the Coburg 24hr track meet, along with showing his pace to finish 6th at the Two Bays Ultra too. Another cracking year for one of the most consistent performers on track, road and trails in Australia.