Over the last week, three Aussie ultra marathons have opened up for entry so I thought I’d give a bit of a low down on each to helped any undecided runners out there choose their poison.
First up is the Blackall 100, an awesome 50km and 100km ultra race that while extremely well slick and organised, engenders that local community feel and spirit. I raced the 100km up here last year and while we had ridiculously unseasonal weather for October in Queensland (max 15 degrees and torrential rain), it still ranked as one of my most favourite 100km races to date.
Centred around a race HQ at the QCCC Mapleton (literally roll out of bed to the start line / flop into bed at the finish line), the course follows what are three loops that converge back to the start / finish area and contain a mixture of single track, fire trail and a bit of road to connect the loops, culminating in what is a pretty fast 100kms through some stunning Queensland hinterland bush.
While I can’t guarantee you the cold and rain we had last year, the course would be quite a different beast in the hot, humid sun that Queensland normally delivers up at that time of year. That said, this 100km race is only one of two Western States 100 qualifiers in Australia, so if you fancy running it without 2,000 other people sharing your trail then head on up to Queensland. Be quick though, I hear that entries have been going thick and fast on the first day.
What I love about this ultra: A real locals feel about it run by guys who’ve raced countless other 100km and 100 milers between them. It feels genuine and without the razzmatazz.
Next is the Great Ocean Walk 100, another ultra I’ve done a couple of times and also love too. The only crying shame is that Blackall and this one are just seven days apart, which makes choosing one very difficult.
Pound for pound, there’s probably no more scenic run in Australia than the Great Ocean Walk 100. You run through rainforest, along the coast line and across the beach. You could also encounter four seasons in one day, with driving rain, scorching sun, gusts of wind and freezing cold all possibly playing their part on the same day should it so choose.
A similar elevation to Blackall (3,500m ish), there’s a lot more single track on this course, winding in and out of the cliff tops, making it a little slower than Blackall I feel, but with so much wonderful scenery to marvel at, it comes as a bit of a disappointment when you’re finished this one – you simply just want to carry on! Mind you, the finish at the 12 Apostles, usually within daylight hours, if you’re running around 13-14 hours for the 100km makes for a very worthy finish indeed.
Once again the field here is small and perfectly formed with just 100 places in the 100km. That makes it highly likely you’ll be running large portions of the race on your own, which in my book is sheer bliss.
Get in quick though, entries opened up in the last few days and I hear the 100km is almost sold out.
What I love about this ultra: The serenity of running along the wild and wicked South Coast of Victoria.
Finally we visit the Berry Long Run, and although I haven’t raced this one, it’s certainly on the list to pay a visit too. Held in August, it misses a lot of the major race clashes, and at 70kms, is a good distance for those looking to make the jump from 50-100kms.
This one is a great opportunity to run an enjoyable but challenging ultra in one of Australia’s great secrets – Lerderderg State Park, while also supporting a local charity that performs a crucial role in undoing the harm caused by the abuse and neglect of children.
The Lerderderg Track, apart from being a really fun word to say aloud, is the Southern most section of the Great Dividing Trail network. The course starts at Blackwood, quickly leaving town and getting into a brief taste of the sweet single-track along the gorge, before cutting through the forest along a mix of trails and dirt road down to Mt Blackwood, then on to the Blackwood Range Track, all the way to the trail head at Swans Rd. The return route revisits the Blackwood Range Track to Mt Blackwood and continues to follow the magnificent Lerderderg Trail all the way back to Blackwood. And at just $100 entry fee, it’s an absolute bargain of a race.
What I love about this ultra: Yet to race, but the low-key nature certainly appeals.
As a quick footnote/disclaimer, the Blackall 100 and Berry Long Run are part of the Ultra168 Supporters Club where members get access to discounts off both these races, 10% for Blackall and 20% off the Berry Long Run.
More info can be found here: http://ultra168.com/ultra168-supporter-races-and-gear-partners/