Coburg Race Preview

While we tend to focus quite a bit of our efforts upon the trail scene, that’s not to say that the track ultra guys should be forgotten either. Next weekend sees the running of a very famous track event here in Australia, Coburg. Although quite a niche aspect of ultra running, the quality is just as high. I’ve always been of the opinion that the guys and gals who do this kind of thing have some of the toughest mindsets around. Personally, it doesn’t float my boat, but I have the utmost respect for the way in which these athletes drive themselves around the 400m-odd loops hour after hour.

David Kennedy at the Commonwealth champs in Wales - winning a Silver medal
David Kennedy at the Commonwealth champs in Wales – winning a Silver medal

We’re very lucky to have David Kennedy write the race preview for us this time round. David is a member of the Australian 24hr track team as well as being a Silver medallist at the Commonwealth champs last year. Here David previews a number of the leading contenders, which this time around includes no fewer than thirteen people with PBs over 200kms. Our thanks go to David for his efforts in previewing the race.

This year’s race boasts no fewer than 13 runners with PB’s over 200K. When I first ran at Coburg 4 years ago I think the number was two.

Looking through the starters one name stands out above the rest. Barry Loveday is to the best of my knowledge undefeated in ultras (when he runs, he nearly won the National 48 hour champs as a walker 2 years ago). He has 2 Coburg victories to his name, a 232K on debut and a 244K PB last year. He has also run some world-class shorter distance times. It’s hard to pick which is the better of his 7.14 100K around The Tan in 2010 or his 149.7K 12 hour run earlier this year. He also has a 147K 12 hour and a win at the shorter Tan distance of ~53K to his name.

His most recent performance of 149.7K in 12 hours alone with a win over Brendan Davies would be enough for him to go into the race as favourite. Whilst I consider his 7.14 at the tough Tan course his best ever performance.

Perhaps his weakness is fading towards the end of his races. Last year he had splits of 138K at 12 hours and 106K in the 2nd half. 106K probably wont be enough to get the job done this year.

It’s always hard previewing yourself. I am only too aware of my weaknesses and don’t want to give away my secret strengths. Since running 236.929K in Wales to claim a silver medal at the Commonwealth Mountain and Ultra Running Championships I have improved in fitness and experience but haven’t obtained my potential in 24 hour running. Last year though I had a great run at WTF in the 100 Miler running 17:38 and feeling great towards the end. As the course is 164K I probably split the 100 miles at a similar time to what I had in Holland at the World Champs despite carrying a pack and 3000m of elevation up and down. I rate my WTF run alongside my Wales effort as my top runs although they were chalk and cheese in terms of effort. In Wales I had a 6 hour battle with the top English runner whilst at WTF I unleashed my inner hippy and just enjoyed myself.

I haven’t raced an ultra since WTF. The only 2 local ultras since I organised myself and couldn’t race. I did run a 10 minute marathon PB 4 weeks later placing 3rd at the Rottnest Marathon (WA’s toughest course) in 2:47.

Ewan Horsburg has similar short distance times to Barry and myself (all 3 of us around 34min flat for 10K) and is lightly raced over ultra distances. His big claim to fame is as 3 times winner of Coast to Kosi (C2K) a 240K ascent of Australia via road. He now also owns the course record after a stunning performance last December. Ewan also won the inaugural WTF 100 Miler in a smart time of 17:37. Considering he ran a bonus 4K this was probably a better run than his 1st 24 hour and PB of 235K set at Coburg in 2012. 3 months later he re-wrote his and everyone else’s expectations with a stunning 1st 20 hours at C2K. Unfortunately though he pushed so hard that vision problems cost him a shot at the race’s 1st ever sub 24 run, roughly equivalent to a 260K flat 24hour.

Ewan scored a hat-trick of wins at C2K this year
Ewan scored a hat-trick of wins at C2K this year

Ewan recently raced 6 Foot Track finishing in 4:01. Whilst this was about 6 minutes slower than last year I’m sure he’s peaking for a big run at Coburg. His best ultra by a long way is his 2013 C2K and a repeat of that form will be great to watch.

Along with a few of us trail trained runners Ewan suffered on the hard cobble and concrete paver lined course in Holland last year. He and I are both due for a good 24 hour performance but will pushing so hard back in December have taken too much out this soon after?

Kevin Muller has been slowly building a solid ultra resume until last year’s Caboolture 48 hour race where he ran a 24 hour PB of 234K on the way to breaking Martin Fryer’s (virtual world champion at this distance) course record. Looking at Yiannis Kouros’ record it wasn’t until after he started running longer distances that he really demolished the 24 hour record books. Kevin has also run 228K at Coburg last year and has a couple of high finishes at C2K both under the 30 hour mark.

Kevin’s 407K last year was one of the top 10 48 hour runs ever. Considering he did it on a slowish dirt track, Kevin is a danger to everyone at Coburg this year.

John Pearson is the Australian 24 hour captain and a solid runner who continues to improve into his 40’s. Last year he ran over 230K for the 1st time and also broke 130K in 12 hours at Caboolture early in the year. John doesn’t race very often but looking through his ultra results you’d have to go back to 2010 before you’d find a run he was unhappy with. Mr Consistent’s only possible exception during that time was dragging a serious injury to 204K and 3rd Australian in Wales in 2011.

John was intending to peak for World Champs but their cancellation sees him eyeing a big total in Coburg.

Rick Cooke has been a top track runner, ironman, race walker and marathoner in the past. His excellent endurance has seen him run 30:30 for 10,000m, 9:22 for Ironman and 4 sub 2:30 marathons. Since switching to ultras Rick has been inconsistent. He had a win on debut at the 2011 Coburg 24 hour but each PB has been followed by a total below 200K. Coburg sees him due for a good run and he’s confident of a big showing. Late last year he snapped a tendon in his lower leg. Hopefully this wont cause a problem later in the race.

Looking through Matt Eckford’s Coburg profile it would be easy to dismiss him as handy without having run any times likely to make him a threat. However looking a little deeper Matt split his 310K 48 hour at Caboolture with a 213K 24 hour PB on debut. He’s also run over 130K in 12 hours since he entered and will be aiming for a 230K+ performance.

In the ladies…

Sharon Scholz is the top ranked female in the field. Her 225K PB was set a little while ago now but she is still in her peak ultra running years. To add to her 24 hour PB which has her sitting in 2nd on the all time Australian female rankings she has a string of placings including a victory at Coast to Kosi. Sharon seems to love the track or timed runs with most of her best performances coming here. She will be hard to beat.

Bernadette is one of the ladies to watch at Coburg
Bernadette is one of the ladies to watch at Coburg

Bernadette Benson is a new Australian and has the distinction of representing both Canada and Australia in 24 hour running. Her PB was set last year in horrible conditions in Holland and good weather in Coburg will likely see her targeting the Australian 24hour record. Looking through DUV Bernadette has run 27 ultras. 11 were victories and 5 more placings. Outside these placings she had a great run at TNF100 in 2012 finishing 4th amongst a quality field. This was after a long injury lay off following her FKT (male or female) on the 1000K Bibbumun Track. She has numerous Canadian and Australian records at the timed events. Expect her to beat some of the big names in the mens field too.

Nikki Wynd is a quality runner who mostly runs on the trails. She has however amassed very good PB’s from 4:03 for 50K road to 8:52 for 100K as well as a couple of solid outings on the track. Nikki has the talent to win this and I hope she can at least get herself an Australian team qualifier. The 180K required should be well within her reach.

Jodie Oborne will be on debut at Coburg, but after taking the Australian 12 hour record at Caboolture during winter she will be one to watch. At Caboolture she ran 123K and ran a sub 9 hour 100K along the way. Last year was a break out year with a sub 4 hour 50K at Centennial Park and 21st female at Comrades which is outstanding.

Sarah Fien has proven she can run a lot of laps with a 192K effort at Sri Chimnoy last year. This is an important aspect in 24 hour running as many well credentialed runners over the overs have found the mental challenge of the track too much. Sarah has also run a 4:03 50K and a sub 14 hour TNF 100. Hopefully she can crack the big 200 at Coburg.

We finish with Sabina Hamaty who was 2nd last year with 187K. This followed her 184K the previous year for a win on debut. She rounded out 2013 with a 2nd place at Coast to Kosi in an exceptional 32:25. We are going to have 2 quality races!

Current 24 Hour Rankings (of runners running)

  • Barry Loveday 244K
  • David Kennedy 237
  • Ewan Horsburg 235
  • Kevin Muller 234
  • John Pearson 231
  • Peter Gray 230
  • Rick Cooke 227
  • Sharon Scholz 225
  • Bernadette Benson 216
  • Matt Eckford 213
  • Trevor Allen 208
  • Tony Collins 208
  • Scott Orchard 205
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I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

One thought on “Coburg Race Preview

  1. Nice report Dave. I am excited about this year’s Coburg as there is more depth of talent than ever. I am very confident that my “squad” of Loveday, Eckford and (Gary) Mullins will acquit themselves formidably. I am very privileged to have been asked by each of them to assist and by now I am confident that they all have the training and the inside knowledge to do something special. I am going down there to support my “boys” and I look forward to seeing how the race unfolds. 🙂

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