Race Preview: The Hillary Ultra

While most NSW eyes will be on the Six Foot Track this weekend over on the other side of “the ditch” a number of Aussie and Kiwi Skyrunners will be taking on The Hillary Trail.

The second event in the Oceania Skyrunning series see 2 races being contested with the 34km Skyrun and 80km Ultra SkyMarathon. Points are on offer for both races but most attention will be on the 80km where a couple of Aussie runners look to upset the locals in their own backyard.

The 75km Hillary Trail was opened in 2010 and connects a network of existing tracks in the Waitakere Ranges (west of Auckland City) into a physically demanding 3-4 day tramp. The trail was named in honour of New Zealand’s Sir Edmund Hillary and,  according to the  Auckland Council, it sums up the sense of adventure and personal achievement that Sir Ed himself championed and was renowned for.  Hard to disagree with that.

There is no denying, this is a tough challenge – mentally and physically. With 3,700m climb, the current fastest time is 8 hours 44 minutes. Many would think this seems a long time for 80km but, those that have done would agree – this is no ordinary 80km.

The Trail follows a variety of terrain and scenery – many claim a magical pull of the trail and keep coming back for more. Stunning views throughout the trail, rugged West coast beaches, magnificent native bush including the hundreds of year old native Kauri trees. Past large waterfalls and sand dunes, along cliff tops or through marshlands – there is something for everyone. 

So who are we keeping a close eye on this weekend? Well in the 80km race two woment will be giving it everything to get themselves onto the Skyrunning points table. From NSW, Beth Cardelli has be eyeing this race off for some time. A solid performer over the longer distance and with a heap of vertical training under her belt throughout February will see her coming in as strong as ever. Beth loves the more technically and physically challenging ultras and as this is deemed a slow course due to the amount of elevation change and differeing trail she will certainly feature overall.

Jo Johansen is also another runner who likes to duke it out up front and we expect her carry her form into this race and will be pushing Beth all the way after a disappointing Tarawera 100 last month. Another Aussie Justine Medin who took a solid 2nd place on debut at the Easy Ultra100 in January will possibly round out the podium alongside Fiona Hayvice although we understand Justine has been battling a few injuries lately and will most like fade toward the end.

Australia's Bry McConnell at the inaugural Hillary last year
Australia’s Bry McConnell at the inaugural Hillary last year

In the men it looks like Scott Hawker will have it all his own way, based on his current form and pure speed compared to his fellow colleagues. But 80kms is 80kms and on this course so much can happen on the back half and the likes of Danny Garrett who podiumed at Easy Ultra and the in form Sam Clark will be ready to pounce if Scott has an off day. Other notable mentions need to go to Chris Morrissey and Nathan Bycroft along with the evergreen Steve Neary. And from Australia expect to see Adrian Adler Lazar making up the top 5. 

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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.

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