We’re not normally big on doing post race round-ups, mainly because the race is done and dusted, and well there’s no news as such. But this time round, we’ll make an exception. While I gutted not to be running Six Foot Track, I was extremely lucky to witness the two finest performances on that track to date in terms of pure athletic ability.
I didn’t put it in the preview, because I didn’t want to place any pressure on these two brilliant athletes, but I had a feeling both records would go. I even placed a bet on it with a friend of mine… 100 jellybeans at 100-1. Needless to say, my Blue Mountains amigo now owes me 10,100 jellybeans for his troubles.
While a lot of the attention and focus is on Stu Gibson finally beating ‘that record’, I do think that perhaps the slightly more awesome achievement is Hanny Allston’s breaking of Emma Murray’s nine-year old ladies record in a scorching time of 3hrs 34mins. Emma’s record was so good that barely anyone had been near it. We talk about Ben Artup and Stu Gibson being the only two men under the 3:20 mark, but I think the closest anyone has got to Emma’s record in recent times is Hanny last year and then before that, Anna Frost with a 3:51.
Emma’s record was so out there that I genuinely thought it would stand for a lot longer than the already amazing nine years that it has.
And I guess this is part of what makes Six Foot Track such a special race. For those who have never raced the track, it’s a very hard race to crack first time around, which is what makes Stu’s record run on Saturday even more brilliant – it was the first time he’d been on the track. The course is essentially three races in one. A super fast first 15kms where getting the pace right is absolutely critical to how well you’re going to run the rest of the race. Ten kilometres of hills, before a final 19kms of undulating, unforgiving quad bashing before the final steep decent home. It’s a real tacticians race to nail and I had a feeling that something special was going to happen this year.
Out of the two, Hanny breaking the record was probably a little easier to pick than Stu, which I know is far easier said than done. It’s easy for an idiot like me to sit here and say Hanny should break the record, but that totally belies the hours, weeks and months of hard work and training that has to go into breaking a record such as this. If anything, it’s probably harder for Hanny given how far she won the women’s race by – 31 minutes if we’re going to be precise. But what she did have was a top ten male line-up to go ahead and smash, and there were a few bruised egos on Saturday I’m sure.
Stu on the other hand had the advantage of racing some top guys this year in what was one of the deepest mens fields for years. This was proven by the fact that the top five males this year all went under the winning time from last year. I believe Dave Byrne and Stu hit the river in 59 minutes this year, which is a super quick time – a record in fact. From there, however the mountain goat legs of Stu took over and the race then became about how much he wanted it too.
Stu is a really special type of athlete and I’d go as far to say that he’s one of the best mountain runners in Australia in this genre. The likes of Brendan Davies is one of our best over a fast flat 100km. Andrew Tuckey is untouchable over the 100km+ distance and is Australia’s best 100 mile runner right now. He’s also getting quicker too. His 3:25 on Saturday is another indication as to how much better he’s getting. I can’t wait to see him go at Western States this year. I know it’s a big call, but if his form continues as it is, we could see him running in the top five.
Stu Gibson is simply untouchable in the 40-100km mountain running bracket. You only have to look at his record of ultras in Australia. He’s won everything bar coming second at Cradle Mountain and Great Ocean Walk. Stu enters a race, trains his nuts off, wins and then disappears. Along with Andy Kromar, Tim Sloane and Don Wallace, Stu is one of the best. I’m sure there are others.
He is also a massively awesome example of what a genuine elite athlete should be and what other trail/ultra athletes should aspire to. I know we often play up the fact that he refuses to be sponsored, his unbelievable work ethic and approach to racing, but any aspiring trail/ultra athlete should take a lesson out of his book. His approach to racing is second to none, and as long as he’s entering and winning races, anyone finishing behind him simply has no case to answer. He’s a true example of someone who lets his feet do the talking. No whinging, no fuss, no dramas and no social media outbursts. He wins races, there’s nothing else that needs to be said.
Now the only thing I’m wondering about is… Will Mr. B. Artup be on the starting sheet for 6ft 2016?