Another year and yet more excitement to throw into the mix at TNF100. Last year we had “Sprint-Gate”, where Stu Gibson smashed ahead of Andrew Tuckey in the final throws of the race. This year, we have “Iron Pot-Gate”. For those not in the know, four lead runners missed the iron pot out and back and were handed a 15 minute time penalty as a result. One of those was eventual winner, Dylan Bowman who beat second placed runner, Scott Hawker (who ran the full course) by just six minutes at the end. It all made for an interesting outcome and obviously a bit of debate post race.
There are probably people who would rather not debate this and keep the warm fuzzy glow. Yes it was a blip, but a blip that actually had a major impact on the result of a major global race. Things can be learnt from it.
This is key. Without debate, we never learn. There are no hidden interests on my part and I’m not a paid mouthpiece for anyone. This situation will occur again at some point and by having debate, we can learn and inform future decisions.
First up, congratulations to both Dylan Bowman and Li Dong. Dylan in particular is taking the UTWT by storm, with two wins down under now and one wonders whether he can go a few steps further at WSER100 in six weeks time and improve upon this third place from last year. This race will certainly have prepped him for that, both mentally and physically. Reports from the course said he red-lined the last seven kms, probably to see how hard and far he can go. That will put him in good stead for a shot at the big dance and a shot at the overall title for UTWT. He’s a phenomenal athlete with pace to burn and he knows ow to hurt.
Li Dong is a little Chinese pocket rocket who’s showing class across a number of results this year, including a second at the HK100. It would have been awesome to see her and Beth Cardelli go head to head in this race. It would have been very very close between them. Li is a bit of a rising star among the Chinese ultra running ranks.
For all concerned, the pace up front was hot. Both Jono O’Loughlin and Francois D’haene commenting just how quickly the leading group were traveling, with both fading somewhat in the final quarter of the race.
But one guy from down under really stood out and that was Blue Mountains-based Kiwi, Scott Hawker. I must admit that after a slightly indifferent run at The Hillary, I kind of wrote him off a little for this one. I didn’t think he’d have the pace to duke it out with the likes of Dylan Bowman, who is renound as a speedster. But my word did he prove me wrong big time and I’m glad he did.
After the Ultra Easy, I commented that we’ll see big things from this fella this year and he’s proving that right. This is a world class result against some world class athletes. Well done Scotty. People may claim that this course was slightly easier that previous years because of some of the changes, but to run sub 9 hrs is pretty darn good and to be within just six minutes of Dylan is massive. Scott has just proven himself to be on the same level as these guys and someone who can mix it with the best. He was always a good runner, this result has just pushed him onto the global stage as someone who can really compete for prizes.
On another note, it was sad to see Andrew Tuckey succumb to his first DNF. But I don’t think this is a bad thing for Tucks. Be it injury, stomach or simply his head having a big fuzz, this kind of stuff you learn from – he’ll be extra special focused now for WSER100. In some respects, I think this will do him a world of good.
It was good also to see Shona Stephenson back on the podium. She had a mixed result here last year and has been a little up and down with results of late, but today’s run was solid. Nice work.
The Iron Pot saga
The first thing to note is that the course is well marked, runners carry maps and detailed directions too. There is a marshal stationed at the point at which the runners took the wrong turn. But were the runners simply ‘in the zone’? It’s impossible to tell, but it’s certainly possible to be in such a state of concentration that you could miss it. I get that, I’ve been there and missed some shocking turns on the GNW course. When you’re that focused on placing one foot in front of the other in a 100km race, your thinking and judgement is impaired.
But there are some big questions. Should the runners have been DQ’ed? Should they have been made to run back to the point at which they hadn’t run? Was a time penalty appropriate? Was it too long or too short? What level of accountability should runners have given the information available to them?
This is not for me to answer. It is up to the discretion of the race director. I guess for TNF100, there are considerations as part of being a major tour series – more on that later. After all, livelihoods and people’s pay days are at stake here, runners have travelled thousands of miles to race and be away from their families. To DQ a big named international runner is a big call. But there are also local guys who have trained their nuts off and placed every ounce of focus on this race for months to test themselves against the best. Who wants to rock the apple cart? Remember the flack at Speed Goat a few years ago when Kilian cut the switchbacks? A big call was made then too.
But a decision has been made in the heat of the battle. It’s a tough call to make for a race director, one that is part of a major global race series with many eyes facing down under. But the decision is final. We can and should debate it, but we should respect it.
Ultimately, the race is the loser
We’ll never know the real outcome as not all variables were equal at the end of the race. Scott will feel disappointed as he ran the whole course. Dylan will feel disappointed because of the time penalty, and just how long that time penalty should have been.
If everyone is satisfied that they did everything right and in the best interests of everyone concerned, then we’re all good. But if there’s any lingering doubt, then morally it’s up to the individual to decide what they do.
Global eyes on local races
As someone sitting at home watching and reporting on a computer screen instead of actually being there racing or reporting in some way for the first time in seven years, from the outside, you can see the added level of professionalism that goes hand in hand with this race as part of a big global series of races.
A few weeks ago, I posed a question… UTWT or Skyrunning? Who cares? It was posed for a reason. Not to be facetious or to be negative. It was a genuine question to see what impact these organisations are having on some of our big local races and what runners thought. Most runners are probably a little too far removed from the process, which was reflected in the blase attitude of most when it came to asking the question. The entire point of that article was to articulate that, and to show that there is still more work to do around the recognition and investment the organisations are making in our local races. That point flew over the heads of some I suspect.
You can see the extra levels of professionalism coming into the organisation of races such as TNF100 and Buffalo Stampede in particular. There are a certain standards expected and now being delivered to the runner who as part of paying their (very high) entry fee, want an experience that they can’t elsewhere. The razzmatazz, the pumping music, up-to-the-second timing and tracking of runners (when it works) and great pictures to place on the desk at work.
On the flip side however comes a whole new level of bureaucracy and rules that impact our local races.