Next Saturday sees the running of what I think is the most scenic 100kms race in Australia, the Great Ocean Walk 100. Run by Aussie ultra stalwart, Andy Hewat this race has got better and better each year as more sections of single track from Apollo Bay to the Twelve Apostles is opened up to runners and walkers alike. If you’re looking for a race that is pretty much nearly all single-track (bar a few small sections), with stunning views across the ocean for most of the day, then this is the race for you. I’ve run this one twice and it ranks as one of my favourites, and I certainly plan to head back down again some time to give this another bash.
It’s also what I’d regard as a very runnable 100kms, bar a section two-thirds into the race which sees you negotiate some short sharp steep climbs that cuts in and out of the cliff-face six or seven times. The finish is something to behold too as you wind in and out of the single track towards the finish at the Twelve Apostles. If you’re lucky and finish in under 13 hours, then you’ll catch the final sunset on this very popular landmark on the South Coast.
This race is not a big one and the field is strictly limited, so while it makes my job easier to see who’s hot to trot it means that if you want to race, you need to be quick to grab a spot.
Who’s going to feature?
Upon opening up the list of entrants for this year’s race, the man right at the top sticks out like a sore thumb, Majell Backhausen. We featured an article from him recently following his awesome 23rd place at UTMB a few months back. He’s also represented Australia at the world trail champs too and it would be a strong person to bet against him taking out the line honours for this one. But there is one other runner that will give Majell a real run for his money – see who later on…
Chasing him hard will be serial Victorian ultra racer, Dan Beard. I don’t think there’s an ultra in Victoria Dan hasn’t run. Looking back at his record, he’s raced 42 ultras in the last five years and every single one has been in Victoria, and generally, he does bloody well in each one. I think the moment he sets foot outside of Victoria to race, there will be a State crisis until he’s found running back on home soil 🙂
A man at the opposite end of the scale is Tom Burford, who’s two ultra into his running career, but showing some strong outings, which include third place at Cradle Mountain as well as fourth at the Yurrebilla Ultra last year. Nic Phipps, another strong Victorian runner is also in for a shout at a possible podium having run just over 10hrs at Surf Coast Century last year, as well as a sub 20hr 100 miler at You Yangs too in 2014.
BUT… watch out, recent Surf Coast Century winner and new record holder, Paul Munro is racing too. This could go one of two ways – he’s either going to be in great nick still from the win just down the road a few weeks ago, or the body is going to give him a bit of grief around 70-80kms as payback for his awesome win at Surf Coast. Either way, it will be interesting to see how Paul goes on a slightly more rugged / course with more elevation compared to Surf Coast.
Finally, another two regulars to this race to watch out for are Damian Smith and Chris Wight. Damian is one of the few people to have run the ‘100 miler’ at GOW when it was still in place a few years back. Chris has been pretty quiet of late in ultras, so nice to see him back racing in the 100kms again.
In the ladies, Christine Hopkins looks a good bet for at least a podium with some strong running in some 50km events his year at the Mount Buller SkyRace and the Macedon Ranges 50kms, which she won. Just behind Christine at Mout Macedon was Karina Taylor who could also challenge for the podium. Both these ladies are yet to run a 100km race, so it will be interesting to see how they fare.
Finally, no stranger to ultra running circles is Blue Mountains resident, Jo Brischetto. Jo’s had a dog of a time with injury of late, but she’s podiumed at this event before, back in 2013 with a very respectable time of 11hrs 44mins. Even so, she has bucketloads of experience and I’d expect her to take this one out if the training is in place.
Have fun out there people and enjoy the views.