If you reside in West London, you’re probably wondering why you’ve clicked onto an ultramarathon website, when instead you were looking for West London rap music. If you’re Australian and an ultra runner, you’re probably wondering what the hell I’m talking about. No, this isn’t a review of West London’s music scene, but a run-down of New South Wales’ inaugural SkyRace, held this weekend in the stunning Grose Valley on t’other side of the Blue Mountains. That’s the opposite side of where most people run in a little race call Ultra Trail Australia, formerly known as TNF100.
The event was sold out and there were some quality runners lined up for this one in both male and female. The course is an absolute brute, with 8,200 m +/- across 68kms. It’s pretty much down, up, down, up, down, up and the talk before the race was a sub 8hrs 30mins would probably win this one.
It’s also held in what I would regard as some of the most stunning trail in Australia. Big call, but the brutal yet beautiful nature of this course had to make it one of the most iconic around. Some of you may be wondering why it’s called the Hounslow Classic when the race is staged in the Blue Mountains town of Blackheath. Well true to race director, Sean Greenhill’s geekiness and fondness for early Australian explorer history, the race is named after the fact that Blackheath was formerly known as Hounslow. Following European settlement of Australia and after crossing the Blue Mountains in 1815 and returning from Bathurst, Governor Lachlan Macquarie renamed the settlement as “Black-Heath”, in reference to the colour and texture of the native shrubbery in the area.
In the ultra SkyRace, Ben Duffus from North of the Border won this race in a blistering 7hrs 51mins. Ben’s had a tough old time of it in the last 9-12 months or so, with injury and the odd car hitting his road bike. His win last month at the inaugural Coastal High 50kms confirmed he was back in form and this race only serves to prove that too. Ben finished nearly 50 minutes in front of the next runner, little known local lad, Eric Holt on his first big trail ultra outing.
There was plenty of talk prior to the race that Eric had the skills to match it with Ben, but not the experience and that showed on race day. Nevertheless, Eric had a great day out and ran a quality time of 8hrs 39mins to finish second. He was followed by Tom Brazier, the Canberra lad who’s had a solid year too. Tom has a fair bit of talent on him and I think, pending him staying fit, he’ll start to get closer to the likes of Ben and Blake Hose, probably our two leading guns in this form of racing.
In the ladies, Beth Cardelli took all before her to win in, with Lucy Bartholomew placing an excellent second place. Lucy it appears, has seen a summer in Europe really pay off with a great run here. She’s only young and still has bags of time ahead of her – this was a good result. Finally, Maggie Jones ran an excellent race to finish third after a solid year all around.
The win by Beth sees her tie up the series win the Oceania Skyrunning series, congratulations Beth.
A special mention must also go to our Kiwi friends for making the trip over too. Professional runners, Matt Bixley and Grant Guise bombed spectacularly with some big DNFs in the ultra. However, Ruby Muir and Kristian Day saved the day (and the blushes) by winning and placing second respectively in the 23kms event.