This weekend sees one of the biggest ultra events taking place in the beautiful Victorian town of Bright. Known as a mecca for lycra-clad loonies with more money than sense, this weekend ownership transfers to dirty trail runners. They will trudge their way to the top of Mount Buffalo and either stay up top (marathon runners), or head back down to where they started at Bright Brewery (ultra runners).
As usual, this event attracts some of Australia’s best running talent and this year is no exception, with the ladies marathon probably the most competitive field of all the races this weekend. And it’s with that event, that we’ll begin proceedings.
There are some standout names in this list that includes the likes of Gill Fowler, Hanny Allston, Deanna Blegg, Kellie Emmerson and Lucy Bartholomew.
On paper, if you’re looking at results from the past, I think the clear standout is Hanny Allston.
For pure pace, no-one gets near her as a 2:41 marathon runner. As a former winner of this race and the current Six Foot Track record holder at 3hrs 35mins, if she’s in form and raring to go, you’d have to say this was Hanny’s race.
The good thing about Hanny is that she doesn’t over race and manages her body well, so you know that if she’s entered into a race, she’s likely got all cylinders firing and is ready to burn it up.
Another lady burning up the competition of late has been Lucy Bartholomew, winning outright recently the Northburn 50km in a crazy time of 5hrs 52mins, beating in the process all of the men’s field. That is a seriously quick time on what is an utterly brutal course. She also took out and now holds the Bogong to Hotham record in a smoking 7hrs 48mins, so in terms of purely technical and mountain running ability, she’s probably the best exponent of that in the ladies field. It’s whether she has the pace to hold Hanny on the flats and downs that will decide if she wins or not.
Another fine exponent of technical mountain running is Gill Fowler, perhaps better suited to the longer distances, and in all likelihood, is probably using this race as a stepping stone to some bigger stuff later in the year. Gill recently won the 64km Razorback run, came fourth here in the ultra last year and was also fourth at Lavaredo. Gill is always there on the podium or around.
Local Victorian trail runner, Kellie Emmerson will also be within shouting distance too. Mainly racing in and around Victoria, we’ve seen Kellie win the Surf Coast Century in a very quick 9hrs 18mins, along with Maroondah Dam last year too and a third at the high competitive Two Bays Ultra as well. Certainly ‘pacey’ on the flatter stuff, the big one for Kellie will be maintaining striking distance with some of the mountain goats in Hanny, Gill and Lucy.
An interesting entry in the ladies marathon finally is Aimee Webster, a former Olympic skier and while you can never guarantee that the elite nature of skiing will crossover into the running, you’d have to think with her pedigree and background in skiing that she’d make a fist of this race too.
In the men’s marathon, I think we’ll be looking at a three-horse race between Vajin Armstrong, John Winsbury and Ashley Bennett.
Vajin recently put in a very good performance at Six Foot Track to finish a highly credible third place in a very competitive field. Previous that he ran fifth at the Tarawera 100kms earlier this year too. John Winsbury is an ‘elder statesman’ legend of the ultra running circuit, not so much in terms of age, but the fact that he’s been around a bloody long time, putting in the kind of performances ten years ago many a young gun would be proud of these days. John was fifth at the Buffalo ultra this time last year and on his day, a very tough competitor to beat.
In the ultra, the ladies field is probably a little light on this year with two names standing out as potential contenders in Lou Clifton and Maggie Jones. Lou has previously won the Southern Highlands Challenge, but was then probably a little below her capability at Six Foot Track, in what was a tough race for everyone. Maggie Jones may have the edge however with slightly more experience over the longer stuff
Maggie Jones may have the edge however with slightly more experience over the longer stuff, including a third place at the recent Razorback run won by Gill Fowler. She’s got a good finish at UTA100 under her belt also.
In the men’s race, again two names stick out as likely frontrunners in Ben Duffus and Sam McCutcheon, in a re-run of what should have happened at Ultra Easy before Ben had to pull. Sam went on to win that race in a new course record time, as well as a month or so earlier prior to that run, grabbed third at Kepler.
There will be a few question marks as to whether Ben has recovered since then as I hear slightly conflicting stories as to how good a shape he’s in. But as I always say, if you’re on the start-line, you’re in the race and ready to go, everything else is irrelevant.
Others likely to be there or thereabouts for the final podium spot include Matt Murphy Joel Fitzgerald and three-time C2K winner Ewan Horsburgh. Andy Lee, a legend of Aussie trail running and all round thoroughly good bloke lines up too. Strong as an ox, Andy ran a good 12th place at Six Foot Track recently and has the biggest quads in the field. Go Andy is all we can say!