Great North Walk 100 Miler Race Preview

While Glasshouse takes place up in Queensland, down in New South Wales, it’s the GNW100s and personally one of my favourite races in the calendar. Like Glasshouse, this is another ‘old skool’ event that pulls no punches or frills. Aid stations are minimal, just six in the 100 miler and some people will at times, be tramping through the bush for six hours or so between these rather drawn out beacons of light.

In recent years, we’ve seen the race shift from the cauldron of November to the cooker of September. Such was the issues with heat on that course, particularly around checkpoint two at Congewai that organiser, Dave Byrne has no choice but to shift this beast of a run earlier a few months.

You see it all here, snakes, leeches and pure carnage as runners battle with heat and hills. While there are no overly massive climbs (by euro standards), the 100 miler still has 6,500m of climbing in it, and by the time most people get to Mooney Mooney Bridge and the last leg across the rock plateaus towards the coast, it really is a death march.

So who’s who in the zoo this year? Having scanned every single entrant in both the miler and the 100km, it honestly is an open book and anyone of around five or six people in each race across both male and female could take this one out. Firstly, we’ll begin with the miler and the men looking to take line honours.

100 miler – Men

There are a few men lining up this weekend who have some good experience on this course and there are some that don’t. That actually means quite a bit as far as GNW is concerned as the course while marked with little wooden sign posts isn’t anywhere near the likes of UTA or Tarawera which effectively lights up the course bright with more pink fluro than a room full of 16 year olds dancing at an underground rave.

Just to be complete bastards, the local parks authorities handily painted these wooden posts a fetching colour of dark green to blend in with the surroundings, so getting lost on this course is quite a tradition and a bit of a badge of honour. That said, if you follow Dave’s excellent instructions to a tee, then you really should have no issues.

I’ll begin with those guys who have previous in this race and I think it’s going to be a very close two horse race between Joe Ward and Damian Smith. Joe beat Damian into second place last year in a time of 24hrs 10 mins, but Damian has the quicker time on the course between the two when in 2014 he ran 24hrs 7mins.

Damian Smith will push Joe all the way and is very experienced over the longer stuff. This one will go down to the wire.

Gavin's a former winner of GNW
Gavin’s a former winner of GNW

A former winner of the GNW 100 miler is Gavin Markey, who cruised around in 2013 for the win in a time of 25hrs and a bit of change. Gavin’s had a quiet few years of late, but he’s a quality runner who is likely to feature in the top 3-5 at least.

Levi Martin is a local to this run, hailing from Terrigal and of all the runners lining up on Saturday, has the quickest time over the 100 mile distance. Back in 2011 he ran a 22hr miler, which at the time was good enough for third place, and bear in mind this was done in the bastard heat of November. Like a few others, Levi’s been quiet in the last few years, and I don’t know for sure what condition he’s going to turn up in. But there’s no doubting that if trained up, he has the goods to win this one.

Now to the have nots; as in not much experience on this course.

Leading the charge here is local Sydney lad, Ben Blackshaw a real contender for the win here. A few years back he was in fine form, but had to DNS due to illness. This year he’s looking like he could go very well having finished fourth at the UTA 50kms and also fourth at the Tarawera 60kms. Back in 2013 he won the Glasshouse 100 miler in a time of 18hrs 45mins. Like Levi he has the pace to run quickly on this track, certainly a sub 24 hour if all goes well.

A couple of other guys to keep an eye on include Jonathon Stiberc who was fourth at the Alpine Challenge 100 miler last year, along with Lee Wilton who was second at the GNW 100kms last year.

100 miler – Women

As with the men’s the ladies 100 miler is just as much of an open book too but we do have the top three ladies from last year returning this year. But my job is to pick out a potential winner and even though she finished third last year, I’m going to take a punt on Chantelle Farrelly to take the win this year.

Chantelle finishing GNW last year
Chantelle finishing GNW last year

Chantelle had a fantastic result at UTA this year, finishing fifth in a very competitive field as well as coming in second at the Mount Solitary ultra behind Beth Cardelli. She’ll have her work cut out though because the likes of Cath Karty, Susan Keith, Kathryn Austin, Robyn Bruins and Rachel Lawrence will be on her case.

Rachel is a former winner of this race back in 2008 in a rather speedy time of 27 hours. She’s not raced much at all in the last few years, but again if trained up has the goods to take this one out.

Kath Carty is no stranger to this race having won the 100km version last year as well as making plenty of regular appearances in the top ten at Six Foot Track too. She also finished fifth at the UTA 50kms a few years ago too. With a strong performance in the 100kms last year, I’m thinking she’ll go well in the miler this year.

Susan Keith finishing second at the Buffalo Stampede a few years ago
Susan Keith finishing second at the Buffalo Stampede a few years ago

Blue Mountains runner Susan Keith is no stranger to tough races and no greater evidence of this was her win here last year in a time of 27hrs 28mins. She recently ran fifth place at B2H this year as well as second at the Razorback 64kms as well as winning the Wilsons Prom 100km. Susan’s a tough cookie and will perform well here.

Robyn Bruins is likely to be running with the leading pack too having place sixth at the UTA50kms this year. She finished second here last year behind Susan in a time of 28hrs 34mins and was also fourth at C2K, as well as seventh at the UTA100kms in 2015.

Finally, keep an eye out for Queenslander Kathryn Austin. She won the 2015 Alpine Challenge 100 miler, but is also handy around the track, clocking up 108kms in Canberra 12hr race this year.

Good luck to all runners this weekend and look out for out GNW 100kms preview tomorrow.

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I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

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