It’s that time of year when the weather turns, the humidity drops somewhat and Six Foot Track is just around the corner. Now in its 31st year, there’s been a lot of rain here in Sydney and the Western surrounding regions, which is typical for this time of year and it gets everyone chatting about whether the river will be crossable or not.
Who could forget that infamous year when Cox’s River burst its banks by some considerable margin to ensue that the race was cancelled for its first and only time to date. Fortunately, I don’t think we’ll have those issues this year, instead we can focus our attention on what is a very competitive field all round, particularly in the men’s race.
While I don’t think any records will be broken this year, I do think we’ll see the top five men bunched very close together. Indeed looking at the line up, the top 15 men or so will probably finish within around 15-20 minutes of one another, so who’s got the scores on the door for this year’s race. We’ve picked nine names out of the bucket of whom will have a chance at a top 5 spot. I’m sure there are a few dark horses lying in waiting too, but hey, the computer is only as good as the information it gets fed.
I’ll start with my race favourite, Brendan Davies. Mr. Humble and easy to get along with, I kind of feel this is Brendan’s year to win this race. He’s had a couple of second placings, including last year where he ran 3:26, but I think he’s going to go quite a bit faster this time around.
Why? Well he’s hugely focused on another strong run at Comrades after his very special top 20 place last year. He’s also coming off the back of a massive PB at the World 100km championships in November last year too. His pace is going to be right up there and this is very much a runner’s course as he looks to peak towards Comrades in May.
In saying that, he’s not tapered at all for this race, still knocking off a 100km week this week just gone and I wouldn’t expect him too either. Just for shits and giggles, he knocked over a 16:55 Park run this weekend just gone too. Brendan doesn’t need to taper for this race as I still think he’s capable of a 3:19-3:21 performance with the quality training block he’s amassed over the last 16 weeks since the world champs.
Four runs and four top four placings for our next contender, Mark Green. His PB of 3:20 was offset with a much slower run of 3:30 last year, owing in part to the hotter conditions and like a lot of guys with him, probably taking a few too many cookies out of the jar early on.
Mark is a high quality athlete and very good physio too. My weekly visits to him at his Body Mechanic practice have been spent with either him or his team smashing the crap put of my legs while I peddle them for information as to Mark’s current running form. It’s safe to say, this guy’s pushing more sandbags that an army officer helping flood victims shore up their homes. Strava does reveal some pretty low kms and sporadic training, but Strava always lies when you look at Mark’s training. If he starts, he’s ready to go and compete 🙂
There are going to be a few runners bunched around this 3:20-2:25 mark, including one Mick Donges. He’s been quiet of late in the trail ultra scene, but a 2:31 marathon down in Hobart a few months ago has pricked up the ears of the Ultra168 computer. Mick’s always had gas, a talented high school sprinter the grapevine tells me. He’s not had the best of luck with this race either, falling on the way to Cox’s a few years back and smashing his collarbone badly I recall. But he has the skills to challenge for top placings at 6ft and we could be looking at low 3:20s for Mick if it all comes together on the day.
Vlad Shatrov is another big name to grace the start line for the first time in his running career. On paper, he’s one of the quickest guys in the field with a 2:18 marathon to his name, achieved in Berlin back in 2015. He’s also got a 1:08 half marathon and a 31min 10km. He’s dabbled in the trail scene a few times, winning the UTA 50km back in 2013 and then again last year, but finished some way off his capability in 14th place. Strava doesn’t have a lot of data against Vlad’s name, so hard to call what type of form he will be in. But anywhere near his best and you’ll see him running low 3:20s.
Another big ‘V’ on the list is Vajin Armstrong. He finished 3rd last year behind Brendan in a time of 3:28. It should be noted that last year would have been regarded as a ‘hot year’, so with cooler climes expected for this year’s race, I would expect times to be a few minutes lower, putting Vajin right in the frame for another podium. He’s in pretty good nick right now, as he always seems to be, having run second place at Kepler towards the end of last year, so bank on him featuring for last parts of this race.
A very interesting name on the list is Brett Cartwright. A 2:15 marathon runner from way back in 2007. Not sure what he’s been up to in recent times, and to quote Shaun Creighton (also running) from our Facebook page, “a fantastic athlete and could do anything, but is untested on a course like Six Foot”. Never a truer word spoken. With a marathon time like that, if Brett is in any kind of decent shape or form, he’ll be challenging for top honours and could be a serious dark horse for the win.
My training partner of late, Jono O’Loughlin lines up for yet another crack. Last year he had a shocker of a race, blowing up worse than a metal dish in a microwave. This was following his PB the year before of 3:23, which grabbed him fourth. I don’t think Jono will be setting the podium alight this year as his form is sitting around the 3:30-3:33 mark. He’s also building towards his 10th straight UTA100kms too, so taper has been non-existent as well. He’ll run hard as always and if he has a good day, we could see him clinch a top five place.
Loughlinn Kennedy is the next man on the list that deserves a mention. Known more for being a mountain goat than a speedster on the flats, Loughlinn had a very good win at the Hounslow Classic last year and is a guy on the rise. The big question will be whether he can match the pace of the whippets and with no previous form at this race to go on, he’ll be a little bit of an unknown, but I’m thinking somewhere around the late 3:30s to mid 3:40s.
Rhett Gibson poked the predictors in the eye last year with a debut 3:40 run and sixth place, following that up with a very credible eighth position at the very competitive, Ultra Trail Australia too. Fresh into the ultra trail scene, you’ve got to be thinking that Rhett could be targeting a sub 3:30 for year’s run, which would place him straight into contention for a top five position.
UPDATE: Also watch out for Alistair Stevenson and Courtney Atkinson. Alistair has a 2:23 marathon to his name and a sub 30min 10km too. Triathlete Courtney has been to a number of Olympic games, so it will be very interesting to see how he stacks up at Six Foot Track. Both highly capable of troubling the podium.
Stay tuned for the ladies preview in a day or two.