Probably one of the newest ultras on the books here in Australia is the Down Under 135, and that’s not 135kms, that’s 135 miles, which is 216kms in new money. An out and back course with around 8,000m of climbing and equivalent descent, it promises to be gnarly, technical, vertical and beautiful.
Despite a small field for the first year, there’s some seriously good runners having a crack at this inaugural run including Damian Smith, Kev Muller, Tim Cochrane and Mat Grills aka the tattooed runner!
The ladies field contains just two for this year, but shout outs to Tay Alirezaee and Emma Simpson for getting themselves on the start line.
I’ll start with my two favourites for the win, Damian Smith and Kev Muller. Both are extremely experienced in the ‘long stuff’.
Damian is one of the most consistent performers around in the 100km+ race distance and usually finds himself on the podium at most events. He started this year extremely well by winning the iconic Cradle Mountain ultra. Last year he finished on the podium of all three races he ran, which included a trip to Thailand for the TU100, and second places at both the GNW 100 miler and the GOW 100km.
In fact, Damian has never finished off the podium at the GOW 100km in all five attempts he’s had at this race, including back in the day when there used to be a hundred miler on the course, or a rather 190kms race. This type of race has Damian’s name written all over it.
Like Damian, Kev is as equally qualified for a big race like the DU135. With a whopping 69 ultras to his name to date, Kevin finished off 2016 with a cracking win at Coast2Kosci, a race he’s been competitive at for a few years now, before finally sealing the win last year. A few weeks back, he tuned up for this race by winning the Canberra 24hr by running 227kms in that time. Before that he had time to knock up 78kms in the Coburg 6hr track race and squeezed in for a top 10 place at the Two Bays ultra as well.
As with Damian, Kevin is one of the few guys to know what it’s like to regularly run for 25-30 hours, so expect the Battle Royale to be between these two fellas for the inaugural win.
One name that raised my eyebrows however on the starters list and a possible challenger for the title is Tim Cochrane. Tim was a prolific racer back in the day when I was just starting out and one of the men to beat on the scene. Over the last few years, his racing has cut back a fair bit, but just to give you an idea of his pedigree, he’s a former two-time winner of Coast2Kosci, he’s won the GNW 100 miler, been on the podium of UTA a few times, back when it was The North Face 100, as well as run a 3:33 at Six Foot Track. It will be interesting to see how Tim fares back on some of the really really long stuff and great to see him racing over this type of distance again.
Mat Grills, the serial racer up at Glasshouse strung together a couple of good results last year, finishing third in both the 100 miler and the 50 miler. Previously he’s also grabbed a couple of top ten placings at the Blackall 100km too. Expect him to feature in this one.
Good luck to all the runners taking part this weekend.
Feature image credit: Chris Ord