It was a massive weekend of running just gone with three world-class races featuring some of the best runners around. It was a particularly strong weekend for the ladies of Australia and New Zealand. In short, they nailed their races to show just how far female running in our neck of the woods has come.
Lucy Bartholomew set the tone on Saturday with an incredible second place in the 80km Marathon du Mont-Blanc. She finished in a time of 13hrs 23 mins on what is a hugely tough course and 15th overall. Lucy is a completely different runner from this time last year. Whereas she was breaking into the top ten of these types of races, she’s now a proper global force to be reckoned with and regular podium contender. She’s competing against the best and performing right at the top of her game. AND, she’s just 21, remember that. She’s having the time of her life and still has many more years to improve still.
Next up, Kiwi Ruth Croft also ran an incredible race to finish second at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail 125kms in 14hrs 51mins, behind one of the best female ultra runners in the world, Caroline Chaverot. Like Lucy, Ruth is a real force to be reckoned with on the ladies ultra running circuit and she continues to get better and better with each race.
Fiona Hayvice had what was probably one of the races of her life, finishing fifth at her 100 mile debut at the Western States 100. Although the time might not have felt like her best race, it really was a case of survival if any of the reports from the athletes running at WSER was to go by. Ian Sharman, and eight-time top ten finisher said it was the toughest WSER100 he’s ever run. There was snow at the start and by the time runners made their way to Auburn, the heat was fierce as ****.
Fiona ran an extremely sensible and measured race, gradually making her way up the field to almost make it to fourth as the final miles drew close. Her fifth place yesterday puts her as the best ranking Aussie or Kiwi in terms of finishing position across both male and female. You get a real sense that Fiona will really continue to excel at this type of distance and she must be looking forward to heading back to Squaw Valley next year with her automatic start now in the bag!
In the men’s race, it was a hugely popular return to form for Ryan Sandes to go one better than his second place at WSER100 in 2012 and to bag the win when most around him fell apart. Like others who played the patience game, Ryan took his time to gradually move up the field and take the lead at the river crossing and he didn’t look back from there. His winning time of 16hrs 11 mins was slow by WSER100 winning times, but it goes to show the extreme heat and snowy conditions at the start that runners had to deal with.
On a personal level, I’m really pleased to see Ryan come back into winning form. He’s had a tough few years of races not quite going his way, but that has been more than offset by joy of the birth of his child with wife Vanessa. Children certainly change your outlook on life and probably changed the way Ryan approaches his training and running. Anyone who can juggle the demands of parenthood and perform at the highest level like Ryan deserves a massive amount of respect. It’s stupidly hard work to manage the demands of a family with what is the individual nature of our sport.
Moving back to the ladies race and Cat Bradley was probably a bit of a surprise winner, again, with many other big names falling by the wayside somewhat. Cat powered home to win in 19hrs 30mins, with Magda Boulet second in 19hrs 49mins and Sabrina Stanley third in 20hrs 11mins.
Finally, there was the small matter of a certain Kilian Jornet returning to racing too at the Marathon du Mont-Blanc 42kms. He took out the win ahead of Stian Angermund-Vik and Max King. In the ladies 42kms, Megan Kimmel won the titles ahead of Ida Nilsson and Annie Jean.