It’s that time of year again when three big ultras take place in three different States. Great for those who love to race locally. A pain in the backside for those with a love for all three races. We’ll be providing some insights into the Surf Coast Century and Glasshouse in the next day or two, but today is the turn of the Great North Walk (GNW) 100s.
GNW epitomises everything I love about ultra running. Good old-fashioned community style racing in the tough Aussie bush with the stunning wildlife all around you. No egos, no fluro, no selfies… just the odd cow bell ringing in the Congewai valley and a well done from the local Terrigal Trotters as you reach the checkpoints.
What makes this race is the same faces you see year in, year out racing. Phil Murphy, Andy Hewat, Graham Wye, Nick Barlow, Joe Ward, Meredith Quinlan, Levi Martin and Geoff Evison to name but a few. Just ordinary men and women going about their business.
As we write however, there’s a big question mark as to what’s going to happen about rerouting the race at Heaton Gap due to a bushfire this week. Heaton Gap is 15kms into the race, just before runners begin a nice ascent to press ahead into the Watagan Forest. But fire has put paid to that route being used this weekend, and knowing the area pretty well, even I’m struggling for answers as to what the race organisers can do. While I know of a few options, it would be remiss of me to speculate as to what the organisers will do, so I’ll leave it for them to decide. All we can do is speculate who the likely winners will be, starting with the grandaddy of the two, the miler.
GNW 100 miler
We begin with the women in the 100 miler and the field is pretty limited in terms of numbers, which is a real shame as we need to make it more accessible for women to be doing the longer and bigger stuff. The same pattern was evident at UTMB last weekend where just 10% of the UTMB field contained women – that is just shit and far more needs to be done to make this type of racing accessible to women. I won’t start on some big rant about why that is, it’s a separate article entirely, but here are four names to keep and eye on:
- Meredith Quinlan: The queen of GNW having finished 1st in 2011, 2nd in 2010 and 2014, 3rd 2009 and 2008 in the 100 miler; 1st 100km in 2013
- Rosemary Catton: 3rd, You Yangs 50km 2017; 7th Buffalo Stampede Ultra 2017; 8th Surf Coast Century 2016
- Kaori Hirakawa: 2nd Canberra 50km 2017 (3:49); 14:51 UTA 2016. Clearly plenty of speed on the road, yet to be seen if this converts to the longer stuff.
- Kerrie Williamson: 1st Glasshouse 50 miler 2017; 3rd Numinbah to Pollys 50 km 2016
In the men’s race, the big name in the field is Brendan Davies, fresh for another crack at this race and probably a tilt at his current course record too, which stands at 19hrs 27 mins. Others to watch out for include:
- Grant Brisbin: 4th GNW 100km 2016
- Gavin Markey: 1st GNW 100 miler 2013; 4th Alpine Challenge 100km 2015
- Levi Martin: 3rd GNW 100 miler 2011
- Stephen Redfern: 1st Narrabeen Allnighter 2017 (12hr); 1st 24hr Sri Chinmoy 24hr Sydney 2017; 2nd WA 24hr track ultra 2017; 3rd Coast2Kosci 2016; 2nd Hume and Hovell 100 miler 2016; 1st Narrabeen Allnighter (12hr) 2016
- Joe Ward: 3rd GNW 100 miler 2016; 2nd GNW 100 miler 2015
In the 100kms there’s really only two names in the men’s and ladies race that if I’m honest should win by some distance. Lou Clifton has been on fire all year and it would be a strong man to bet against her winning here. She finished 4th at Six Foot Track, 3rd at UTA, won the Mount Solitary ultra and then also bagged a top ten place in the Eiger ultra trail too. Also look out for Kyley Norris who won this race last year.
For the men, Vlad Shatrov is on home turf for a shot at some of the longer stuff having won Six Foot Track earlier this year. Vlad’s been knocking up some fine training runs on the course of late and I’m sure he’s got fellow Central Coast’s Clarke McClymont’s 100km record in his sights.
Best of luck to all runners this weekend and here’s hoping there’s a solution to the challenges at Heaton Gap this Saturday.