Ben Duffus is one of Australia’s most successful ultra trail runners and also just a super top bloke, who is in Hong Kong at the moment for the 9 Dragons 50k event. In the following interview we catch up with Ben about how he has been going the last 12 months, his plans for returning to long distance racing and how the city of Hong Kong contrasts with his hometown of Brisbane.
You are pretty well known in the Australian running community, but could you please summarise your background?
I started running in high school, where I was doing a mix of cross-country, track and road races. I knew I always preferred hills and cross-country, so as soon as I was out of school I moved into mountain running, where I twice went to the World Mountain Running Championships as a junior. From there I jumped straight from 5-10km races to ultramarathons, though admittedly struggled a lot in my first year. Since then I’ve tended to drift towards the more mountainous ultras, and so far, have predominantly been focused on 50-10km events. However, I’m starting to turn my attention to stepping up in distance and will probably take the plunge and try 100 miles in the next few years. Though these days as a coach with Mile 27, I spend more of my time thinking other people’s running than I do my own.
You have had a pretty rough last 12 months in terms of racing, what has been happening and what are your future goals?
As far as races are concerned, 2017 was certainly a bit of a quiet year for me. An issue with my back saw me on the sidelines for most of the year and only able to return to shorter events in the second half of the year. It’ll be something I’ll always have to manage, but the rehab from that has been going well and I feel like that’s pretty much up to full strength now. So, the 50km at 9 Dragons will be my return to ultras, and it plays an important role in my build up to UTA100. Later in the year, I’ll then be heading over to Europe/UK for TDS and the Ben Nevis Ultra.
What have been your proudest running achievements and why?
My first time finishing the UTA100 (back then TNF100, this was the 2013 event and Ben finished 7th in 10.18), stands out as a proud memory. I’d attempted it the year before and been chewed up and spat back out, so redemption became a big priority for me for the following 12 months. Finishing that race was then a great reward for all that hard work and involved pushing myself to a whole.new level. The other race that stands out was finishing third at the Skyrunning Championships Ultra in 2014. It’s the only ultra where I’ve just felt like I was in a state of ‘flow’ the whole way.
You are in HK at the moment for the 9 Dragons 50K, how did you hear about the event?
The race director, Steven Carr, has been working with Andy DuBois and Mile 27 for a while now, so I first heard about the event last year through Andy. It didn’t fit in well for me then, but I’ve been wanting to head over to Hong Kong for a while now, and a hilly 50km around February was exactly what I was looking for to kick things off this year – so the 9 Dragons 50km was a perfect fit!
How have you prepared for the event?
My training typically consists of a mix of long runs, hill reps, speed work, strength sessions and easy runs interspersed among all of that. I’ve actually probably been doing a bit less vert than I use to, as I’ve had to be really gradual with re-introducing the hills after last year’s injuries.
Finally, you have been in Hong Kong a few days now, how are you finding the city?
Hong Kong makes Brisbane feel like a quaint country town! It’s a real urban jungle, and pretty much anything you can think of can be bought somewhere nearby. So, it’s refreshing to also have such an extensive network of trails right on the city’s doorstep!