Race Preview: Ultra-Trail Australia

UTA

Editor foreword: It is that time of the year again as thousands of runners gear up to take part in one of several events that make up Australia’s largest trail running festival, the Ultra Trail Australia. The big news yesterday was that Ironman has bought UTA. First up, a big hand to Tom and Alina for the hard yakka they’ve put into this race for the last 11 years. They set something up, built it, grown it and they’ve been rewarded for it. For that they should be highly applauded.

The reaction while for the most part is a positive one and there’s certainly logic in the purchase, it’s not all smelling of roses for some, if the Book of Faces is to be believed. 

Back to the race preview at hand.

The focus of this preview will be largely on the 100 kilometer event which includes around 4,500 meters of elevation gain and takes runners through the Blue Mountains starting and finishing in Katoomba. There is however also a 50 kilometer event and a 22 kilometer event, both of which have also attracted some quality fields.

We will kick off the preview with the ladies field that is largely dominated by the locals with a few internationals, and headed by Kellie Emmerson. Kellie has been going from strength to strength over the last several years including three straight wins at the Surf Coast 100 in 2015, 2016 and 2017 (including the course record), she was 3rd at Ultra Trail Australia (UTA) 100 in 2016, 5th at UTMB in 2017 and most recently in 2018 she has been 7th at the Six Foot Track Marathon and 4th at the Madeira Island Ultra Trail 115k. Kellie is extremely strong at the moment and combined with her course knowledge makes her arguably the one to beat going into Saturday’s race. However she will face stiff competition from several other ladies including Marie McNaughton and Amy Lamprecht.

Marie, a New Zealander living in Hong Kong, has previously been 6th and 11th at the 2016 and 2017 editions of UTA 100, and has achieved some incredible results across a range of races internationally. In 2016 she was 7th at the Vibram 100, 5th at Lavaredo Ultra Trail and 15th at UTMB. In 2017 she was 3rd at the Vibram 100 and 5th at the Eiger Ultra Trail 101k, and so far in 2018 she has been 4th at the Vibram 100 and 2nd at the STY 98k at Ultra Trail Mount Fuji (UTMF). Amy also has experience with the UTA course having achieved 4th in 2016, and her racing history also includes 2nd at the 2015 Surf Coast 100, 2nd at the 2016 Buffalo Stampede Ultra and most recently in 2018 she has been 2nd at the Cradle Mountain Run and 4th at the Buffalo Stampede Ultra.

Dan’s dark horse alert

A name to watch in this race will be Jess Carroll. Unknown to many, races few and far between, but when she does, it’s great. Her win at Northburn last year was an ‘outright’ win FYI. Podium potential for sure – maybe even a possible upset / win on the day if the stars align.

Other female contenders:

  • Katherine MacMillan – 6th 2015 UTA 100, 12th 2016 UTA 100, 4th 2017 Fat Dog 120 Mile Trail Race
  • Gemma Game – 18th 2017 TDS, 18th 2018 Transgrancanaria 64k, 3rd 2018 Marathon des Sables
  • Jessica Carroll – 2nd UTA 50 2015, 2nd Tarawera 60k 2016, 1st 2017 Northburn Station 100k
  • Cecily Butler – 3rd 2016 Surf Coast 100, 8th 2017 Six Foot Track Marathon, 15th 2017 Ultra Trail Australia 100k
  • Kirstin Foley – 12th 2017 Tarawera 100k, 5th 2018 Old Ghost Ultra
  • Shiri Leventhal – 5th 2015 UTA 50, 11th 2016 Vibram 100

 

Male 100km

The men’s race includes a deep local field headed by Ben Duffus and Brendan Davies among many others, however a strong international contingent will be pushing them all the way including Harry Jones, Kazufumi Ose and Andrius Ramonas. Ben has only just started to come back to racing these last 12 months with a 3rd at the 9 Dragons 50k last February and most recently winning the national mountain running championships, and although he has had a rough last 18 months, he has always raced well at UTA. In his three appearances at the race he has been 7th, 5th and 2nd in 2013, 2014 and 2016 respectively, demonstrating not only remarkable consistency but also improvement over time. Ben was also 3rd at the 2014 Mont Blanc 80k, 1st at the 2015 Hounslow Classic 68k and 3rd at the 2017 Bogong to Hotham. Ben’s solid lead up this year combined with his experience with course makes him a top contender for the win on Saturday.

Brendan is arguably Australia’s most prolific and diverse runner of the modern era with incredible results across a range of distances and terrains, and like Ben he has had much success with UTA that also happens to take place in his own backyard. Brendan has previously competed in UTA in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015 coming 5th, 4th, 1st, 3rd and 17th. His other results in include 2nd at 2016 Six Foot Track Marathon, 19th at 2016 Comrades Marathon, 10th at 2016 IAU 100k Championships, 3rd at 2017 Javelina Jundred 100 Mile and 4th at 2018 Six Foot Track Marathon. This is only a smattering of Brendan’s incredibly long and diverse racing history, and I am sure he is raring to give his local race another solid crack.

Harry has been making quite a splash on the global ultra trail running, however this will be his first race in Australia so let’s be sure to give him a warm welcome. Harry is in my opinion one of the most exciting runners to be following at the moment and has been on an upward trajectory these last 18 months, thus is also a top contender and the biggest threat towards our local heroes. A Welshman living in Thailand, Harry was 8th at the 2017 Vibram 100, 2nd at the 2017 Mozart 100k, 23rd at 2017 CCC, 5th at the 2018 Vibram 100 and 1st at the 2018 9 Dragons 50 Mile.

Kazufumi from Japan is no stranger to UTA and has raced here twice before coming 18th in 2015 and more recently 9th in 2017, his other results include 12th at 2016 Mont Blanc 80k, 8th at 2017 Penyagolosa Ultra Trail 115, 2nd at 2018 9 Dragons 50-50 and 6th most recently at the 2018 UTMF. Andrius is also no stranger to UTA and was 5th in 2016 UTA 100, plus has also been 1st and 10th in the UTA 50 in 2015 and 2017 respectively. A Lithuanian living in New Zealand, Andrius’ other results also include 4th at 2016 Kepler Challenge 60k and 6th at the 2017 Tarawera 100k. There are many more contenders listed below but I believe the final male podium spots will taken up by the above mentioned runners.

Dan’ dark horse alert

Not so much a dark horse, but a man who keeps a low profile and plays his chances down so well, he’s actually the world’s greatest collector of sand bags. Mark Green lines up for his second UTA100km and Strava informs me that he’s moving well.

Male:

  • Jono O’Loughlin – 10th 2011 UTA 100, 9th 2012 UTA 100, 10th 2015 UTA 100, 7th 2016 UTA 100
  • Hamish Macdonald – 12th 2016 UTA 100, 11th 2017 UTA 100, 7th 2018 Six Foot Track Marathon
  • Dominic Perry – 1st 2016 Great North Walk 100k, 6th 2018 Tarawera 60k, 8th 2018 Six Foot Track Marathon
  • Yoshikazu Hara – 4th 2016 Tarawera 100k, 1st 2016 Translantau 100k, 6th 9 Dragons 50-50 2017
  • Andrew Lee – 9th 2014 UTA 100, 6th 2017 Hounslow Classic 68k, 13th 2018 Six Foot Track Marathon
  • Ewan Horsburgh – 7th 2016 Buffalo Stampede Ultra, 2nd 2018 Jabulani Challenge 45k
  • Mark Green – 7th 2015 UTA 100, 1st 2016 UTA 50, 7th 2017 UTA 50, 3rd 2018 Six Foot Track Marathon
  • Piotr Bętkowski – 10th 2016 UTA 100, 11th 2017 Madeira Island Ultra Trail 85k,
  • Wataru Iino – 7th 2015 Vibram 100, 9th 2016 Vibram 100, 1st 2017 Badwater Ultramarathon
  • Andrew McConnell – 7th 2017 Buffalo Stampede Ultra, 15th 2017 UTA 100, 6th 2017 Ben Nevis Ultra Skyrace
  • Stephen Rennick – 9th 2017 Surf Coast 100, 2nd 2017 Blackall 100k, 5th 2018 Bogong to Hotham.
  • Carlton Rowlands – 12th 2014 TDS, 5th 2018 Madeira Island Ultra Trail 85k
  • Tom Brazier – 4th 2015 Buffalo Stampede Ultra, 3rd 2015 Hounslow Classic 68k, 3rd 2018 Ultra Easy 100k
  • Ryan Lowe – 2nd 2017 Great North Walk 100k, 2nd 2018 Buffalo Stampede Ultra
  • Morgan Lindqvist – 10th 2017 UTA 100, 11th 2018 Six Foot Track Marathon

 

50k Contenders

There’s a massively stacked female field for the 50km this year, headed up by Steph Auston, this year’s Six Foot Track winner. She’ll be pushed hard however by Cecilia Flori, Victoria Beck and Michelle McAdam.

Female:

  • Stephanie Auston – 1st 2017 Surf Coast 50k, 1st 2018 Six Foot Track Marathon, 1st 2018 Buffalo Stampede Marathon
  • Kathleen Baker – 6th 2017 Miwok 100k, 2nd 2014 Red Rocks 50 Mile
  • Fiona Hayvice – 2nd 2016 UTA 100, 8th 2017 UTA 50, 5th 2017 WSER
  • Cecilia Flori – 3rd 2017 Tarawera 100k, 1st 2017 Mozart 100k, 2nd 2017 Kepler Challenge 60k
  • Sophie Brown – 2nd 2015 UTA 50, 2nd 2017 UTA 50, 9th 2018 Six Foot Track Marathon
  • Victoria Beck – 2nd 2012 Kepler Challenge 60k, 2nd 2018 Six Foot Track Marathon
  • Belinda Ralph – 6th 2017 UTA 50, 2nd 2017 Surf Coast 50
  • Michelle McAdam – 3rd 2013 Six Foot Track Marathon, 3rd 2017 UTA 50
  • Kelly-Anne Speight – 10th 2016 UTA 50, 10th 2017 UTA 50
  • Bronwyn Young – 3rd 2016 Yurrebilla 56k, 6th 2018 Two Bays 56k
  • Marlene Lootz – 3rd 2015 Surf Coast 100, 10th 2016 UTA 100, 9th 2017 UTA 100

 

Male:

The men’s race is looking like a showdown between Ashley Hoffman and Matt Abel.

  • Sam Burridge – 6th 2016 UTA 50, 9th 2017 UTA 50, 8th 2018 Tarawera 60k
  • Ashley Hoffman 1st 2018 Bogong to Hotham, 2nd 2018 Buffalo Stampede Marathon
  • Matty Abel – 11th 2018 Tarawera 60k, 1st 2018 Jabulani Challenge 45k
  • Michael Chapman – 4th 2015 Canberra 50k, 6th 2018 Mount Solitary 45k
  • John Winsbury – 3rd 2013 UTA 50, 5th 2016 Buffalo Stampede Marathon
  • Michael Daly – 5th 2018 Six Foot Track Marathon
  • James Watson – 9th 2015 UTA 50, 3rd 2016 UTA 50

 

22k Contenders

Marnie Ponton for the win here.

Female:

  • Marnie Ponton – 1st 2017 Six Foot Track, Marathon PB: 2.40, Half Marathon PB: 1.18
  • Lucy Bartholomew – 5th 2017 Six Foot Track Marathon, 1st 2017 UTA 100, 1st 2018 Two Bays 56k
  • Jane Gordon – 2nd 2014 Six Foot Track Marathon, 1st 2014 UTA 50

 

Male:

Hugely stacked men’s field here too. Tough one to call between Courtney, Vlad and Ben.

  • Courtney Atkinson – 2nd 2017 Six Foot Track Marathon
  • Vlad Shatrov – 1st 2017 Six Foot Track Marathon, 1st 2018 Six Foot Track Marathon, 1st 2017 UTA 22
  • Ben St. Lawrence – Marathon PB: 2.24, Half Marathon PB: 1.02
  • Loughlin Kennedy – 10th 2017 Six Foot Track Marathon, 1st 2017 Mount Solitary 45k
  • Vajin Armstrong – 3rd 2017 Six Foot Track Marathon, 5th 2017 UTA 22
  • Clarke McClymont – 13th 2017 Six Foot Track Marathon, 2nd 2017 Buffalo Stampede Ultra

 

Best of luck to all runners!!

 

David Longo
David is a Canberra-based ultra runner who has also lived in Hong Kong. He races regularly both on the HK and Australian ultra scene.

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