As we wind our way towards the end of the year, there’s a few final races to cover before we sink our mouths into the festive season. First up is the Alpine Challenge, which this year sees record numbers of entrants piling into the larger distances. It’s great to see plenty of people sticking their hands up for a crack at some nice tough Alpine terrain. Similarly, let’s hope everyone has done their preparation ahead of what is a challenging event and course.
Alpine is slightly different to most mountain ultras in that it’s an unmarked course, so knowing your shit (as opposed to knowing you’re shit) is pretty important. Couple this with some tasty weather expected over the weekend and the big difference between a DNF and a finish will be that key word – preparation. There’s some pretty cold weather and even a potential sprinkling of snow expected. Therefore, the conversation becomes more about what do I need to keep me running and finishing this race? Rather than, what does the mandatory gear list say?
Let’s turn our attention to the runners and for today’s article, a focus on the 100 milers – the 100km and 60km runners will feature in a separate article. With over 100 people giving the miler a stab, there’s going to be a good number of competitive battles over the course of the weekend.
Ladies 100 miler
For the ladies, two names stick out like a sore thumb, both hailing from North of the Vic border in NSW. Lou Clifton and Gill Fowler eat this type of terrain up for breakfast. Throw into the mix another Blue Mountains runner in Anne Bennett, along with Irish lady Karen McMorrow, Madeleine Oldfield and US runner, Elaine Stypula and there’s a very competitive ladies field lining up.
Looking at that list of names, probably the two standouts for the win are Gill and Lou.
Gill’s had a solid year to date with four podiums from five races. The year got off to a great start with a win at Bogong to Hotham, followed by two second places at the Mount Solitary ultra, as well as the more recent Hume and Hovell 50km. Lou’s had an equally as solid year with two wins at the Hounslow Classic, as well as the Five Peaks Ultramarathon 58 km. On the global stage, she also finished 11th at the Lavaredo ultra trail, as well as 5th at the Tarawera 100km right at the beginning of the year. Incidentally, both ladies races the IAU/ITRA Trail WC 2018, Penyagolosa, with Lou finishing just four minutes ahead of Gill after just over 12 hours of running. Should be a very tight contest between the two.
US runner, Elaine Stypula is an interesting one in terms of judging form for this race, but one result sticks out like a sore thumb and that’s her sixth place at this year’s Spartathlon. She also likes to go long, with a string of 100 mile performances to her name over the last few years. This includes second place at the Lean Horse Ultra-Marathon 100 Mile as well as first at Lake Martin 100 Mile Ultra Trail Race this year too.
Blue Mountains local, Anne Bennett has had a good lead in for this race. A fifth place at Bogong to Hotham at the start of the year was followed with a podium at the Knapsack 6hr lap run. Another fifth ensued at the Mount Solitary Ultra as well as a credible top 20 placing at UTA.
Karen McMorrow is a bit of a dark horse for this race. Although early into her ultra running career, there’s a couple of results that standout, namely 7th at UTA and 10th at Tarawera this year. This will be a big step up, but interested to see how Karen progresses here.
Likewise, Madeline Oldfield only has a couple of ultras to her name, but both being second places at GOW last year and the Alpine 60km the year prior.
Men’s 100 miler
As for the men’s miler, leading the list of contenders is Majell Backhausen, who if starting is likely to win. Although the likes of Campbell Craig and Matt Creham will do their damnedest to ensure that doesn’t happen. Below is a snapshot of some of the likely leading runners and an overview of their results in the last few years.
Majell Backhausen – Started with a win at the Two Bays ultra, then a very credible tenth at the MDS (marathon des sables). This was followed by second at the Zugspitz Supertrail XL in Germany along with 12th at Swissalpine Irontrail T88. Plenty of overseas running for Majell this year – is the Alpine outing a look at qualifying for Hardrock? We’ll see in due course.
Campbell Craig – Strong runner who this year has won You Yangs 100kms and was second at Razorback 64kms in 2018. He also finished second at GOW in 2017.
Matthew Crehan – Won the Lumberjack and Macedon 50km this year, as well as finishing 7th at Surf Coast Century. Also 7th at Two Bays this year. Looks like he has the pace, but this race requires a bit of mountain goat mongrel. Speaking of which…
We have two Frenchman as to whom the term mountain goat is highly appropriate. Thierry Lamarque was third at Bogong to Hotham, sixth at the Ultra Easy and second at the Peaks and Trails 50km this year. Loves the rugged, steep stuff. Fellow Frenchman, Yannick Dournel – is equally at home in the montanes. He won the Taranis Arga trail – 9 boucles in France and also second at the Northburn 50km this year.
Alex Ramsay deserves a shout out after his third-placed finish at this race back in 2016. He was also 6th at GOW this year. And finally, Shane Thrower will be out to show some of these whippets how the tough men of New Zealand do it. He grabbed a sub 13 hour finish at the Ultra Easy 100km in 2016, and was also just outside the top 20 at UTA that year too. A regular and consistent performer at Kepler too.
All the best to every runner out there this weekend. 100km and 60km previews coming shortly too. And remember, don’t forget your fleece 🙂