Two competitors embrace in triumph at the finish line of the 2016 Australia Day Ultra in Australind, WA. Image -Alexis Oosterhoff/Running WA.
It was a chilly 3am start for 91 competitors who took on Saturday’s (January 23) Australia Day Ultra in Australind, a small coastal town 156kms south of Perth.
Some had driven from Perth that evening at midnight to make it for bib collection at 2am, while others had camped on the grounds of the foreshore or at local caravan parks.
With high visibility vests and head lamps on, runners took off for the 50kms and 100kms events from the start line at the foreshore park and began to make their way to the 6.25kms turnaround point, which doubled as an aid station.
With two more aid stations located at the start/finish as well as the 2.9kms mark, participants were well equipped with high stocks of Powerade, Tailwind, fresh drinking water and ice as the sun began to rise, and volunteers handed out as much as they could, reassuring each competitor with words of encouragement.
It wasn’t long though before the winners of the 50kms event began to complete their laps.
In the men’s division, bib number 50 was a great number for Tom Bakowski, who was cheered across the finish line having completed the distance in just 3:24:03.
Following close behind, Mike O’Sullivan finished in 3:30:39 and Kevin Matthews took third in 3:38:13.
Winner of the 2014 Goldfields Pipeline Marathon and running legend Tony Smith proudly secured fourth in just 3:41:56.
It was a strong field of women too in the 50kms ladies division, which saw Tina Major secure the podium finish in just 3:47:26, Bree Delfs second in 4:00:29 and Margaret Hadley third in 4:01:27.
At 9am, while some 50kms competitors were just finishing their laps and the 100kms runners were still going, a field of 29 men and women took off for the shorter distance of 25kms.
Heat had begun to sink in with the forecast predicted at 32 degrees, but it didn’t stop anyone, especially the 25kms frontrunners who took to the path with wings.
Despite warm conditions with only a slight breeze to help cool things down, Todd Ingraham crossed the finish in an astonishing 1:37:02.
Beeliar resident and Squash+RunningWorks owner Chris Lark took second place less than 10 minutes later, with a time of 1:45:20 and Christopher Collinge claimed third in 2:31:26.
In the women’s division, Emily Laidley looked strong the entire way and claimed the title in 1:58:45 while Running Mums Australia member Lauren Collinge wasn’t too far behind and finished in 2:37:47.
Chloe Atkins took third in 2:39:33.
Some of the 100kms entrants were still going by early afternoon, but the effort for fastest time went to David Kennedy in the men’s who completed the distance by 11am (8:04:13) and Pamela Mccaskie in the women’s (9:59:39) who crossed the finish just before 1pm.
Second placings in each division went to Jon Pendse (8:53:15) and Kerrie Bremner (10:23:27) while third spots were taken by Ben Treasure (9:17:13) and barefoot runner Dale-Lyn Russell (11:28:27).
Russell sprinted the last 100-metres in amazing fashion with two pacers who encouraged her in the last lap and kept her motivated.
Winner Kennedy explained he felt great coming into the run off the back of a relaxing family holiday in the Blue Mountains and Queensland.
“I did some good training in the mountains and tapered off in Queensland; I felt I was in the best form I had been since the Kep Ultra (May 31, 2015),” he revealed.
“Rick Cooke was the man to beat as he had represented Australia in 100kms racing; he has only beaten me once in five races so I thought I had a good chance.
“There were a few guys on debut like Pendse who were unknown quantities, but experience is important in long races so I thought they would be outside the placings – turns out he came second.
“When Rick pulled out at about 30kms, I felt I could relax as I was just racing for a time. I didn’t expect anyone to catch me though as I was feeling great, but anything can happen in a 100kms event.”
Despite the course being an out-and-back one, 25kms second-placer Lark told Runglobal Australia he couldn’t find any faults with it and found it to be well organised.
“I personally don’t like running in a straight line for 6kms but it’s exactly how I would have run the event myself,” he said.
“This is because it gives the spectators and teams of the runners competing know exactly where they will be.
“This is a good idea so you can meet up with them at any time, and I especially liked the little U-turn of tents for the runners so they were able to grab their essentials throughout the run.”
The 2016 event was the race’s second year, and it was expected to get bigger for 2017.
In an exclusive to Runglobal Australia, Australian Ultra Runners Association president Robert Boyce said WA knew how to put on a great event, and praised organiser Ron Mcglinn for getting more people into the sport of running – in particular, ultra running.
“People like Ron are making a real impression, and even though I was unable to get out there to Australind, I know the event was amazing and really well run,” he said.
Visit Australia Day Ultra for more information.