Margaret Hadley set a new record for Runningworks WTF in the women’s 100mi. Photograph – Kate Dzienis.
By Kate Dzienis
Despite the stormy weather on Friday, September 22 and the 100kms Oxfam trail walk cancelled due to bad forecasts, the Runningworks WTF 50 & 100 Mile Trail Ultra stayed on course for 51 registered participants – 26 in the 50mi and 25 for the 100mi.
The ultra is held along the Munda Biddi mountain bike trail with a start line at Dwellingup, tracking all the way to Jarrahdale and back again for the long distance, while the shorter run heads up from Jarrahdale to Dwellingup. Generally held on the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in WA, it proves great timing for participants who can take an extra day to recover on the Monday.
There was some astonishing running early in the race for the 100mi. Despite freezing temperatures when the bell sounded, Nathan Fawkes kept everyone on their toes as he took front position for the first three-quarters, staying at least 30 minutes ahead of Andrew ‘Felix’ Poli by the time he reached Kingsbury Aid Station in the first lap.
“I felt amazing for the first 50k, and I started to think it would be a good day,” he recalled.
“At about 134kms, I had a gel and it instantly made me feel sick; I doubled over but managed to keep it down, however this was the beginning of the end.”
Fawkes revealed his usual nutrition for long distance was Coke, gels and a Cliff bar but when he hit that 15-hour mark, nothing sweet could sustain him and he realised he wasn’t getting the calorie intake required. Despite dropping his lead, Fawkes pushed on in the rain and absolute cold, crossing the finish line in a little over 22:32:00.
Keith Holt took over the lead and claimed top spot with a time of 19:11:59 with trail runner extraordinaire Andrew ‘Felix’ Poli (pictured as no. 109) coming in second at 20:44:51. Logan Vickers held on throughout the race and took third with 22:00:02.
One of the strongest performances seen on the trails at the weekend was that of Margaret Hadley, who took a well-deserved first place for the women’s division and second overall in the 100mi.
What made her race even more significant was that she set a new record for the first woman to finish the WTF 100mi in under 20 hours.
Hadley pointed out her race start was standard, but that given it was her first 100 miler, she was unsure how to pace herself.
“Having never run this distance before, it was hard to know exactly what pace to try and hold, and I could hear Felix behind me yelling at me to slow down, he was worried I might burn out early,” she said.
“We had done the odd Saturday long run together, but our only plan was to not run together too much otherwise we would push each other too much!
“With all the rain, there were some big puddles on the track and keeping our feet dry was impossible; poor sock choice meant I had blisters in the first 10k, something I normally don’t get.”
Hadley (pictured at Kingsbury Aid Station) pushed through despite a pounding headache, lack of energy, and a mental struggle in between aid stations, but when you’re out doing just over 160kms, your body is going to compete against the norm – and it was this negativity that Hadley said was what kept her going, because she had to switch her thinking and change to a positive.
“I hate thinking negatively, I think you can train perfectly, but if you start thinking negative and aren’t mentally switched on it can ruin your whole race,” she revealed.
With strong pacers who had been training alongside Hadley in the weeks and months leading up to WTF as well as a determined support crew who followed her every move and knew what she wanted before she even knew, Hadley pushed her way through the mud, the puddles, the darkness, the hills, the mental battle, and the physical challenge.
She said as an ultra runner, it was important to have a strong group of people be a part of crewing.
“Pacers and crew can make a huge difference in a race like WTF,” Hadley recapped.
“Felix, and three other runners who paced us both (David Noonan, Steve O’Halloran and Nick Swallow) joined me on my long Tuesday work commutes.
“My best friend Jenny Taplin joined me for the last 40kms, and she’s been my rock through all my training; even her husband Peter took on pacer duties – with a pro athlete background, he knew all the right things to say while we were out on the trails.
“My crew and my pacers were brilliant!
“I think it is really important to be efficient at aid stations, and having a good crew truly helps in those moments.”
Hadley finished strong, with an astonishing time of 19:57:47, and was the only female finisher in the 100mi, doing proud not only her family, close friends, and the local running community but her sponsors Salming and Perth’s very own Squash+RunningWorks who had a team (comprising of Hadley) of individual runners enter the 50mi including Ben Harris who won the event, Chris Lark, and Andrew Mcleish.
Special mention also to Mico Running who has donated gear for Hadley to road test.