The Six Foot Track Marathon once again proved to be an exciting race. It’s long been a major highlight of the NSW trail running calendar and always attracts a solid field, and this year was no exception. One thing that’s great about it is there’s no hiding and no excuses. It’s a genuine hard and fast race that proves the quality of a runner. Those that are good here are typically good in just about any other trail race…should they choose to do them. Most of the top runners of the past from 6FT have also been at the pointy end of other major off-rod races. That said, you’ll no doubt hear folks saying “It’s a road runners trail race”, but that’s just an excuse that trail running purists make when taking selfies and talking about playing in the mountains just doesn’t cut it. You can also expect a few excuses from them like “I was just there to have fun and be part of the community”.
Fantastic weather meant conditions were prime for fast times and that’s exactly what prevailed. From the outset Vlad Shatrov made his intentions clear, despite similar front running tactics seeing him self destruct at the UTA50 in May last year. You would think a lack lustre recent performance over 10km at the Sun Run would dampen his confidence, but instead it seemed to have strengthened his resolve. Only multiple-Olympic triathlete Courtney Atkinson was able to keep up with the blistering pace, and he looked comfortable early on. Both reached the top of Pluvi in 1:55 with Vajin Armstrong of New Zealand some 6 minutes in arrears and Mark Green in 4th. In the women’s race it was a fast start for Steph Auston who reaching the end of the Pluviometer climb (2:12:50) had skipped away to a 2 minute lead over her main rival, Marnie Ponton. Both these two women have shown their prowess on the trails and road so it was always going to be a close battle. Trailing in third was a more conservative Gemma Jenkins who is better known as a road-runner. Six minutes behind Gemma was Lou Clifton (2:26:08) who is a consistent and tough athlete, with Lucy Bartholomew fading to fifth after earlier being in third.
As the race continued the battles for victory heated up. In the men’s race it was a war of attrition with Vlad eventually breaking Courtney in the Black Range and establishing a 1:45 lead by Caves Road. By this point Vajin had consolidated his 3rd position a further 8 minutes behind and 3 minutes ahead of Mark Green in 4th. The women’s race was a case of the tortoise and the hare, with the aggressive start by Steph catching up with her. Marnie hit Caves Road in the lead in 3:14:57 and a fading Steph looked to be in trouble a little over 5 minutes in arrears. Chasing hard in third was Gemma who was a mere 17 seconds behind and closing fast.
By the time the finish line bells were ringing Vlad had stormed away to a winning time of 3:15:32, the third fastest run ever. Some 3 minutes later Courtney rolled through, also in a cracking time (3:18:22). 3rd to finish was Vajin, who incidentally was backing up after recently placing second in the Old Ghost ultra (85km) in New Zealand. Leading lady Marnie hit the tape in 3:50:08, the 4th quickest time in history, with Gemma in 2nd (3:55:38) and Steph 3rd (4:01:44).
In all it was a sensational morning of running where the cream rose to the top. It was great to see not only a genuine battle at the front, but also some class acts in the women’s event. What would be really good to see is the top women from 6ft getting amongst more trail races, particularly the longer ones. Imagine seeing Aussie trail big guns like Kellie Emmerson and Beth Cardelli locking horns with the top three from today at Ultra-Trail Australia!
- Marnie Ponton 3:50:08 4th all-time
2. Gemma Jenkins 3:55:38 5th all-time
3. Stephanie Auston 4:01:44 6th all-time
4. Louise Clifton 4:08:40 7th all-time
5. Lucy Bartholomew 4:12:31 9th all-time
6. Gil Fowke 4:16:12
7. Julie Quinn 4:16:37
8. Cecily Butler 4:17:10
9. Hannah McRae 4:21:32
10. Robyn Bruins 4:22:47
- Vlad Shatrov 3:15:32 3rd all-time
2. Courtney Atkinson 3:18:22 4th all-time
3. Vajin Armstrong 3:26:46
4. Mark Green 3:32:14
5. Ross Lambert 3:33:09
6. Brendan Davies 3:33:47
7. Marty Keys 3:33:59
8. Scott Brittain 3:36:23
9. Mike Lichtwark 3:36:56
10. Loughlinn Kennedy 3:40:04