Leading New Zealand trail runner Ruth Croft is turning her attention to the other side of the ditch as she prepares for this month’s Ultra-Trail Australia.
Croft will be taking on Australia’s top trail runners in the 50km UTA50 in the Blue Mountains on Saturday 15 May.
Croft made history in February when she won New Zealand’s Tarawera Ultramarathon 102km race outright and she’s now looking forward to the challenge of Australia’s largest trail running event.
“I’m really looking forward to it, I’ve never been able to make it work with other things but everything has lined up this year, everyone says great things about Ultra-Trail Australia and I’m looking forward to being a part of it,” she said. “I’ve heard that it has a really good atmosphere, I’m sure something similar to what we have at Tarawera.”
The 32-year-old will be making the most of the recently opened Australia and New Zealand travel bubble, with it providing the opportunity to race at Ultra-Trail Australia for the first time.
“The bubble has worked out well, it will be a good event to do before I head to the US for Western States which is at the end of June,” she said.
Croft has won some of the most prestigious and well-known races on the trail running calendar, on top of this year’s Tarawera Ultramarathon she’s been victorious at the last two 55km OCC by UTMB and two 42km Mont Blanc Marathons, and also had an eighth place on the road at the Seoul Marathon, which qualified her for the Marathon World Championships.
“I’ve actually been training for the road for the whole of this year, I was over in Sydney last weekend to do the Australian marathon trials, I need to switch back to trail, this will be my first race back on the trails since Tarawera,” said Croft. “I’ve been doing a lot of marathon pace efforts, speed sessions, and a lot more on the road, but at the end of the day it’s all running. The fitness is there but it’s just climbing and time on trails that is lacking.”
Croft had been working towards an Olympic marathon qualification time for Tokyo but unfortunately she fell short at a recent trial event in Australia, missing out on the Olympic standard time of 2:29:30
“My main goal this year has been the marathon trial last weekend and so Tarawera was a part of that build up but a lot of my focus was on the road and not so much on the trail,” she said. “Like any race some days it’s just not your day.
“I decided to pull out at 32km as I wasn’t going to meet my time goals and I would not gain anything by finishing the race. Pulling out early also hopefully prevented me from digging myself into a bigger hole which would take longer to recover from,” said Croft. “There are definitely things I would do differently leading up to another road marathon. You always learn more from the races that go wrong rather than those that go well.
“Looking ahead to Ultra-Trail Australia I love the 50km distance. It’s awesome that Australia is having an event of that size going ahead and I’m totally 100% back focused on trail running.”
2021 Ultra-Trail Australia begins on Thursday 13 May with UTA11, ahead of UTA22 the following day and UTA50 and UTA100 on Saturday 15 May.
For more information on Ultra-Trail Australia visit https://www.ultratrailaustralia.com.au/