With the arrival of autumn, trail runners are getting primed to race in two iconic Blue Mountains sporting events that attract participants from around the world.
The Six Foot Track Marathon (March 12) is a full house, as are the 100km and 50km races of Ultra-Trail Australia (May 11-15), such is the prestige of these trail running events. Both will bring thousands of runners, support crew and spectators to the Blue Mountains, but local runners are strong contenders to finish among the top placings.
One of them is the Blue Mountains’ Jo Brischetto. The 35-year-old is a senior member of the team putting on Ultra-Trail, but is focusing her racing on the Six Foot Track Marathon.
When Brischetto ran her first Six Foot in 2011 in 4 hours 38 minutes for the 45km course between Katoomba and Jenolan Caves she was new to ultra-distance running and has learned a lot since, even winning the 100km Great Ocean Walk in Victoria last year.
“I’d quite underestimated all things ultra running,” Brischetto recalls of that first Six Foot, with 1528m of vertical climb and 1788m of vertical descent. “I think what I’ve learned since then will stand me in good stead to improve that time. It will be interesting to so see what a bit of experience will do for me.”
Although 2016 Six Foot will be her first since 2011 due to a combination of bad weather and illness and injury, the race has a special place in her heart. “I think it’s just an iconic race that brings together the entire Blue Mountains community – from runners to the Rural Fire Service members who provide the logistics,” Brischetto says. “There’s always lots of camaraderie and banter. It’s a race people are very loyal to. You are part of something pretty special.”
Brischetto has been running about 60km a week in training, which isn’t far for an elite ultra runner, but that’s all a full-time job and three children will give her time for. “Low kilometres, high quality is the only way I can approach this with my circumstances,” she says. There’s been a lot of hill and strength work for a race that “also requires a lot of strategy”.
Brischetto says the male and female Six Foot fields “are really, really deep”. [The race] attracts some of the best trail runners Australia has to offer. In a field like this I’ll be lucky to make top 10.”
She believes fellow Blue Mountains runner Brendan Davies will be one of the top male contenders for the Six Foot.
Davies is a previous winner of Ultra-Trail Australia’s showcase 100km race and at this year’s Ultra-Trail is going to be competing in a new 22km event, the UTA Pace 22.
As for Brischetto, her 2016 diary includes a crack at the Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc 106km race in France in August, which boasts more than 6000m of vertical climb.
By Dan Lewis