More than 6,500 runners took to the stunning Blue Mountains on the 27-30 October to experience the largest trail running event in the Southern Hemisphere as part of Ultra-Trail Australia by UTMB. With perfect blue skies and big vibes, it proved to be a magical day all-round with Australia’s Reece Edwards and Anna McKenna claiming top honours in the 100km queen race.
Treading new territory having come from a road racing background, it was an impressive performance from Edwards, with Scotty Hawker (NZL) and Sam McCutcheon (NZL) rounding out a strong elite podium. The new UTA100 winner said, “I followed Sam McCutcheon to about 40km and then he started to slow a bit. From there I ended up in front solo and ran well up to 70km and then after that I was just in survival mode and hiking the stairs.”
Crossing the line in 08.10.11 on his first attempt, Edwards has already laid down plans to return next year but not before finishing off some 2022 goals, including taking part in the inaugural Ultra-Trail Kosciuszko by UTMB held in Australia’s Snowy Mountains 15-17 December.
In the women’s race, Anna McKenna (AUS) made it look effortless as she tackled the scenic but demanding course to finish in 09.15.23, which also earned her 12th overall. Having finished third in the women’s 50km last year, McKenna already has her sights set on upping the challenge next year by completing a 100-mile race.
The battle for second place came down to just 10 seconds with Erika Lori (AUS) managing to hold onto her position despite a fast-approaching Naomi Brand (RSA). Speaking about the course, Lori said, “It was something special and gave you a bit of everything. The out and backs were hot and hilly, then the 20km of stairs and beautiful trails at the end were unforgettable. I was going to stop to take a photo of the waterfall until someone told me Naomi was fast-approaching behind me!”
The close racing continued in the UTA50 race with local Ben St Lawrence (AUS) finishing in 3.45.29, less than a minute ahead of Ronnie Sparke (GBR) and with Poland’s Piotr Babis following just 30 seconds behind. “It was tough, and it was a close race between the top three right from the start with lots of lead changes throughout. It was my longest race ever so there were points when I thought it was easy and that I was going to smash it, then at other moments I thought I wasn’t going to make it to the finish line,” said St Lawrence.
Despite just missing out on the top spot, Sparke was over the moon with his result. He said, “Ultra-Trail Australia by UTMB is one of the biggest races in the world so being able to finish top three means a lot. I’ve won a few races but never been on the podium in a big international race, so it means a lot.”
In the Women’s Race, Patrica McKibbin (AUS) was first across the line, finishing 7 minutes ahead of second placed Gemma Jenkins (AUS) with Gillian Turnbull (AUS) rounding out the podium. Showing great progress from her 7th place at her debut UTA50 race last year, McKibbin was over the moon to qualify for the OCC at UTMB Mont Blanc in 2023, having already pre-entered the ballot.
For Jenkins, it was an incredible return to racing just 18 months on from undergoing a hysterectomy to have a tumour removed from her uterus. Sharing her remarkable story, she said, “I was prepared to run the UTA last year and had a great lead up but kept getting hip pain and calf pain. I went to the doctors and ordered an MRI which is when they found a huge benign tumour, the size of a four-month foetus growing in my uterus. That was just a month before the race last year, so I obviously had to sit that one out!”
In the UTA22, the top three men were separated by just over two minutes. Robbie Begg (AUS) managed to kick on ahead of two-time Olympic triathlete, Courtney Atkinson (AUS) in the last five kilometres to secure the win in 1.16.23. Liam McKenzie rounded out the podium in third before preparing to take on the UTA50 the following day.
He said, “This place is such a special place, with the aboriginal significance and the community and the trails, I really appreciate being out here in the Blue Mountains!”
Ingrid Cleland also produced a strong second half of the race to overtake Lucy Holman and take the women’s title in 1.32.49, with Holman just one minute behind. Sarah Jayne Miller rounded out the podium a further minute behind in third. The 43-year-old winner then went on to do the double and race the UTA100 that same weekend.
The podiums were rounded out with Australian’s David Bailey and Jane Wegener claiming the men’s and women’s UTA11 titles.
View the full Ultra-Trail Australia by UTMB results here.