The Ultra squad: Ready for the Blue Mountains’ iconic running event

BATHURST competitors are psyching themselves up for one of Australia’s most brutal running events this Friday and Saturday.

RUN TIME: A selection of Bathurst competitors at this Friday and Saturday's Ultra Trail Australia races. Back row: Richard Denyer (22km competitor), Bronwyn Starkey (22km), Gina Jessett (22km), Dianne Jarman (22km), Holly Weal (22km), Arthur Sargeant (22km), Lyndon Orpwood (100km), Chris Grady (100km). Middle row: Kellie Gibson (22km), Wes Gibson (22km), Therese Ryan (22km), Therese Ryan (22km), Catherine McEwan (22km), Jennifer Arnold (22km), James Rennie (100km), Fran Grady (50km). Front row: Charley Gibson (1km) and Beau Gibson (1km). Photo: ALEXANDER GRANT

RUN TIME: A selection of Bathurst competitors at this Friday and Saturday's Ultra Trail Australia races. Back row: Richard Denyer (22km competitor), Bronwyn Starkey (22km), Gina Jessett (22km), Dianne Jarman (22km), Holly Weal (22km), Arthur Sargeant (22km), Lyndon Orpwood (100km), Chris Grady (100km). Middle row: Kellie Gibson (22km), Wes Gibson (22km), Therese Ryan (22km), Therese Ryan (22km), Catherine McEwan (22km), Jennifer Arnold (22km), James Rennie (100km), Fran Grady (50km). Front row: Charley Gibson (1km) and Beau Gibson (1km). Photo: ALEXANDER GRANT

The Ultra Trail Australia event at Katoomba is a daunting run through the Blue Mountains, but the jounrey hasn’t deterred several Bathurst runners who are among those taking on the premier 100 kilometre edition.

Lyndon Orpwood, Chris Grady and James Rennie are part of the group preparing for the long haul in Friday’s 100km.

Bathurst’s biggest selection of runners are participating in the ever-growing 22km event on Saturday.

Wes Gibson, who recently finished on the Bathurst Half Marathon podium, is among the group.

The UP Coaching mentor has been impressed with both the number of Bathurst competitors who have signed up, and how strong their preparation has been leading into the race.

“We’ve had a large amount of people entering the 22km event. I’ve been lucky enough to work with a lot of those people, and we’ve had a couple of training days on course. I’ve also done work with a lot of online clients,” he said.

“The 22km has been a great acquisition to the event to make it more accessible to everyone.”

Ultra Trail Australia has built up a reputation for being one of the toughest one-day events in the country.

Several climbs such as the Golden Stairs, Nellies Glen and the Furber Steps have become iconic spots for long-distance runners to tick off the bucket list.

The 22km and 50km races share their courses with the back end of the 100km race.

“All the races get the Furber Steps, so that’s tough. Some of the faster 100 and 50 guys will run close to what a lot of guys in the 22 will do through that section – just to show how quick they get through that,” Gibson said.

“It’s probably one of the hardest half marathons you can get.

“There’s quite a few first-timers which is great to see. The event is so appealing and it’s such a cool place to run. It’s the third biggest trail race in the world. It’s an impressive event to hold in the Blue Mountains, a pretty cool spot.” 

The Blue Mountains course has lured many international competitors over the years.

The past four men’s winners have hailed from the United States (Tim Tollefson, Dylan Bowman), Spain (Pau Capell) and Scotland (Stu Gibson).

“I think the winner of the 100 will be an Australian this year, which hasn’t happened since 2013 when Brendan [Davies] won,” Gibson said.

“The 50 is fairly open but the 22 is looking stacked. There’s two former Olympians and a Six Foot Track winner in there. With runners like that there it’s exciting to know that you can compete with the best in the world.

“Ben St. Lawrence is in the race and so is Courtney Atkinson, who’s a class athlete. He could blow Ben and [two-time defending Six Foot Track winner] Vlad [Shartov] out but Ben’s been on course a lot and I think he can win it with a record.

“A lot can happen after an eight kilometre descent though.”

Friday’s 22km event starts at 10am at the Queen Victoria Hospital. Saturday’s 50km and 100km races start from Scenic World at 6.20am.