By Kate Dzienis

It’s not every year we announce a new entry into AURA’s Hall of Fame. In fact, since our inception in May 1987, we’ve had just 15 ultra runners inducted – and in 2022, we made it 16.

To honour his achievements within the sport of ultra running, the AURA Committee this year acknowledged Martin Fryer (ACT) – and the recognition couldn’t have gone to a better individual.  

Input his name into the world of Google, and you’ll be met with article upon article about Martin setting a new record, being interviewed in a podcast, or taking on another endurance event. He is synonymous with greatness, and if you’ve been running for a long time, you’d have at the very least heard of him.

“Even just to hear that I’d been nominated, is simply amazing,” he told me as we settled in for a good chat.

“It seems outrageous to be included in the AURA Hall of Fame alongside many of the people that were my ultra running heroes and heroines over the years, they were historical figures, high profile media figures, and I actually got to meet a couple of them too while they were alive.

“If you go through that Hall of Fame list, they made history, they really did, pioneering the sport.”

Martin has been an AURA member since around 1995 or 1997, and has never regretted ‘getting sucked into ultra running’, devoting a large chunk of his life to it – about 27 years.

“One of my marathon running buddies showed me a hardcopy of Ultramag back in 1995, and I was reading all these mind-boggling race reports of what seemed to be superhuman feats and endurance running on trail, track and road,” he recalls.

“It was really nice looking back at it all; there was no internet, so we just devoured reading people’s race reports – that inspired me to get into the sport actually. I ended up doing my very first ultra at Six Foot Track in 1997 when I was in Sydney; that pretty much began the slippery slope.

“I moved to 50km in the first year, 50mi by the second year and about 100mi in the third. It wasn’t until 2004 that I did my first 24hr track race, which was at Runaway Bay when Ian Cornelius was AURA president then – he’d put on an amazing race, and that was the beginning of all the crazy track and road races I entered. It’s a ‘terrible’ niche to be in, but I ended up being good at.”

Let’s put this into perspective – Martin’s first Six Foot Track in March 1997 saw him finish 66th in a time of 5:02:57 (46.6km). In September that same year, he ran the Royal National Park Ultra Marathon (50km), came 12th, and finished in 4:16:17. His running career spiralled upwards from there – ‘being good at it’ is definitely an understatement.

With Martin setting himself up as an accomplished trail runner, he was eventually invited to race at the 2006 IAU 24hr World Championships in Taipei. According to his racing profile and statistics, it appears to be the very first time he ran in an houred event (i.e. 24hr, 12hr, etc). He finished 12th with a total of 233.239km out of 108 athletes.

Moving onto 2007, Martin saw himself standing at the start line of the Coburg 24hr where he finished 1st after securing 228.686km, and later in the US at the Western States 100mi Endurance Run, completing it in 20:30:03 and taking home 21st Place out of 270 participants.

There is no doubt that Martin had evolved himself into a World Class 24hr and 48hr track and road runner, having continued his incredible efforts at national, and international, events from 2006 to 2016.

“Over 27 years, I’d transformed myself from being a weekend warrior ultra running enthusiastic and fairly proficient trail runner to making systems for myself to make it all come together. Being a scientist, I’d made a study of it. I didn’t have a coach myself, however I systematically worked out how to get myself better and better,” he explains.

And that he did.

In 2008, he ran in the IAU 24hr World Championships again, this time in Seoul and finished 10th with 247.187km. But 2009 was Martin’s best year, as he calls it, with some of his best achievements.

“I was invited to the des 48 heures pedestres de Surgeres track race in France, a very prestigious invitational that had produced all the world records for 48hr. All expenses were paid for, and there were athletes from 12 countries there (all their very best 48hr runners). It was all done on a 301-metre decomposed track, and no one knew who I was.”

Well they certainly knew he was when it all came to an end. Martin trained so well, he beat the best in the world, claiming 1st and smashing all other runners out of the ballpark. He took the title with an astonishing 433.686km – 2nd Male winner Ryoichi Sekiya from Japan finished with 402.321km. An incredible difference of 31.365km.

The win put Martin as the ‘2nd of All Time’ in 48hr, second only to Yiannis Kouros.

He conquered many more achievements and secured a number of Australian records (some which have been broken since, and others that have been frozen), including a 24hr M50 world record on track (2012 Soochow/Taipei 24hr Ultramarathon, 247.590km; old record was 247.21km set in 1985 by Englishman Dave Cooper) and later moved on to 6-day, 10-day and stage races, including the Tour de France stage race at the age of 54 where he came 2nd.

“That was an amazing experience, just doing a big clockwise loop and I had no idea what I was doing,” he laughs.

“Someone described it as a mixture of Survivor and Big Brother; we were staying inside tents all around France in the middle of summer, and running an average of 70km per day out on the road with no rest days…that was crazy.

“As the years got on, I realised though that if you want longevity in this sport than you have to continuously work on keeping your passion and your relevance and your mojo…it requires regular introspection and self-investigation, I guess re-framing what ultra running means to you. You know, I’ve been getting older and even though I was doing well, I love this sport, I love how I see people come into it, and it’s probably one of the best self-development tools I’d ever seen.

“I see people come along…we’ve all seen it…runners conquering fear, doubt, trauma, self-esteem…you name it, and that’s the thing. Anyone you talk to, if you go to the root of it, you’ll find out what they’re using ultra running to overcome. The community is so incredibly supportive, so I started to see that I needed to transition from being a competitor to giving back more as a coach and an administrator.

“I love doing it, I love doing the service side.”

Outside of the physicality of running, his nomination and induction into the AURA Hall of Fame is from a mixture of performance and service. Today, Martin has coached the Australian 24hr teams since around 2015 and as part of that, puts on multiday workshops for the athletes before travelling overseas. He’s coached 80-90% of the top 24hr athletes over the years (still coaches), has been a race director, course designs, is a race timer (timing over 30 events last year alone), has been a national selector for almost 10 years, and has been a state rep for AURA for almost as long.

Martin is a pioneer ambassador for Australian ultra running overseas. In doing so, many overseas races in the US, Europe and particularly Asia (Taiwan and Japan), he always made sure that he projected a strong and enthusiastic image of Aussie ultra runners. The connections he made allowed him in later years to get race directors from overseas to offer Australian ultra runners paid trips to compete at international events like Soochow International 24hr Race in Taipei.

When you look at Martin’s history and contribution to our sport, there are pages and pages of insanely incredible performances – we’re just tipping the top of the iceberg today.

 

More Interesting Statistics/Facts On Martin Fryer

  • 2012 24hr M50 World Record (on track) at the Soochow/Taipei 24hr Ultramarathon with 247.590km
  • 2012 100mi M50 Australian Record (on track) at the Soochow/Taipei 24hr Ultramarathon
  • 2011 1st Male at Sri Chinmoy 6 Day Race (USA) with 783.750km
  • 2008 & 2009 AURA Male Ultra Runner of the Year
  • 2008, 2009, 2010 & 2012 Bryan Smith Award
  • 2006, 2008 & 2011 Australian Male 48hr Champion
  • Has coached athletes including Matthew Eckford, Barry Loveday, Mick Thwaites, Ewan Horsburgh, Nikki Wynd, Sabina Hamaty and Sam Post plus many more
  • Head to the DUV website and search ‘Fryer, Martin’ for all his race stats

 

“It’s an exciting era,” Martin says.

“There’s a lot of ‘old timers’, people scattered around Australia, who are passing on their knowledge to all those newcomers into the sport, and the Hall of Fame is about connecting the past with the present.

“I was completely overjoyed when I was informed about the Hall of Fame, I definitely wasn’t expecting it. I realised at one point that I’d been so busy with life, so busy doing stuff and so focused on doing the next thing, that I hadn’t had a chance to reflect on what I’d done…being inducted into the AURA Hall of Fame has allowed me to do that, it’s allowed me to look back and understand that I’m part of this amazing community and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

“To be chosen, it’s an incredible honour and privilege, and it touches me deeply.”

Martin makes a meaningful point as we talk about the importance of recognising the achievements of athletes with awards and Hall of Fame inductions.

“We’ve stood on the shoulders of giants, and I don’t want people to ever forget the history of what came before us,” he reiterates.

“We need to go back and look at the profiles of those people in the Hall of Fame, and in fact all those named in the AURA awards that are given out every year, and get inspired and say to themselves that they can serve this community and get a lot of joy from it.”

Congratulations Martin on your well-deserved induction into the AURA Hall of Fame; we thank you for your incredible contributions to the sport of ultra running.