So what’s been happening across the country with ultra running, in particular within the AURA community? We’ve got the yearly wrap-ups from some of our state representatives to keep you in the know.

IN VICTORIA, the year of racing started on a positive note with Two Bays being run in January in beautiful conditions. It seemed like the racing season would be in full swing soon! This myth was to be dispelled with another lockdown, followed by Hut2Hut being run under Covid restrictions.

It ended up being a difficult year for the Victorian racing calendar with some of the longest periods of lockdowns in the country, indeed the world. The last few months of the year events started coming back and were more popular than ever. Races like Marysville Marathon, GSER, Macedon, Surf Coast Century and the You Yangs have been on a weekly basis.

GSER went ahead in spite of difficult weather conditions. As well as AURA (with our Women in Ultras Webinar), the organisers of GSER have been keenly advocating for increasing the numbers of women in ultras. Matt and Meagan also held monthly webinars to help entrants prepare for the event. This is a great race, and one to support in the future!

It was awesome to see two runners from Vic feature in the top 25 of AURA points competition. Stellar running from Matthew Whitaker (2 Bays, Great Ocean, Canberra 50k) and Cheryl Symonds (Canberra 48H and Coburg 24H).

In regards to the AURA Victorian State Reps, John Yoon was busy chasing races that were being cancelled and dealing with injuries due to long periods of training and no breaks. He was able to attend the Coburg 24H event and competed in the 12H race. It turned out to be a difficult day for him but there was some great talent and atmosphere on the day, as always with this historic venue and the perennial volunteers. John noticed more and more of a younger crowd being interested in the ultra distances and especially in the track/loop/timed format which is great to see.

Nikki Wynd managed to race Hut 2 Hut and Canberra and enjoyed being able to get out and train more while working from home. She is looking forward to more races next year!

Isobel Ross completed two long solo runs due to not being able to get to the States to race Barkley’s and other races being cancelled. She ran a 291km FKT in the Victorian High Country, running the 7 highest peaks. Then later in the year she ran 251kms from Bourke St at Mt. Buller to Bourke St in the city to raise funds for Red Nose Day.

Donna Urquhart has had races cancelled leaving her to focus fully on Coast to Kosci. And what a successful focus that was, coming second female. Well done Donna!

THE 2021 TASMANIAN ULTRA RUNNING CALENDAR seemed to tick along unaffected by the threats of Covid restrictions. 

Starting the year on February 4th with the Annual Cradle Mountain Run, the 84k point to point trail starting in at Waldheim and finishing at Lake St Clair saw a very wet 57 starters and 55 finishers enjoy this iconic event.

The March long weekend hosted in its 5th year of racing, Gone Nuts 101 Adventure Run on the North West Coast starting in Stanley and finishing in Wynyard. 

Over 230 individual runners took to the start line of either the 101k, 75k and 50k ultra distance events.(and many more in teams and the 25k run) for what was a perfect day to be out!

May 2nd welcomed runners for the inaugural Run Narawntapu.  This very special event offering a 50k ultra, 25k and 12k event. It follows the trail along the stunning Narawantpu National Park coast land in the states north.

The 15 & 16th if July saw another first for the state with Tassie Trail Fest Launceston hosting a 100mile and 100k event on a very wet cold and technical Trevallyn reserve and Cataract Gorge for a lapped trail course. Just a handful of competitors managed to complete this gnarly event.

In September the North East put together once again the very popular 52k (and shorter events) race on the Rail Trail starting in Scottsdale. A perfect event for fast times and those who love to snap a few scenic pics.

Finishing the year for Tassie on December 4th with The Bruny Island Ultra 64k road run. The race hit capacity despite the nasty weather and lack of interstate visitors aloud in.

A great year for ultra distance running in Tasmania! A packed calendar with no cancellations and plenty of happy runners to enjoy it! 

FOR SUCH A TINY STATE, the ACT bats way above the average in many sports, including ultrarunning, due to its wonderful road, track, and mountain venues – which allow fun, challenging, high quality events to be staged here. In recognition of this, one piece of very exciting news is that the IAU has awarded Canberra the 2024 Asian and Oceania 24hr championships, to be held at the AIS track in April of that year.

Despite some race cancellations due to COVID restrictions, there have been quite a few amazing AURA events held in Canberra during 2021, and many fine personal results and achievements were attained and recognised.

The month of March saw the staging of the Sri Chinmoy 48 Hour Track Festival, which not only included the 2021 AURA 48H Australian Championships (IAU Silver Label), but also had 6 Hour, 12 Hour and 24 Hour events as well (IAU Bronze Label). It was an incredibly successful event, with AURA members (including Committee members) dominating the podium in all 4 events. The performance highlight was in the 12 Hour race, where AURA’s Tia Jones (from QLD) set four new Australian records in the W55’s category for 6hr, 50 mile, 100km and 12hr (124.211K).

Next up in early April was the 2021 Canberra Times Marathon Festival, which included the 2021 AURA 50km Australian Road Championships (Bronze IAU Label). In cold and windy conditions, AURA’s Matthew Whitaker from Victoria won the Men’s event in an impressive time of 2:56:00 flat, with Wayne Spies 2nd Male (3:02:52), and AURA’s Shaun Creighton (ACT) third. Shaun’s time of 3:12:04 broke the previous record for M50 of 3:15:33. In the women’s event, Megan Hasick won with 4:01:46, with AURA’s Larissa Tichon 2nd in 4:06:33 and Sarah Haynes 3rd with 4:17:40.

Later in April, the Ultra Mediocre Runners Of Canberra (UMROC) hosted the first ever Backyard (Last One Standing) Ultra in the ACT: The GUMBY (standard 6.7 km LOS) and the GUMBaby (8 laps; 53.6 km with fastest time on last lap declared the winner). Although there were sub-zero temperatures and a challenging undulating trail loop, there were some fine performances: The GUMBY was won by Chris Wilder (ACT, 32 laps) with AURA’s ACT State Rep Matthew Griggs as the assist (31 laps) and Brad Carron-Arthur in 3rd (30 laps).  Cassie Cohen (ACT, 25 laps), Dionette Sakova (ACT, 24 laps) and Sabina Hamaty (AURA, NSW, 21 laps) were the top 3 women. In the GUMBabY event, Ellen Bradley and Jin Kato took line honours, with Cian Gray 2nd male and AURA’s third State ACT Rep, Allicia Heron, taking out 2nd female. Thanks to the many other AURA members that competed, and hearty congratulations to the 13 runners that finished their first Ultra!

Unfortunately, the NSW COVID crisis caused cancellation of both the Australian 24 Hour Track Invitational in July and the iconic Sri Chinmoy Canberra 100km trail race in October. We are thankful to the Race Directors, Matthew Eckford and Prachar Stegemann, respectively, that had worked so hard to keep these viable up to the last minute.

Dates to note for next year for AURA events in the ACT include the 25-27 March (Sri Chinmoy 48 Hour Track Festival, 23-24 April (GUMBY and GUMBaby, now a Silver Ticket Back Yarder), 2/3 July (AIS Track Invitational) and 11 September (Sri Chinmoy Trail 100).

Finally, thanks to my other ACT State Reps  – Allicia Heron and Matthew Griggs for their enthusiasm in building an exciting ultra atmosphere in the ACT.

THE WA CALENDAR OF AURA-LISTED EVENTS went off without a hitch in 2021 despite lockdowns occurring in various other states throughout the year. With WA’s tight border controls though, a number of races that normally would have seen interstate participants come streaming through slowed on those numbers – with the WA ultra running community missing their mates from all across the country.

The first AURA-listed event kicking off for the year was the Australia Day Ultra in January, delivering an exciting 100km distance for 22 runners. AURA member Jacqueline Kellerman took 1st Female while Margaret Hadley claimed 2nd with her PB, and in the men’s field two AURA members took 2nd and 3rd – Daniel Chidlow and Dennis Devereaux respectively. Amazing performances by everyone who took part in the ADU, known to be a flat and fast course in hot conditions despite the race being held on the foreshore.

WA continued to deliver stellar events, including the Sandman 50, OMFG Running Festival, Lark Hill Dusk to Dawn and Trails of Kings & Queens.

Herdy’s Frontyard Ultra in March was a standout race this year, with winner Phil Gore turning in a superb performance as he broke the Australian backyard ultra record with 48 laps completed. It was his first real attempt at such a distance, and through seeing this potential, he quickly joined AURA soon after to reap the benefits of our ultra community.

The state also saw the inaugural Transcend Ultra take to the stage, with participants racing from Walyunga National Park to the historic town of Toodyay. Weather wasn’t ideal, but with hard work and training, AURA’s Joshua Chugg took 1st Male.

Events in WA continued to thrive, including the Lighthorse Ultra, Kep Ultra V2, Wild Goose Chase, Yaberoo Trail Ultra, the Great Trail Relay WA, WTF, Delirious W.E.S.T 200 miler and Feral Pig Ultra.

There is still the 6 Inch Trail Marathon to go, on 19 December.

Birdy’s Backyard in mid-August saw a battle between 2020 Birdy’s winner AURA member Michael Hooker and 2021 Herdy’s winner Gore – Gore took the win with 51 laps, with Hooker taking the assist.

Hadley, who ran in the ADU earlier in the year, finished out on the 39th lap, making her 38th lap the furthest by a female in Australia (yet to be ratified).  

The Track Ultra in Bunbury saw a return to the track after a bit of a hiatus; the event is the only one in the state run on a certified track, and provides opportunities for those from WA who haven’t raced loops on a track to go out and give it a go.

It’s also very much worth mentioning that the Australian Female and Male Ultra Runners of the Year for 2020, announced in February 2021, were both from WA – Margaret Hadley and Michael Hooker. Both featured heavily in the media after the announcement, including newspaper articles and a five-page spread feature story in the nationwide Trail Run Magazine.

The WA AURA community has stayed strong this year, and many of us miss our interstate mates who for various reasons are unable to come across the WA border due to strict quarantine rules and restrictions. Looking at the calendar of events for 2022 on the AURA website, we’re all looking forward to more ultra distances and we even have a new listing – the Ultra Perth in late February.

Pictured: Andrew Heyden with his crew pushing through the mist and rain at the 2021 Coast to Kosci. Photograph – Nathan Damcevski.