Down Under 135mi, Vic
Margaret River Ultra, WA

It was a weekend of mass proportions starting on Friday (May 3) when the Down Under 135mi kicked off through Lerderderg and Wombat state forests in Vic and the Margaret River Ultra in Margaret River, WA on Saturday.

If you know Down Under 135mi, you’ll know it’s a race where organisers only allow qualified athletes to enter – meaning participants must have completed two 100mi trail races (or longer) with 4000-metres of climbing, or receive Down Under Committee approval with races completed within three years of the event.

To top it off, ambulance cover is a condition of entry.

Although no AURA members completed what has been called the ‘gnarliest footrace in the Southern Hemisphere’, the event’s first ever woman finished the gruelling 217kms – Karen Barrett from NSW crossed the finish line in 49hrs 37mins, taking out third overall too.

New Zealand’s Michael Stuart took first in 44hrs 28mins.

Well done has to go out to all AURA members who entered and gave it their best including David Giles, Dej Jamieson, John Kilkelly, George Mihalakellis, Damian Smith and Tim Woods.

Saturday saw the start of the Margaret River Ultra where participants took to the trails – 80kms’ worth – from Hamelin Bay to Cheeky Monkey Brewery and Cidery in Wilyabrup.

Caversham’s Shane Johnstone crossed the finish line in 8:00:22 to take out second male, while Jon Pendse from Kingsley (who on the back of finishing the Lighthorse Ultra 12hr event with in 142.22kms the weekend prior) claimed third male in 8:25:22.

Johnstone said conditions on the day were testing with strong winds along the shoreline.

“Oddly there was a 20 to 30km NW wind which meant for headwinds on the soft sand beaches,” he said.

“It definitely tested the quads, shuffling over 8min/km at points, and the mental looking up the long stretches of beach. For some reason the sand isn’t firm near the water’s edge, so soft sand was the only option.

“You knew everyone was having the same battle, so you just had to keep on ticking the legs over.”

Johnstone had just completed the 130km Cape to Cape Track two weeks prior to the Margaret River Ultra, and had pulled up well so when starting Saturday’s event, he had started with little expectations and was looking to clock up another big session in the build up to the upcoming 231km Larapinta Trail at West Mac Monster.

“I was so stoked to get second place,” he said.

“I loved the energy from the crowd and team runners coming through the checkpoints; the south west of Australia has some beautiful coastline and forests to take the edge off the grind.”

Pendse was also very happy with his result, and said he was stunned by the variety that encompassed the coastline.

“The race had it all, and plenty more,” he said.

“Just don’t expect a quick time! A world trail race to envy all, we are truly lucky to have this in our backyard.”

Congratulations to all AURA members who ran the Margaret River Ultra including Brad Girvan (8:49:42), Ian North (9:49:49), Andre Pienaar (9:50:25), Beck Hefferon (10:49:28), Andrew Cohen (11:13:30), Sarah Niven (11:33:26), Katherine Booy (12:50:52), Mark Keenan (13:52:46), Kate Ashfaq (15:13:01), Diana Elliott (13:35:55), Fee Salmons (16:33:19) and Jamie Lines.

Some of the AURA women have also competed and performed brilliantly on the world stage in recent days, with Lou Clifton finishing second female at Ultra-Trail Mt Fuji in a time of 25:50:48 and Annabel Hepworth winning the Sri Chinmoy 6 Day Race in New York with 647kms.

Congratulations to Lou and Annabel on well deserved wins!

The next AURA-listed events on the calendar include the Great Ocean Road in Vic on May 18, West Macs Monster on May 24 and the Woodchopper’s Ultra on May 25.

Pictured: Shane Johnstone in the 2019 Margaret River Ultra.