When a runner who effectively limped across the 100km finish line says, “UTA 2021 didn't disappoint.” You know it’s a special race indeed.
After a covid-19 hiatus, the Ultra-Trail Australia event finally happened last weekend and it was one for the books. Team runner Vlad Shatrov is the aforementioned limping, but stoked trail runner, and while he might not have taken first place as he would have liked, there were still many firsts to be had on a very trying course.
For Vlad it was the:
- First time I’ve run in the dark in the Blue Mountains.
- First time I’ve worn a fleece in an event.
- First time I’ve been sleeted on in an event.
- First time I’ve got a shirt with another year printed on it.
- First time I’ve run all day with gloves on.
According to Vlad, and the number of bloodied knees we saw hobbling through the event expo, “The conditions were just so tough which made finishing even more rewarding.”
“You could see the smiles on everyone’s face as big racing returned. It was definitely a relief and a boost for many!”
“I didn't have the day I trained for, it’s really tough when you cannot deliver on your preparation but honestly it’s those days you grow more. I didn’t feel great all day - then topping it off I hurt my left ankle, the pain at 65km was so real. Finishing was necessary for me this year no matter the time. I’ll be back stronger. And shout out if you didn’t have a great day - Ben I hope the hug at 60km lifted your spirits on your DNF.”
Vlad’s referring to fellow Le Bent runner Ben Duffus, who, despite leading the pack for the majority of the 100km was forced to retire from injury around the 60km mark.
“I was feeling the fittest I’d ever been,” said Ben. “But unfortunately, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link and an ongoing hip-flexor issue was my undoing.”
“Obviously, I was gutted at the time to have to withdraw, but the love and support I’ve received from the trail-running community has been incredible. I’m already looking forward to going back and having another crack at it next year!”
Ben still in high spirits midway through the 100k. Photo: Lucy Bartholomew
While Ben and Vlad jostled for the top two places before injuries struck, one Le Bent runner, Brendan Davies, was quietly grinding away and crossed the line in 5th place, 2nd in the Masters category.
Brendan in action during the last UTA (he was too quick for a photo op this year). Photo: UTA
While it's fair to say most of the Le Bent men didn’t have the day they’d hoped for, the same can’t be said for the female team, whose results probably exceeded their expectations but were right in line with their abilities.
In the 22km event, Paige Penrose was the first female over the line despite not even knowing if she’d be on the start line the night before.
“I’m absolutely loving running at the moment but I’ve had a big few months of races and for some reason I had no competitive drive coming into UTA,” said Paige.
“I was super excited for a long run in the mountains, but had no fight. I decided to turn up and run my own run. My legs and body know what to do so I handed it to them.”
“My race ended up being pretty sweet. The first few km were pretty intense but I let that happen and plugged along. A mate, Majell Backhausen, who was doing media coverage, jumped in behind me on the trail and we had a good catch up. Then I chatted to a guy all the way along the valley floor. Once we hit the single trail with some roots and rocks to play on, I’m not quite sure what happened.”
What happened next, in fact, was Paige stormed her way up the Furber steps and across the finish line to first place.
That’s right... Paige can run 22km and hold a conversation on the tricky terrain without breaking a sweat. Photo: UTA
Hot on Paige’s heels was fellow Le Bent athlete Kellie Emmerson who took second place in 2.07hrs.
“It is always pretty daunting showing up to one of the biggest events on the calendar, let alone after having a baby!” Said (new mum) Kellie.
“But you can’t hide in a ‘shorter’ race. It’s all in! So, the 22km event was a true test of my current fitness and I’m stoked to see myself on the right track.”
Kellie Emmerson not missing a beat after welcoming a new bub! What a performance.
The trail running community arguably put on the best show of the week, cheering on friends and family as temperatures dipped below 0 Degrees Celsius.
Finally, congratulations to all the runners who participated, no matter your result or whether you made it across the finish line! And also shoutout to the volunteers and race organisers who made the week possible.
We’ll see you on the trails!