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Royal National Park Ultra (50km) 1996
by Jim Screen28 September 1996
Overcast cool weather greeted the 99 starters in Billy's Bush Runnersí 1996 50k Ultra. As many relay runners were also set to enjoy a well organised event over a terrific course. Starting promptly at 7.00am the field was taken from the start in the wake of another field; that is Alf Field who with arms upraised lead the field for the first 100 metres.
Alf, an experienced ultra runner of some note was seen soon after walking on a 1 in 200 grade (almost level) hill. "You'll be sorry later" we heard in the distance as we left him behind muttering about hills like this one being as steep as Everest in a couple of hours time.
About 46 kms later when he went past a walking Jim Screen on a slightly down hill sandy stretch of trail he was uncharacteristically heard to say. "Come on, no walking, itís not uphill you know". A few seconds after Alf disappeared around a corner, Jim, trying to run, tripped over a partly hidden stump and fell flat on his face on the dirty dusty sandy track and in an also uncharacteristic act wished the same on Alf.
Michael Wilson made his mark on the race by falling over no less than three times in most spectacular ways. He left a trail of blood and skin behind him which was most impressive. Anyway, someone who stops the momentum of his running partner by suggesting they walk for a while and then runs over 300 metres of soft beach sand deserves to fall over now and then even if just to let said running partner catch up.
Kelvin Marshall, who has been banished to Bleak City (Melbourne) for professional reasons, paid us a welcome visit. Although he was first Strider home and finished 6th overall he thought he could have done better but perhaps his legs were still feeling the effects of the 9 hour 100km race he had run in a fortnight before.
Bruce Inglis put in a good effort by running 6th for most of the journey but somewhere along the way he ended up 14th. Bruce thanks all those runners who kicked sand in his face on the way past.
Wendy Downes ran a terrific race pointing out all the while that the pace was far too fast but not slowing for a second. Wendy was second female home and won herself a $100 prize. She was 30th overall and 5th Strider. Wendy's pace was such that Mike Ward was in conversation distance at the 18km drink station. He was very gracious but you should have seen the look on his face.
The unexpected sighting of the Stridersí rear guard woke Mike up and from there on he lifted his tempo to catch a fast tiring Kevin Tiller at Bundeena beach about 1.5 kms from the finish. According to Kevin Mike went past like a man with a mission. (Rumour has it that he wanted to get home in time to watch the AFL Grand Final) Kevin has been building his fitness up over the year to launch an assault on Mike Ward's favourite "itís easier than a marathon and its all down hill" race, the Brindabella Classic.
Murray Town (I run the same pace up down and level) ran his usual steady pace on not much training and without the aid of either a bike or a kayak.
This Ultra covers a really first class course South of Sydney from Grays Point to Bundeena. The first 25k or so from the start down to Audley on the Port Hacking River, along Lady Carrington Drive and the Parkway is through beautiful bush and riverside rain forest on a first class surface. Running conditions are so good it is easy to forget that the ultra is not a half marathon !!!
Then up a bloody steep hill for a kilometre or so to the top of the coastal plateau. A few more kms and then on to the magnificent Curra Moors Track. More concentration required here as the track is a bit more difficult but every where wild flowers in profusion. Dropping down to Wattamolla the coastal scenery is worth every ounce of perspiration. The Royal National Park Management has done a lot of very worthwhile track work and should be congratulated for their efforts. Itís nice to know that by sticking to the made tracks as this race does, we are privileged to enjoy one of Australia's great assets while having an absolute minimal impact on the environment.
The landscape north of Wattamolla is more rugged but the rocky scenery is very challenging and interesting. A bit of climbing and some downhill, across cliff tops with ocean views along the Marley Beaches and up to the final half a dozen K's to Bundeena.
All things considered this is the sting in the tail. Lots of soft sandy tracks to remind you (and so will Alf if heís around) in no uncertain terms about running 10k pace on Lady Carrington Drive.
The race does pass through some remote areas and for those thirsty horses among us it is probably a good idea to carry a bottle. Any Spartans or camels could probably manage without one and survive from the organised drink stations along the way. This year running conditions were near perfect. Cloudy, cool and low humidity but given a fine day which can occur at this time of year good race management such as a cap, sun screen and extra water would be a wise option for most.
For anyone not wanting to run the full distance the relay is the way to go. 3 legs of 19k, 16k and 15k will provide plenty of challenge and get you involved in a classic event. The logistics are easy to plan and any number of Striders would enjoy meeting the challenge.
Congrats and thanks to race Coordinator Billy Collis and his volunteer helpers, Billy's Bushies and sponsor Comfrig Manufacturing Pty Ltd, Bundeena RSL and Management and Staff of The Royal National Park. See you next year, last Saturday in September.