20 May 2018

By Dan Lewis

Some could barely hobble onto the podium while others had plenty of energy left to spray the crowd with champagne and take a good guzzle for themselves. Some were first-timers, some were UTA legends who have competed in all 11 versions since UTA was born in 2008. Some had broken records and some finished just inside the 28-hour cut-off for the 100km race.

The 2018 Ultra-Trail Australia festival of train running in the Blue Mountains came to an end today at the Scenic World finish line at Katoomba with some emotional and joyous scenes that captured the spirit of the event. The biggest sporting event in the Blue Mountains and the third largest trail running event in the world had seen more than 6000 runners from 62 nations compete.

UTA organiser Alina McMaster used the presentation ceremony to thank the many people who had made it possible: 600 volunteers, the first aiders, the crew from organisers AROC Sport who did everything from trail marking to cooking and social media, local landowners and the traditional owners the Gundungurra people.
And with exquisite timing, just as the presentation ceremony was coming to an end, 75-year-old Alf Johnston came towards the finish line to finish the UTA100 race in 27 hours 26 minutes 25 seconds.

A much-loved UTA100 regular since 2013 with his trademark flannelette shirt strapped to his backpack, Johnston was 959th this year and one of the last to finish the epic 100km race. Among those to embrace him at the finish line were the race sweeps who came in just behind him. In only one year has Johnston failed to finish the event – something that still haunts him – and at the finish line he flashed the “NEVER GIVE UP!” card he now always carries with him. How had the oldest finisher found this year’s race? “I loved every bit of it!”