20 May 2018

By Dan Lewis

At the age of 41, Brendan Davies says plenty of people no doubt thought he had entered his “twilight” years as an elite runner.
Today the super popular Blue Mountains resident enjoyed proving his theory that age can be an advantage when you also put in the hard work on the trails.
After a five-year gap, Davies claimed his second Ultra-Trail Australian 100km title with a time of 9 hours 18 minutes 10 seconds. “I’m doing it for the old farts. Loving it!” he declared. Davies said nothing could ever top the feeling he had when he claimed the UTA100 in 2013 – his breakthrough ultra trail running victory – but the 2018 title was “very special indeed … I’ve really worked hard for the last couple years … and today was just one of those days when everything kind of went to plan. Ultra running is one of those sports where, if you are willing to put the hard work in, age is actually something that goes in your favour because you get the experience and experience means so much in this sport.”

When he crossed the finish line Davies hugged his wife Nadine tight for a long time before running back down the finishing chute to thank his legion of fans from the Blue Mountains trail running community while brandishing an Australian flag. Davies was chuffed to have the UTA100 title back with a local and an Australian after a long succession of foreign winners of Australia’s biggest trail running race.

In second place was fellow Australian Ben Duffus in 9:24:32 followed by Britain’s Harry Jones in 9:36:05. The 100km race saw runners start at Katoomba’s Scenic World before descending into the Jamison Valley via the Furber Steps than taking the Federal Pass as far as the Golden Stairs to climb up onto Narrow Neck. The race then heads south along Narrow Neck to Tarros Ladder, Medlow Gap, Dunphys Camp and Ironpot Ridge before hitting the Megalong Valley Road, which they follow north before taking a right onto the Six Foot Track and climbing out of the Megalong Valley back towards Katoomba. From Katoomba the runners dive down into the Jamison again via the Giant Stairway, take the Dardanelles Pass to Leura Forest then climb again to take the clifftop tracks to Wentworth Falls, where they descend into the Jamison Valley a third time at its eastern end via the Kedumba Pass before eventually climbing back out using the Furber Steps at the western end to finish at Scenic World.

The Katoomba temperature had dropped to below 4C when the first wave of runners departed at 6.20am but they were perfect conditions for fast times.
A very early leader was UTA veteran Andy Lee, like Davies a Blue Mountains resident and one of only two other men who had ever won the UTA100 twice (in 2009 and 2010) before Davies crashed their exclusive club. The other is Stu Gibson. But Davies soon took the lead and held it for the rest of the race, finishing strongly to increase the distance to second place. Kellie Emmerson was the first woman home in 11:05:48. Like Davies with the males, she led the female field for most of the race but was always being chased hard by second-place Jessica Carroll, the distance between the two constantly ebbing and flowing. Carroll finished in 11.14.39. Emmerson, a 32-year-old from Melbourne, was a favourite going into the race having won the 2017 UTA50 and was third in the 2016 UTA100, but acknowledge she had to “put a rocket up my bum” to eventually take the 2018 UTA100.

Only three weeks ago, Davies ran the 168km Mt Fuji Ultra-Trail in Japan (placing 24th) and ran the same event just before winning the 2013 UTA100. He believes that epic Japanese challenge set him up for both his UTA wins. “It just makes you so mentally fit, it’s such a brutal course,” he said of Mt Fuji. “You come here [to UTA] and you go, ‘right, I’ve got nothing to complain about’. Plus it really toughens your body up, that race. I think that from the trauma I got [in Mt Fuji] my body has built itself back stronger in these three weeks and anaerobically you get a big push so I was just cruising all day today. It’s a gamble of course [running two races so close together] … I don’t think you could do it if you were only three or four years into the sport, but I’ve been doing it for ten or 12 years now so my body’s pretty well attuned to it.”
As a running coach through his business UP Coaching, Davies also has dozens of his pupil involved in races at the UTA festival.
At the end of the UTA100 the commentator dubbed Davies a “Blue Mountains hero” and “the people’s favourite”. Davies replied: “I just want to thank my supporters in the Blue Mountains, it’s a wonderful trail running community. It’s such a beautiful place to run and it’s great that Ultra-Trail Australia has been able to showcase the beautiful Blue Mountains.” But most of all he wanted to thank his wife, Nadine. “She’s put up with a lot of crap over the years, a lot of cold bed mornings when I’m out training and she’s still in bed. Thank you, Nadine, I love you very much.”

Both Images ©️ Lyndon Marceau / Marceau Photography