Helium filled arm-bands, an Ultra Runners dream.

Today registrations opened for one of the best trail ultras in WA, the 6 inch ultra marathon. http://www.6inchtrailmarathon.com  

The event was started by Dave Kennedy 13 years ago as a fat-ass (free entry with no volunteers) and has morphed into this powerhouse of an ultra that sells out in days and is the highlight of the ultra racing calendar. It offers everything a good ultra should and then a bit extra for good measure. Dave explains the thinking behind the ultra below.

Six Inch Trail Marathon is inspired by the famous Six Foot Track Marathon in the Blue Mountains near Sydney.Returning from New Zealand in January 2005 I bemoaned the lack of trail races in Western Australia. I wanted to move to the land of the long white cloud but family and circumstances warranted at least another year in WA. One evening I headed out to run a gravel road signposted “Goldmine Hill”. What followed was a soaking wet 15K with the highlight being running into the Munda Biddi Mountain Bike trail. The Munda Biddi was built to keep cyclists off the 964K Bibbulmun walking track. The first 335K section from Mundaring in the Perth hills to Collie was completed in 2004. I had seen some road crossing signs during the construction and was keen to one day experience the track either by bike or foot. Finding the track so close to my house in Mandurah had me pondering a race in the near future. On my return from New Zealand I had been discussing a possible trail race on a local runner’s message board. I bought the map and found that this town to town section was about 44K. Six Foot which I had dreamed of running for years sprang to mind. “We could have our own version”. I had ridden between the 2 towns, North Dandalup and Dwellingup, and the road was super hilly. I was a little disappointed by the lack of hills when I ran the trail but some less masochistic runners didn’t agree with me. The result is a 46K trail race starting at the foot of Goldmine Hill 1K from North Dandalup and finishing in Dwellingup. This run is designed to be tough but most marathoners can expect to finish within an hour or 2 of their best marathon time

He wasn’t joking about adding an hour or two to your marathon time. I raced it 9 times and my best is a 55 minute marathon delta. That is due to many ‘trail’ challenges including hills (and lots of them), single track trail where you have to watch every step, navigation challenges (I wear two Garmin’s for the race , one with the course plugged in and I still get lost?) , did I mention the hills ? and also just the whole ‘trail running’ thing where you can’t really judge pace as the lay of the land dictates how fast or slow you can run. With the 6 inch you can never get into a road marathon type rhythm where you can concentrate on average pace and enjoy the scenery and the journey. A trail marathon will kick you in the backside the moment you let down your guard and start too drift off, add in ‘pea-gravel‘ ,which is God’s way of teaching ultra runners how to fall over , and unless you bring your end game you are going to end up covered in ‘claret‘. Actually this seems to be the in-thing for the 6 inch finisher, some sort of wound weeping claret, if you don’t have one you are ostracised and scorned !

I’ve done several posts on there 6 inch so search the archives to read about last years run and other general comments. You’ll see I’m a big fan and typing this post now am getting excited of the prospect of lining up again at 4:30am faced with Gold Mine Hill and what is to come. The BK running posse has already entered and it promises to be another Stella event with Jon getting his red spike this year, although there is some conjecture over a possible disqualification pending over the use of (potentially) helium filled arm bands he wore in 2014. Bart’s is conducting an enquiry into this heinous crime (if proved) and his red spike (you get a red spike for completing 6 events) could be in jeopardy.  It probably doesn’t bode well for Jon as last year Bart’s got his red spike despite getting an official DQ asterix against name for getting lost one year. Jon, being the owner of the official spreadsheet, was not happy with Bart’s receiving his red spike a year early, in his view. This could turn nasty for all concerned.

Helium filled arm bands, an Ultra runners best friend?

Truth be told the reason Jon is wearing the arm bands was the previous year he found the only puddle on the whole course, in WA it doesn’t rain for months, and then proceeded to through himself into it , get up and slip into again. Of course he was left to struggle alone as is tradition in these events and stumbled to the finish line a long way back, covered in mud. The following year he was made to wear a climbers rope as he fell into the deep ruts up the ‘escalator hill‘ and Bart’s had to jump over him while he again struggled to find his feet.

This is why I love this race, so many happy memories and that is why we keep going back year in year out to these events to add to the memory banks of ‘great  times spent with great  people, racing great events’, and of course documenting Jon and all his adventures.