By Dan Lewis
On his Facebook page just a few days ago, Spaniard Pau Capell posted a message with a photograph of himself out trail running.
“No parare hasta conseguirlo!” it declared. The translation is: “I will not stop until I get it!”
The 24-year-old says the post was about his life goals in general, but it could have just as well applied specifically to Saturday’s Ultra-Trail Australia 100km race in the Blue Mountains.
Although he has only been running ultra-marathons for three years, Capell stormed home to comprehensively defeat a well-credentialed international field of elite athletes in Australia’s biggest and most prestigious trail running event. In his broken English, Capell exclaimed at the Scenic World finish line in Katoomba: “I don’t believe it. This is a dream. I dream about this. I think this was amazing.”
He finished in 9:20:14 ahead of Australia’s Ben Duffus in 9:39:25 and Yun Yanqiao of China in 9:42:09.
The pair share a sponsor in Compressport and after Capell arrived in Australia last Sunday Hawker took him for several training runs out on the course.
Hawker’s performance was also impressive. He came second in last year’s UTA 100 but then had to take a long break from trail running on the advice of fertility specialists to help his wife fall pregnant. This was his first major race since returning to training late last year.
Capell, who calls Barcelona home, turned his win into a political statement, wrapping himself in the flag of Catalonia at the finish line. He explained that while he loves Spain, he passionately believes that his native Catalonia region should be an independent nation.
United States runner Mario Mendoza led the 100km race for the first half from a United Nations of top 10 runners that also featured representatives from South Africa, France, Lithuania, Australia, China and of course Hawker’s New Zealand and Capell’s Spain.
Around the half-way mark of the race a small pursing pack eventually caught Mendoza and went past him, with Capell out in front for the final 42 kilometres as he built up his ultimately winning margin of 19 minutes.
Mendoza pulled out of the race at the Fairmont in Leura, citing stomach problems that started to bite as he descended the Giant Staircase at Katoomba. “My stomach is in knots and I cannot get anything in, there is nothing I can do,” he said.
In the women’s 100km field, it was Aussie, Aussie Aussie in the lead in the early stages thanks to the efforts of Gill Fowler, Beth Cardelli and Amy Lamprecht. Cardelli, who also won the UTA 100 in 2010, 2012 and 2013, went on to claim her third title in a time of 11:16:14 ahead of New Zealand’s Fiona Hayvice.
Saturday’s 100km and 50km UTA races were both sellouts, with each boasting about 1500 runners. On a postcard perfect autumn day, they got to run over some of the iconic features of the Blue Mountains landscape: Narrow Neck, Jamison Valley, Dunphys Camp, the Six Foot Track, Megalong Valley, Kings Tableland, Ironpot Ridge, Kedumba Pass, Giant Staircase, Golden Stairs, Furber Steps, Prince Henry Clifftop Track, Federal Pass, Dardenelles Pass, Tarros Ladder, Valley of the Waters.
Sydney-based Kiwi Mark Green streaked away to climb up the Furber Steps out of the Jamison Valley and win the men’s 50km title by a remarkable 23 minutes. His time of 4:24:30 was less than a minute outside the race record and he was delighted to have achieved his goal of breaking four and a half hours. “It was fun, but it hurt a lot,” Green said. “I kept expecting someone to catch me.”
The remarkable Australian runner Hanny Allston, a world orienteering champion, similarly dominated the women’s 50km field, finishing in 5:08:15 and 17 minutes ahead of second place. Her effort also placed her ninth in the race overall. Allston put in such a big race that she was sobbing in a world of pain after crossing the finish line.
On the Thursday, Green and and his three young children also competed in the new Scenic World UTA951 up the Furber Steps. He proved that taking on the stairs event doesn’t mean you can’t quickly backup to win one of the longer UTA races.