Race Report

by Xandra Dunn (2002)

This is an article I wrote on the Six Foot Track for my South African running club's newsletter. They are all serious mountain runners and I am hoping that some of them might come and run the race next year.

The Six Foot track follows the original path used by ox wagons to cross the Blue Mountains (approx 2 hrs drive from Sydney, Australia). This year was the second time I ran the 46.7km fully off-road course finishing in a time of 4 hours and 36 minutes; and for all those of you reading this and saying "pretty tatty", I would like to challenge you to come and run it next year and do better. Let me tell you more ..

You can also look up details for yourself on www.sixfoot.com. It's a good website and has a section where runners can add their comments about the race. Here is one taken at random:

"WOW !!! Stunning weather. Beautiful, beautiful scenery. Sensational organisation. The cheery guys and girls at every checkpoint. Superb organisation. Great atmosphere at the finish "

Well yes, the weather could have been called stunning if you are into running at a 27 degrees. I also can't question the comment on the scenery - quite breathtaking or would have been if all my breath hadn't been taken away already by the tough terrain. Definitely I can't question either the organisation or the checkpoints - seriously good, offering fruit, sweets, water and maxim along with lots of encouragement from the local bush fire volunteers who manned all the water stations. (A point on the side, is that they use polystyrene cups instead of plastic sachets, which restricts the litter to a couple of metres around each checkpoint.) As for the atmosphere at the finish, not sure about that one, I was brain and body dead at the time.

The course starts with a single file plummet into a gorge. The only people moving faster than a walk are those skidding down on their backs or on their chins. Not a pretty sight but worthwhile sound effects - screams from the victims, admiring remarks from the other runners. It then flattens and undulates scenically along a river - over a couple of stiles, stairs and hills but nothing serious. At 16kms the course crosses the Cox's river. Great, an opportunity to get rid of the kg of mud stuck to each shoe. Only problem was that I replaced it with 2kgs of sand inside each shoe as I waded across (if wade is the right word to use for being neck deep in a fast flowing river while hanging desperately onto a rope). After that its an 11km seemingly vertical climb out of the gorge. When I ran the Six Foot for the first time, I remember thinking "Look at those Aussies, such wimps, all walking". Ten seconds later there I was walking too. At the top of the mountain (27km mark), if you look at the map shown on the website, you might expect an easy run from this point on. You would be mistaken. It does level out a bit but there are still plenty of substantial uphills just waiting to remind you that you should have gone a lot easier over the first 16kms. In fact my friend, an experienced mountain biker, who cycled back along the track to meet me went straight over the handlebars on one such hill i.e. down for him, up for me. He, a veteran of numerous marathons, said of the course "F,,,, !!!!!"

To top it off, when you are expecting an easy downhill finish, you are met instead by a 2km descent down a perpendicular narrow rocky path - and when I say perpendicular, I mean it. I was clinging to the sidewall, trying not to look down at the drop off on the one side, with legs over which I had lost control some 10kms back. Sadly the lady behind me had legs of iron and flew down catching me half a km from the finish line which meant that I had to finish at a sprint knocking a group of old ladies flying as I dashed down the narrow zig zag path to the finish in true fishwife style, "Get the %*!#@* out of my way".

And what did I get for my pains? Aching muscles, the expected sense of humour failure - also a paperweight with an inscription saying something about my being an old lady. I will keep this to drop onto the toe of the first person who suggests that I run the race again next year. I might though if some of you come and run it with me. March 1st,2003 - for a truly wonderful race - would also be a great training run for Oceans (I ran a PB on Oceans 4 weeks after running the 6 Foot Track, 3 years ago). Any takers?

Xandra Dunn