Origins and history of the Six Foot Track Marathon
by Max Bogenhuber (1994)
Having run every one of the Six Foot Track runs, I feel that I probably know as much about the race as anyone alive, bar Ian Hutchison, the guy that got it all off the ground in the first place.
For that first run, on the 24th of March 1984, only seven people faced the starting gun, which was fired by Peter Quirk, the Blue Mountains City Mayor.
Little did we all know that day what we were in for. None of us had ever run a trail race of this length and toughness before. There was Ian (the organizer), Big Chris Stephenson (who would in later years share a lot of Ian's workload), Ian Taylor (who later became the organizer of the Bathurst 50 miler), Bob Marsbar Marden (who would be declared winner of the race), Bill Miller (a friend of Ian Taylor's), George Fitzgerald (of the running nuns fame) and myself.
Lucky for us, the weather was pretty cool that day, and up on the Black Range it was downright cold. At times we had a little drizzle. A good day for a long run. But we had no aid stations, no water bottles, and really no idea where the trail went.
We stuck together most of the way as, apart from Ian, nobody knew the way, which would trip us up a couple of times. In those days there were no trail markings as there are now. You either knew the way, or you got lost. So we were all glad we had Ian along, our intrepid guide.
Once we got to the top of the Black Range, Bob, Big Chris and myself got away from the others, knowing that we only had to follow the road from now onwards. But things were getting rather tough. As this was supposed to be a marathon we had expected to be out there for about three hours or so, but we had already spent more than that on our legs and were nowhere near the tar road, which starts about 36k into the race. Bob pulled out a barley sugar lolly and we decided that we should share it, so he suggested that he suck it for a while, then hand on to one of us, an offer we both declined.
Drinking water was non-existent along the way, so at times we drank out of the puddles on the side of road. It tastes alright when you are really thirsty, as we all were, and it didn't kill us. Eat your hearts out all you bottled water drinkers, real men drink from the side of the road.
I really can't remember how long it took us to get to the tar road, but I do know that I was mighty glad when I saw the car, with the women (Ian's wife Judy, Big Helen and I can't remember if there was anyone else) in it. Like all good women, they were glad to see us and had water and bananas at the ready. I was very, very close to throwing the towel in at this point, but pride got the better of me I suppose, so I soldiered on with Bob and Big Chris, with Bob winning the race in 5:26
We had all learned a valuable lesson in trail running and we swore that we would be back next year, which most of us managed to do.
The 1985 run saw 45 starters, '86 had 68, '87 had 113, '88 had 142, '89 had 173, '90 had 242, '91 had 288, '92 had 308.
The run has undoubtedly become Australia's premier trail race. The sheer number of competitors attest to that. No race develops like that without a lot of work by the person or persons organizing the event and it is a real credit to both, Ian and Big Chris, for the management of the race. But it is solely thanks to Ian's idea that we now have this race on our calendar.
Some years the weather played havoc with the run and the event could have easily been ruined by that, had it not been managed properly. In '85 (when the race was run in the opposite direction) and '86 we had the two hottest years, with temperatures up in the high 30's. Then in '89 we had a lot of rain leading up to the race and there were ropes across Cox's River, to stop people being washed away.
There have been injuries to runners and people suffering from all sorts of race induced ailments, but as always, the competitors were looked after, right down to the showers at Caves House, at the finish. All these things don't just happen, they have to be thought of and implemented by the people that organize the race.
To me, the Six Foot Track will always be a special race, it has a great atmosphere, it's tough and it requires more training than any 'normal' marathon. So no matter who manages the event, I will never forget the origin of the race. It all started with an idea that Ian had, an idea that he so successfully brought to fruition. And I would like to thank Ian for that, for giving us a great challenge and a great race.