What has been described as one of the toughest marathons in Australia, if not the world, is held each March in the Blue Mountains, Katoomba, NSW, Australia, sandwiched between the brutal bush fire season and Easter. With more than 30 years of experience under its belt, this is the premier trail Marathon in Australia, and it is expected that the full quota of 850 runners will start each year's event. The runners will run along the Six Foot Track, a bridle trail originally cut in 1884 starting from the Historic "Marked Tree" at Katoomba to the Jenolan Caves, a distance of 45 kms.
The gruelling race was launched in March 1984 to mark the centenary of the opening of this historic track. Since the first race, which fielded a mere seven runners, the event has attracted much acclaim for its toughness, its stunning scenery, challenging conditions and great camaraderie. The event now attracts a field of local, national and international entrants who travel from as far as Germany, New Zealand, Japan, Ireland, England and the USA.
They come from all walks of life - business people to triathletes with many runners returning year after year. Females account for 20-25% of the field and this is increasing yearly. The event is arduous, do not be mistaken, but is a great challenge for all. There are steep hills to go up and down, and the mighty Cox's River to cross. There is dirt and dust, and heat and humidity, as the event is at the tail-end of the long hot Australian summer.
Seventeen Aid stations and logistics support is ably carried out by the NSW Rural Fire Service. They do a great job, and all proceeds of the race go the NSW Rural Fire Service Brigades in the Blue Mountains, approx $50,000 to $60,000 each year and the Six Foot Track Heritage Trust, who provide upkeep of the track we love so much.
Runners finish at Caves House, at the spectacular Jenolan Caves to much hollering and hooting from fellow runners and friends, the atmosphere is something to be experienced.
Entrants are given 7 hours to finish the marathon with the average runner taking 5hrs 30 mins or more. The fastest times for the grueling endurance course were achieved by Stu Gibson and Hanny Alston who clocked up times of just 3:14:14 and 3:34:50 respectively in 2015.
We all have a great day, the runners, the NSW Rural Fire Service and the Six Foot Track.
History of the Six Foot Track
The Six Foot Track Marathon is not just held between two random points on a map - it follows a defined trail that has been there over many years and has its own history. The track is close to the Blue Mountains National Park (now a World Heritage Site) although the track is generally on Crown Lands. The Blue Mountains themselves have been inhabited for thousands of years, although evidence of this is hard to see unless you venture away from the main towns of the area into the bush. The Blue Mountains play a key part in early exploration attempts by white settlers in more recent times.
You can learn more about the history of the track and the wider area, by clicking on the links below :
- Pre-European Settlement in the Blue Mountains
- Early-European Exploration in the Blue Mountains
- The Six Foot Track
- Walking the Six Foot Track in 1912
- The Marked Explorer's Tree (Official starting position of the race)
History of the Marathon
The best article about the history of the race would be by Max Bogenhuber, one of the original sixfooters: