What has been described as "the toughest marathon 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 25 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 15% 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 $40,000 to $50,000 each year and the Six Foot Track Heritage Trust, who provide upkeep of the track we love so much.
At the start, there is traditional Billy Tea, with Damper and syrup - "Cocky's Joy". 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 time the grueling endurance course was achieved by local Blue Mountains runner Ben Artup who clocked up a time of just 3 hours 15 mins in 2009.
We all have a great day, the runners, the NSW Rural Fire Service and the Six Foot Track.