It was an electric finish in the punishing North Face 100 over the weekend.
The brutal 100km trail running event that takes in Narrow Neck, Nellies Glen, Megalong Valley, Jamison Valley, Kings Tableland, Kedumba Pass, The Six Foot Track and Echo Point ended in Scenic World with only two seconds separating first and second placegetters Hobart’s Stu Gibson and Sydney’s Andrew Tuckey in a jaw-dropping sprint to the finish line.
Gibson led for most of the race, but Tuckey closed in on him in the final 10kms. At the finish line Gibson said, “I knew he was catching me. It was the hardest 10 kilometres I’ve ever run.”
At the 57km mark Gibson was 10 minutes in front, by 78kms Tuckey had bridged the gap by seven minutes — nine hours from the start and 100kms behind them, both with burning calves, Gibson maintained his lead to cross the line first with seconds separating the pair.
Woodford’s Brendan Davies was unable to hold on to his title from last year and finished in third spot.
“I tried hard to keep the title in the Blueys,” Davies said on Facebook. “But Stu Gibson and Andrew Tuckey were superb. Stu took the ascendency early and held on, holding off Andrew Tuckey in a sprint finish. Tuckey must be the best closer in Australia!”
Davies, the Blue Mountains sportsperson of the year, said he was “stoked to hold on to a podium place” after a hectic finish with fourth placegetter Jono O’Loughlin.
He finished 22 minutes behind the two front runners with a time of 9 hours 53 minutes (He ran the race in 9hrs 16 min in 2013 where the finish line was at the Fairmont Resort).
Other local runners to put in strong performances included Jo Brischetto who took second in the women’s 50km event, behind Jane Gordon and Bullaburra’s Anne Mackie, who finished first in her veteran age division.
When the North Face 100 was first held seven years ago, it attracted 170 runners. In this year’s event close to 2000 runners from across Australia and the world started, but more than 500 runners failed to finish the gruelling trailrunning race. Some 5000 supporters cheered them on at the finish line which, for some, took 26 hours in chilly overnight temperatures.
Half of the runners had “dipped their toe in the shallow end, with a 50km outing on legs that will certainly ache but ultimately not break” but close to a thousand people, had chased “the unknowable hurt, humour, physical impact and elation of The North Face 100km finish line,” said race director, Tom Landon-Smith.
The event had grown “beyond all reasonable expectation to become the Southern Hemisphere’s largest three-day festival of ultra marathon and trail running,” Landon-Smith said.
Organisers said the average person would “need to train in all terrain and all weather for upward of 20 hours per week for upwards of 12 months without thought of ever quitting or turning back” to compete in the event.
The extreme event which stretches into the night involves running across sandstone, gravel, creek-bed and leafy forest floor, plus daunting climbs stretching from valley depths to obscured clifftops more than 300 storeys above, finishes with a last lung-bursting 1000 steps.
The women’s 100 winners were Nuria Picas at 10:57:46, followed by Joelle Vaught at 11:45:15 and Fernanda Maciel in 11:47:52.