Paralympian to tackle 50km UTA trail run on crutches in the rain

Rain forecast for Saturday is going to make Paralympic champion Michael Milton’s first ultra-marathon in the Blue Mountains even more tough.

Paralympian Michael Milton training in the Blue Mountains in March when there was torrential rain. He's competing in Saturday's UTA 50km race on crutches.

Paralympian Michael Milton training in the Blue Mountains in March when there was torrential rain. He's competing in Saturday's UTA 50km race on crutches.

Milton is competing in the 50km Ultra-Trail Australia race in the Upper Mountains on crutches, and is most concerned about how his hands will hold up on the course for 10-12 hours.

“My hands take a battering when I run, even in normal conditions. But in the wet the thick calluses I have from walking on crutches daily become soft and the skin starts to break down. It can be very painful,” he said.

He plans to carry a few changes of gloves and some peanut butter and honey sandwiches.

“The science says I use twice the calories per kilometre running on crutches so I need some real food to give me some healthy energy boosts. I’ll be looking forward to the occasional cup of tea at the rest stops too if I get cold,” Milton said.

The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting rain on Friday and Saturday in Katoomba. 

Milton and his running mate James Crook, also from Canberra, have experience running in the rain in the Blue Mountains.

In March during a training weekend, they spent 11 hours running in torrential rain over two days.

“It poured the whole weekend. Parts of the course were inaccessible due to swollen creeks and stairs were turned into waterfalls. I’d never seen anything like it,” Milton said.

“We were wet from head to foot the whole time. It turned out to be quite an adventure. It was still warm and, although we were drenched, we had a lot of fun.”

The rain and water really slowed the pair down but they consoled each other thinking that race day in May was likely to be dry.

“We really thought we’d had our dose of running in the rain. Now we’re back to talking about running in the wet. Plus it could be a lot colder this time,” Milton said.

Ultra-Trail Australia (UTA) is the southern hemisphere’s biggest trail running event. There are five different races: the gruelling 100km and 50km trail runs, the Pace Athletic UTA 22km event, the 1.2km stair climb – Scenic World UTA951, and the free Injinji 1km-4- kids trail run.

Milton is a five-time Paralympian and one of only a few who have competed at both the winter and summer Games. He’s won 12 international gold medals, half of them at a Paralympic Games.

He holds the open Australian speed skiing record at over 213km/hr, ran the Gold Coast Marathon on crutches, has walked Kokoda twice and scaled Kilimanjaro.

On Saturday, if the weather doesn’t stop him in his tracks, he will become the first person with one leg to complete a UTA race.

While acknowledging it will be difficult, Milton is looking forward to the challenge.

“No doubt the UTA50 will be tough; it’s an enormous endurance test, physically and mentally. But after months of training I’m excited to get going, even if it is raining,” he said.