Richard Ussher Nets 3rd Classic Title at Routeburn
Richard Ussher Nets Third Classic Title at Gripping Routeburn Race
A field of 117 runners assembled at The Divide, near Te Anau, for yesterday’s chilly but dry 8am start to the Routeburn Classic Adventure Run.
Earlier in the week the likelihood of snow posed the biggest threat but on Saturday only a smattering was visible. Ice proved to be the greatest challenge, with an event marshall positioned at the highest point of 1,255 metres describing the scene as “like ballerinas on ice.”
Despite serious contention during the race for the Classic top spot, two-time Routeburn Classic winner Richard Ussher achieved a hat-trick, placing first with a time of 2:57:05. Martin Cox from the UK placed second with a time of 3:09:16 and third over the line was Jim Hawkridge from Queenstown in 3:13:15.
First female over the line, setting a new women’s record was Elina Maki Rautila from Finland who completed the race in 3:30:58 – shaving two minutes and two seconds off Jeni Addams’ best time in 2002. Second placed female was Samantha Sigle from Christchurch in 3:38:39, followed by Melanie Smith from Arrowtown with a time of 3:49:20 in third place.
The third Routeburn Classic wasn’t short on drama.
Cox took off with a very strong start and was leading for around the first third of the 38km race. Ussher was catching up fast, however, and as Cox passed the Mackenzie Hut at the 12km point, Ussher was just three minutes behind.
By the time the pair reached the highest point of the race at the Harris Saddle, Cox had been overtaken by Ussher on the steep terrain and then held an initial 51 second lead, which opened up as the race continued.
When Cox reached the Routeburn Flats Hut some six and a half kilometres out from the finish line, Ussher had gained a seven minute lead.
A brief battle for second place followed as Queenstowner Jim Hawkridge overtook Cox for a short period of time, before Cox stepped up and regained second place.
“It’s been a fantastic day. Great weather and the ice on some of the track added to the challenge for our field of inspiring athletes. The battle for first place between two world class athletes was thrilling,” said Event Director Evan McWhirter of Good Times Events.
“The script wasn’t written and everybody had different ideas about who would take the 06 Classic title. The lead exchanges added to the suspense between check points.
“Every athlete from the first to the last to cross the line can tell you a story of their epic battle in the national park between man, woman and nature. This is an experience nobody will be forgetting – and their bodies certainly won’t let them over the next week!
“It’s these dedicated people, the breathtaking and challenging course, and natural elements that make the future very compelling for the 07 Classic,” McWhirter said.
The training and work that every athlete in the field put in to complete this event was noted by veteran St Johns Ambulance representative Jill Kingston.
“The athletes at the race were all in superb condition. They were obviously well prepared and trained appropriately for a serious mountain running event. It was impressive to see everybody cross the line and remain on their feet, smiling,” said Kingston.
Having never raced against Cox before, Ussher was happy with his finish and said he was feeling pretty good, but conceded that “the ice on the track did make things a bit tricky and I reckon it slowed the whole race down by around ten minutes.”
“On the flat there’s really no competition between Martin and me – he’s a much faster runner. I tried to stay as close to him as I could and it was fortunate for me that the conditions were quite slippy and more what I’m used to,” Ussher said.
The Routeburn Classic was sponsored by Venture Southland, Outside Sports, Q Lounge, Heliworks, Routeburn Guided Walks and Kingsgate Hotel, Te Anau.
Peak Performers Men (18-39yrs)
1 Richard Ussher, Nelson 2:57:05
2 Martin Cox, UK 3:09:16
3 Jim Hawkridge, Queenstown 3:13:15
Peak Performers Women
1 Elina Maki Rautila, Finland 3:30:58
2 Samantha Sigle, Christchurch 3:38:39
3 Melanie Smith, Arrowtown 3:49:20
1 Mark Moores, Auckland 4:08:25
2 Peter Tuck, Auckland 4:09:24
3 Blair Burmingham, Dunedin 4:09:34
Masters Women (40-49yrs)
1 Karen Ryan, Christchurch 4:46:48
2 Corina Somerville, Winton 4:49:54
3 Mary Dimond, Christchurch 4:56:05
Legends Men (50-59yrs)
1 Barry Mackie, Alexandra 4:00:43
2 Tony Stewart, Cromwell 4:03:48
3 Mike Baker, Auckland 4:06:53
Legends Women (50-59yrs)
1 Robina Bodle, Queenstown 5:00:04
2 Jude Green, Queenstown 5:07:56
3 Jill Wilson, Oamaru 7:09:04