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New Zealand’s Ruth Croft Wins Women’s UTA50 Title At Ultra-trail Australia

Ruth Croft winning the women’s UTA50 title. Photo by Tim Bardsley-Smith 

New Zealand’s Ruth Croft has claimed the women’s UTA50 title at Ultra-Trail Australia in the Blue Mountains, with Australia’s Tom Brimelow winning the men’s race.

The two runners came out on top across the 50km course, which included 2,450m of elevation gain, with Croft finishing in 4:52:09 and Brimelow in 4:35:44.

Croft only arrived in Australia on Thursday evening but quickly got up to speed with the country’s largest trail running event, taking victory by almost five minutes.

Croft spent most of the 50 kilometres neck and neck with Sydney’s Paige Linegar, who finished in 4:56:49, with the two opening up a lead on the rest of the female competitors a third of the way through the race, with Anna McKenna third in 5:12:22.

“I’m pretty knackered to be honest, it was a tough day, especially the last 7km where I struggled pretty bad,” said Croft. “I kind of held back a bit at the start, there were four of us female runners together and then at about the 17km aid station I tried to make a bit of a move.

“I wasn’t really sure how far Paige was behind me and then after the long descent, and then the climb out of the long descent I remember looking over my shoulder and I saw Paige so for the last 7km I was running scared,” she said. “I kept looking over my shoulder because I wasn’t climbing that strong today, so I was lucky just before the stairs it was a bit more runnable so I think that’s where I was able to get a gap.”

This year’s Ultra-Trail Australia was Croft’s first visit to the event, with the New Zealander enjoying the opportunity to take on a new course.

“Everyone talks about the stairs and I didn’t think they would be that bad but actually after 48km in the legs and that last climb up it was pretty tough,” said Croft. “It’s awesome to be able to come across and do this race, in Australia and New Zealand we’ve been pretty lucky with our situations so it’s been good to have races going on in New Zealand and then come over to Australia and have another normal race experience.

“It’s just been a good race for me as I’ve been doing mainly road running so it’s been good to get the legs back into the trails and I really enjoyed it out there and it was my first chance to run the Blue Mountains,” she said.

Brimelow made his move for the win with just over a kilometre to go, taking the lead as he made his way up the infamous Fuber Steps, the 951 stairs to the finish at Scenic World.

Luke Taylor was second in 4:37:36, with Gerald Macpherson 30 seconds further back after leading for much of the race.

“I’m completely buggered, but super excited and it was amazing,” said Brimelow. “I felt like I was a long way back at the start but my pacing kind of felt about right. I was looking at my splits and I was a bit slower than I was a couple of years ago but I just kept on trying to keep the effort steady and was just reeling people in.

“I was pretty content to be coming third and then saw Courtney Atkinson walking at the last checkpoint and knew I only had one to catch and I thought I’d keep on pushing and keep on trying and at least get a second but I was pretty happy to catch him at the bottom of the stairs there,” he said. “It was about 1.5km to go, Gerald was walking and it was a fairly flat section and I thought as long as I keep moving I should be ok and just tried to keep moving up those stairs and keep dragging myself up.

“It’s amazing, to get second last time I was very happy with that and thought it would be hard to top, it’s such a big event, it’s the marque event, certainly the one I put the most importance on in the training, it was brilliant,” said Brimelow.

More than 2,000 runners took to the start line of UTA50, with the race a part of the four day trail running festival, the country’s largest event of its kind.

Racing at the 2021 Ultra-Trail Australia began on Thursday 13 May with UTA11, with UTA22 held on Friday and UTA50 and UTA100 on Saturday 15 May.

For more information on Ultra-Trail Australia visit https://www.ultratrailaustralia.com.au/

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