IRONMAN star Laura Siddall took to trail running like a duck to water today, winning the Macpac Motatapu Off-Road Marathon from Ultra-Running superstar Lucy Bartholomew, doing so just a week after finishing 4th at Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand in Taupo.
The men’s event was won by British athlete Ewan Cameron, from previous winner Vajin Armstrong (Christchurch) and Hamish Elliott (Oamaru).
It was the women’s race that grabbed the attention though, with Bartholomew (Australia) backing up after a fall saw her unable to finish yesterday’s Ultra-Run and with Siddall backing up not only from IRONMAN, but from yesterday’s Mountain Bike event, this was a clash between two of the more committed athletes on the planet, while it was another Aussie in Claire Rayner keeping the two leaders honest throughout to finish a close third.
Bartholomew held the early lead as Siddall literally tried to find her feet on the unfamiliar terrain, but the longer the race went, the more comfortable she felt, and just after halfway took a lead she would not relinquish.
“That is totally new and that is why I had no expectation, I didn’t look at my watch once,” said Siddall. “There was no pacing, I just took off to see how I would go and see what the legs were doing, I honestly thought it might be a walk-run. The legs didn’t feel too bad though, I had my Go-Pro out and was enjoying it but found the further it went along I was picking off a few men and women in front and suddenly got to just near halfway and got to the top of a really steep pitch and someone shouted – ‘the lead female is just up the trail’. At that point I thought just keep doing what you are doing and making up time.”
Siddall found some benefit in riding the same course on the mountain bike yesterday.
“Riding yesterday was good, I knew the terrain and that helped. I was worried about that middle grassy section, it was a bit of a mental dead spot but today that was fine. I just aimed for the final descent thinking it was all downhill from there – which it isn’t of course.
“But I have never done any trail running like this, and never in this environment and over 42k, but you just can’t stop smiling when you are out there, it is just stunning.”
Bartholomew is one of the world’s leading Ultra-Runners and despite the fall yesterday, she was determined to contribute to the Macpac Motatapu over the two days.
“I was stoked to see a finish line! Yesterday didn’t go to plan so it was nice to still be a part of the event. That is the beauty of the two-day event is you get the chance to go again the next day.
“Compared to the Ultra it is a lot faster with a lot more running. It was a nice challenge for me, and I enjoyed sharing the trail with others on the final kilometres and cheering them on. The river crossings are always nice to freeze your legs so you can’t feel them!”
The men’s race was an even closer battle, with little between Cameron, Armstrong and Elliott throughout. The margin of just 13 seconds one of the tightest in the event’s storied history.
“That was tough, really tough. I didn’t know what time I would run today but the trail was good, I didn’t realize how many fiords of rivers were in it, it seemed like every corner there was another one, what a beautiful challenge, I really enjoyed it,” said Cameron.
“Vajin was edging closer most of the way, I kept trying to put a gap on him but we were close most of the time. He kept me on my toes, there was no complacency, especially through the rivers when I wasn’t sure if I had picked up some rocks in my shoes or not – but it was just the cold water leaving my feet numb!”
2018 winner and three-time champion, Armstrong is a regular on Macpac Motatapu from his home in Christchurch and loved the event again, especially with the move to the two-day format.
“It was beautiful conditions, not too hot and nice not having to run through the back of the mountain bike field, we had the course to ourselves which was beautiful. I ran about the same time as last year, but this is always a beautiful weekend in Arrowtown at this time of the year, I love coming back.”
Meanwhile it was race records galore in the other two events on offer today, the 8.5km Sawpit Trail and the 15km Miners Trail and it was the locals doing most of the damage.
Richard Ford (Bannockburn) set a new mark in the Miners Trail of 1:11:33 while Queenstown’s Sarah Douglas broke her own 2016 record with a new best time of 1:19:39.
It was a similar story in the Sawpit Trail, with defending champion and record holder Benje Patterson (Queenstown) flying home to take 1:26 off his previous race record, while in the women’s Sawpit it was a win for Catherine Calverley (Christchurch, setting a new mark of 48:54 in the process.
Receiving one of the loudest ovations on the day though was John Falconer (Gore), as the 86-year-old cross the line in the Miners Trail in 2:53:32 to claim the Max McDermid Memorial Trophy as the oldest participant in the Miners Trail – he was in fact the oldest in the entire Macpac Motatapu event.
“I had just enough to get over the line today. It was quite good really, I was pretty good uphill, no one passed me uphill, but the runners would pass me downhill.
“I have been doing the Motatapu for a few years but had to have my knee replaced so missed a couple, but I am back into it this year. I have done different events before. It is great, great company and people as you walk along, it is a wonderful occasion. It would be better if you had more time to look at the scenery as well. I enjoyed it though.”
Falconer suggested this might be his swansong at the event, but you wouldn’t count him out for 2020.
“I think retirement from this game might be next, but what a wonderful day for it today, weather wise we couldn’t have had a better day. Family will be in Christchurch waiting to hear how I have got on, some of them have done the walk before as well.”
Across the two days of the Macpac Motatapu, nearly 4,000 participants took part in six events, coming from 22 different countries and from right around New Zealand as they took in the stunning Queenstown Lakes District and the finish line festival at Wilcox Green in Arrowtown to celebrate the 15-year anniversary of this iconic global multi-sport event.
Full results available at www.motatapu.com
Off-Road Marathon (42km)
1 Ewan Cameron, GBR, 3:00:22
2 Vajin Armstrong, NZL (Christchurch), 3:00:35
3 Hamish Elliott, NZL, (Oamaru), 3:07:03
1 Laura Siddall, GBR, 3:26:56
2 Lucy Bartholomew, AUS, 3:39:56
3 Claire Rayner, AUS, 3:42:50
Miners Trail (15km
1 Richard Ford, NZL (Bannockburn), 1:11:33 (new race record)
2 Oliver O’Sullivan, NZL (Dunedin), 1:12:20
3 Liam Anderson, NZL (Queenstown), 1:13:52
1 Sarah Douglas, NZL (Queenstown), 1:19:39 (new race record)
2 Rebecca Sheffield, NZL (Queenstown), 1:21:40
3 Claire Bell, NZL (Te Anau), 1:30:02
Sawpit Trail (8.5km)
1 Benje Patterson, NZL (Queenstown), 37:18 (new race record)
2 Guy Bonner, NZL (Dunedin), 39:58
3 Jonathan Miller, NZL (Alexandra), 40:25
1 Catherine Calverley, NZL (Christchurch) 48:54 (New race record)
2 Izzy Gill, NZL (Auckland), 49:19
3 Lara Gasson, NZL (Wellington), 50:34
For full results CLICK HERE