My time: 15:48:51 (2017). Bad weather proceeding UTA in 2017 meant the course was significantly different to the normal route.
I have to do UTA again. I am just reminding myself of that. Why? In 2017 there was a tonne of rain the night before so they re-routed the course. I must say, the organisers and volunteers pulled that off incredibly well. So I best go back and do it again one day. Enough of that, UTA is the biggest trail event in Oz. The shorter courses sell out in a few hours, the 100 maybe in a day or 2. It is mind-boggling how much this event has grown. If your ideal event is well run, has a lot of people, makes you feel like a rock star at the finish, has amazing scenery and is challenging – then you could argue it is the best. It’s a moot point, each to their own. What I do know is, is it is a buzz to be a part of.
What’s the overall vibe like?
As mentioned – off the charts. The runner’s list is huge, the crowd equally so. You have moments without much support, it is 100km after all. But gee, the finish line is insane. You do feel like a rock star. It’s big, bold and incredibly well run.
What’s the course like?
I’ll talk to the normal course as I know most of it, except for Iron Pt Ridge. I’ve never set foot there, so go do it (in the race only as it is private land) and let us know what it’s like. Scenic World is where it kicks off and finishes. After a short pipe opener around the streets, you head down Furber Steps. Breathe it in, because in however many hours later, you will climb these as your last km. On a nice day, the views going down are sweet. Waterfalls close by, views across the valley and views of 100s of runners in front of you, as you congo and talk shite along the bottom. Scramble over the rocks, climb the Golden Stairs and you can goose-step your way down Narrowneck with a bit more freedom. The congo can be frustrating, though it does keep you in control early on. so embrace it and accept that it is part of the deal with an event this size. Narrowneck is a wide dirt road, a few bumps up and down. Speed goats can fly, the rest of us can jog most of it. Heading down the Taros Ladder is fun. More fun with fewer people around. Expect a bottleneck, it is what it is. After this, you can run free for the rest of my friends, so have some banter and relax. Once off the ladder, it’s single trail descent before fire trail to Dunphys with a small climb thrown in.
(this was not in the race. Race day they have ladders and people)
After Dunphys it is Iron Pot Ridge. Apparently it’s cool with didgeridoos and some technical stuff. One day. Off there and onto the 45km checkpoint. The running to hear is a bit of climbing a bit of a running, all dirt road pretty much. Afterwards you have runnable stuff until the Nellies Glen climb. This is steep, has wet rocky steps and is not that long, though it does pack a punch. Off the top, it is rolling over to the Aquatic Centre where there is a huge crowd all helping their runners out. Have a rest, you’re over halfway. After this stop, it is a real head wrecker across the stairs, cliff tops, up an down, slow going until you get to Leura. Have a drink then a bit more of the same through Wentworth Falls. These 2 sections may do your nut in, so pay close attention to the awesomeness of your environment. Stunning, in the way that only the Blue Mountains can be. Prior to the 78km checkpoint, you have a run along the side of the road. Not much to report here. Arriving at the old Queen Vic Hospital site is exhilarating. You’re almost done, except you’re not. On fresh legs, the Kedumba descent can hurt. On tired, broken legs, it will turn them to mince. Down, down, down you go, through a beautiful forest, for many kms – 7 or 8 maybe. It’s pain city down that way. At the bottom, you have a bit of a climb for a couple of km on the dirt road before you get back into some beautiful single trail rain forest style running. Boom boom. Let rip because at the end of this it’s only 1km to go. 1km straight up that is, but it is only 1km. You’ll hear the roar of the crowd on the way up. Your legs will be pumping hard, your chest heaving and you’ll be hardly moving. Love it. Poke your head out the top and it is like been born again. Soak up the finish line, high 5 everyone, grab a kid and run with it, whatever – it’s one of the best feelings in the world.
What are the aid stations like? Big and plenty on offer and good crowds. Expect a bag check along the way, so don’t be a dick, take all your gear.
How well marked is the course? Amazingly well marked. Even when the re-routed it.
What’s the parking like? Stay in the area and get to one of the buses they have on offer. They do have parking but save yourself the hassle if you can.
Is it good for spectators? The first chance they get to see you is at the Aquatic Centre. Then you can see them at Leura and Queen Vic (can get busy here with cars). They’ll be right, they will find you and have a good day out.
What was the weather like? Usually ok, but we had a soak leading up to it. Mountain runs are hard to predict, pack for everything.
Where can I stay? Try and stay in Katoomba or Leura. Blackheath not too far away. The Blue Mountains on AirBNB
Where can I eat? There is food available at the finish, or head into Katoomba, plenty of choices.
How do I get there? Drive from Sydney or get the train to Katoomba – though it is a long train ride.
Final thoughts It’s big, there’s a lot of people, it is well run in a stunning place. Do it, at least once, it will have you buzzing for days. It sells out fast for a reason.