6-Foot Track Spectators Race Report by Chris Byrne

Simon crept out of the dorm room at around 4.30am ready to catch the bus to the start of the race. I

knew he was excited but also very nervous- me too.


The 6 Foot track is arguably one of the hardest trail “marathons” in Australia- it starts at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, 2 hours from Sydney and runs through the original trail that visitors used to
get to the Jenolan Caves 45km away. It’s called the 6 foot track because this is how wide the path
was.

 

It’s very very hilly (it is through the mountains!) very technical- river crossings, trails etc. and
therefore demanding- hence Simons nerves. My nerves also included him getting lost!

 

Usually at these events it can be tricky to entertain 2 small kids, but the Jenolan caves resort was really easy. You enter the little village, through a seriously huge cave, so there were a few places to
explore here. The main building there looks just like an Alpine lodge. I was really expecting to hear some kind of snow bells.

Our morning walk in the cold fresh mountain air took in a huge kangaroo, (who looked like he had
just taken his breakfast from the bins at the back of the hotel!) Then on our short wander along the
river we were lucky enough to watch a platypus swimming around too.

But back to the race;

I’m very good at arriving at the finish line after Simon does whether competing or spectating. This
time I made sure that I’d be there first.

We set ourselves up with snacks in a shady spot and realised this was actually an excellent vantage
point. You can see the runners coming down the hill in front of you for quite some distance. Watch
them meander round a couple of turns before dropping out of sight, where they encounter some
steps and emerge 25 meters from the line. This means that from a spectator’s point of view, there is
a lot to see, and get excited about. Plus the surroundings are really beautiful.

The cheer went up as the first runner ran strongly down the hill, to finish in a time of around 3hrs
26 mins. My shouts and cheers of encouragement were a little lost when my voice broke and
tears filled my eyes- I confess to getting very emotional when I see someone finish a race or win
something like this.

The next 10 or so runners also looked strong and fast at the finish, and some random walkers also on
the route were very encouraging, cheering and running down the hill with the competitors for fun.

Then we watched someone with a totally different finishing style- agony! This guy was tip-toeing
down the hill, his body going ridged with each step. Witnessing this brought home how hard
this race is. This competitor was still finishing sub 4 hours-(as long as he made it down the last
250meters), but the pain it was causing could be seen very clearly.

The next few runners were a mix of these finishing styles, and I started to worry how Simon would
be coming down the trail and how long he would take.

I have to add at this point, that I did not imagine for a second that Kelley would look like she was in
any pain when she finished.

I suddenly spotted him, recognised the shorts and yelled out “Come on Simon!” I saw his pace pick
up, and was really happy to see he looked great. I picked up Stella my 2 year old and ran to the
line to meet him, he flew across in a time of 4hrs 16. He was hoping he could maybe do a sub 4hrs
30mins, so I knew he would be over the moon with this.

He looked great style wise, but on closer inspection I noted the grey/green look of his skin, usual in
these endurance races. We congratulated him and fed him and got ready to watch Kelley come in.
Alvin and the boys headed down to the line and we took to the balcony, joining in the cheers and
yells as competitors came in. There were teams holding hands across the line, others in more agony,
some falling into the wall as they came down the steps. Then came Kelley, as expected looking
strong and fast.

We cheered her in, her boys grabbed her on the line, Simon and I turned to each other and laughed
as we noticed the tears in the other’s eyes- geez yes emotional stuff. We ran down to congratulate
Kel and she had welled up too.

All around finishers are chatting, drinking beers and enjoying the satisfaction of completion.
Everywhere you go everyone is talking about the hills. This hill, the next one, and so one. It’s a great
atmosphere. The crowds are getting bigger as more people finish and the shouts are getting louder
as more start digging into the post run carb load…. BEER!

Everyone stays for the presentations and it’s like a party in the street, kids are playing, there are no
cars and everyone has a sense of pride either in themselves or their friends or family. An excellent
day.

Would I ever do this race? Not a chance, but I’d definitely go watch it again.