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‘The vibe will be incredible’ – Ultra-Trail Australia branded as ‘one big party’


Ultra-Trail Australia by UTMB is the largest trail running event in the Southern Hemisphere and the second largest globally.

The event is back for its 15th edition this weekend and will see around 7,000 runners take on course through the stunning Blue Mountains in New South Wales.

Lucy Bartholomew has been a regular at Ultra-Trail Australia (UTA) down the years and won the 2017 UTA100, one of several impressive results throughout her career, which include a podium at the famed Western States 100 in 2018.

UTA tradition

She hailed the significance of the UTMB World Series race to her and thousands of others as she returns again in 2023: “I came to UTA as a 14-year-old, watching my dad run his first 100km. I returned on my 18th birthday to finish my first UTA mid-year 12.

Lucy Bartholomew at Ultra-Trail Australia by UTMB
Lucy Bartholomew at Ultra-Trail Australia by UTMB [Photo credit: UTMB / Kurt Matthews]

“I won the 100km on my 21st birthday, I won the 22km at 22 years old, and I have come second in the 50km and fourth in the 11km since. Fair to say, this race falls in tradition with my birthday.

“It means more to me than the buckles and the distance – it’s the community, and it feels like one big party.

The 26-year-old has endured a difficult build-up to this year’s Ultra-Trail Australia, suffering with illness following a training camp in Europe.

“I can’t say the last few weeks have filled me with confidence, but it has given me a lot of perspective on how grateful I am for a body to recover, get back into running and breathe through my nose again,” she said.

“I was fit before I got sick, and that hasn’t completely disappeared, I need to back my muscle memory and remain optimistic about the possibilities.”

Tarawera triumph

Bartholomew has a huge win to her name already in 2023, having triumphed at the Tarawera Ultramarathon, and she noted how her preparation for that race was also less than ideal.

“It feels like Tarawera was years ago,” she said. “That race was also run with not the smoothest build-up. It taught me a lot about controlling what I can and just focusing on each moment, not forecasting the future when you don’t know how things will be.

“I don’t expect the same day out there or the same feelings, but I know that I will be proud for showing up.

“Any win is extraordinary. No finish line is taken for granted, no matter the time on the clock when crossing it. I’ll be stoked to share the course with my brother running his first 100km.

“I might just try to beat him and win the Bartholomew-off, at least!”

Ultra-Trail Australia by UTMB
Ultra-Trail Australia by UTMB [Photo credit: UTMB]

Lou Clifton will be one of Bartholomew’s rivals in the women’s UTA100 this year, having finished third behind her Australian compatriot in 2017.

She was also keen to underline the unique attraction of Ultra-Trail Australia: “I am feeling really excited and nervous to be racing close to home and after a long gap, having last raced UTA100 in 2017 and coming third female.

“I love the course and Blue Mountains National Park is very special to me. It will be amazing to know so many other runners, supporters and volunteers.

“I think the vibe will be incredible.

“To win or podium again would be pretty mind blowing as I am six years older than my 2017 podium. If it happened, I would hope to inspire what is possible regardless of age and it would give me some confidence after a few years of injuries.

“It means the most to me to make my husband/crew and my incredible coach proud, whatever the result.”

Sparke sights

On the men’s side, Ronnie Sparke is a hot favourite in the UTA100 following his impressive 100km debut last December, which brought a second place at Ultra-Trail Kosciuszko by UTMB.

The Sydney-based runner explained that despite his inexperience over the distance, he has his sights set on a memorable win at Ultra-Trail Australia.

“I’m feeling great at the moment and ready to give UTA100 everything I have. Training has been going very well,” he said.

“Since the Six Foot Track Marathon in March, I have managed to get some very consistent training in, building up the weekly km’s and elevation nicely.

Ronnie Sparke at Ultra-Trail Kosciuszko by UTMB
Ronnie Sparke at Ultra-Trail Kosciuszko by UTMB [Photo credit: UTMB / Tim Bardsley-Smith]

“With some of the biggest weeks of running I have ever done, I’m ready to see if the hard work pays off.

“With this being my second 100km race ever, it’s still unknown territory for me so I want to keep an open mind. Of course my aim is to win, and I feel like I have put the work in to be able to do that.

“However, anything could happen on the day. I’m just looking forward to getting out on the course and testing myself over the distance/elevation and against some great competition.

“Winning UTA100 would mean the world to me.

“Trail running has recently consumed my life, which I love of course. I mean, I get to explore cool trails and spend hours and hours in beautiful places – it doesn’t get much better than that.

“But all of the training runs and trips to the mountains have been aimed at winning UTA100. So for the hard work to pay off and to get the result I desire, would be amazing.”

“A great weekend”

Mike Carroll is no stranger to the UTA100 top 10, having achieved the feat three times before, including a personal best fourth in 2022.

Despite his familiarity with the event, he is more eager than ever to compete, with the presence of his family providing added motivation this year.

“I’m so excited. This is my fifth UTA100 and it’s a great weekend to be a part of,” said Carroll. “UTA always attracts a strong field, I’ll try to do my own thing in the race and work to my strengths and we’ll see what happens.

“When I first started trail running seriously UTA100 was my first big goal. The Blue Mountains are spectacular and it’s a world class event. It’s also a great opportunity to catch up with a lot of the trail community and family.

“My parents make the trip to the Blue Mountains each year to crew me which is so much fun. Both my sisters are running the 22k this year and I can’t wait to cheer them on.

“My partner Ada and I have a daughter Willow, who will be experiencing her first UTA – she’s six months old and they will be there at the checkpoints. It can’t get much better than that.”

Olly Green
Written by
Olly Green

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