The first champions have been crowned at Ultra-Trail Australia by UTMB following the opening UTA11 event in the Blue Mountains on Thursday.
Melbourne’s Nathan Pearce took the victory in the men’s race with Sydney’s Tilly Richards the women’s champion over the 11km course.
Pearce crossed the finish line in Katoomba in 54:51, three minutes ahead of Wentworth Falls’ Casper Larkin, with Harry Boyn just behind in third.
Thursday’s event was Pearce’s first taste of Ultra-Trail Australia by UTMB with him impressing on his way to victory.
“It was pretty good, it was a little tougher down the bottom than I thought it would be, I’ve never run here before and it was warming up out there as well, so I got the sweats on,” said Pearce. “The stairs at the end there were probably the best part for me, when you know you’ve got a bit of a gap you can relax and just take in the views and enjoy it, it was a great experience and I’m ready for a big weekend.”
While it may have been Pearce’s debut at the world’s second largest trail running event, he was able to draw on plenty of running experience to get him to the top step of the podium.
“I did a 10km race on the weekend and ran 30:30 so I knew groundspeed’s not my worry, I just cruised away but credit to some of the young guys, they were hanging with me for longer than I thought they would, credit to them, it was a good hit out,” he said. “I really enjoyed it, I’ve not been to a trail event this big before, it was pretty cool and I’m keen to see the rest of the results over the weekend.”
Tilly Richards, from Panania in Sydney, was first over the line in the women’s race, finishing in 1:06:59, almost five minutes ahead of Monika Ludriks, with Mikayla McLean a few seconds further behind in third.
“It was so much fun, I’ve been looking forward to it so much and I’m just so glad to have been able to get out there again after two years,” said Richards. “It felt a bit tougher today because I went out a bit harder, but it was so much fun, it was amazing.”
At just 15 years of age Richards is one of the youngest in the field but already has plenty of experience on her side having finished third at the event in 2021.
“The stairs were tough but I like the stairs, it’s a good challenge,” she said. “I raced here two years ago and got third, I’m so happy to get the win, I didn’t know who was out there running so I just wanted to give it my best and I did, and it paid off.”
Female runners made up more than 60% of the field for Thursday’s UTA11 event as the sport of trail running continues to grow in popularity.
Friday will see runners take on UTA22, before the 50km and 100km events begin on Saturday morning.
For more information visit https://www.ultratrailaustralia.com.au/
Header image: Nathan Pearce winning the 2023 UTA11. Credit: Ultra-Trail Australia by UTMB