Wow, what a day. This year at 1:00pm we saw the Prince and Princess runners take off on their run up the first section of Mt Cooroora on the same day as the main race. Typically the Prince and Princess race has been run on the day prior. It was wonderful to have runners from the main race see the younger runners giving it their all. At 2:00pm, 91 runners had made it to the start line for this years runner introductions to a happy and appreciative crowd that lined the streets.
A familiar face, in Ben Duffus, was taking the start line this year, but having already run and won a half marathon earlier in the morning he elected to run the first km of the race with a gimbal stabilised GoPro to capture footage of other competitors for the race documentary. So in the battle for the King title the cards were set. Ben was not going for the win, 2 time King, Mark Bourne, was unable to compete due to uncertainty surrounding travel from NSW, and reigning champ Boaz Clark was out of the race due to injury. This meant that a first time King was going to be crowned. With reigning Queen, Reesha Lewis, also not running it meant the Queen title was going to change hands as well.
Accompanied by a countdown from the crowd, the sound of the gun saw the start of the 2021 Bendigo Bank International Mountain Challenge get underway. Leading runners up the hill and into the forest was Tom Devlin-Mahoney. First to the base was Callan Blanchknox with Jorge Hernaez Navarro and Tom Devlin-Mahoney close on his tail. First female to the base was Cristy Levenson, one second ahead of Leslie Saunders.
The climb to the top of the mountain saw all runners pushed to their limits. Jorge Hernaez Navarro made his move into 1st place arriving at the top in a total elapsed time of 16:57, 52 seconds ahead of Daniel Kerekes. Passing 16 runners on the climb, Leslie Saunders was the first female to the top in a total elapsed time of 20:39 giving her a buffer of 41 seconds over Cristy Levenson. The biggest mover on the climb was Struan Lamont who passed 29 runners. So leading each category at the top of the mountain was; Lee Cleary (Junior Female), Jonathan Easton (Junior Male), Ange Harries (Open Female), Jorge Hernaez Navarro (Open Male), Cristy Levenson (Veteran Female), Steve Amor (Veteran Male), Leslie Saunders (Female Master), Ross Phillips (Male Master).
As runners climbed the last few meters to the top we captured some great photos.
On a slippery and dusty surface runners were required to be on their game on the descent. The fastest descents this year were by Jorge Hernaez Navarro in 5:09 and Callan Blanchknox in 5:10. The biggest mover on the descent was Molly Webb, who picked up 14 places on her journey to the base. Rhet Flanagan increased his position by 13 places with the 3rd fastest descent time and in the process leaving his old man, Andrew, to literally eat his dust. In the battle for the Queen title, Leslie Saunders descended quicker than Cristy Levenson to extend her lead at the base.
In the ever humbling journey from the base of the mountain back to the finish line Jorge Hernaez Navarro added to his lead to take out the title of King in a time of 27:11, 2 minutes and 7 seconds ahead of 2nd place Callan Blanchknox who narrowly held out a fast closing Daniel Kerekes. Leslie Saunders ran to the finish line to loud cheers from the crowd to take out her 3rd title as Queen and the first Masters Female to claim the Queen title. Category positions can be seen below.
Congratulations to ALL runners. Regardless of your race time, your position or your category position, everyone who shows up on the day and takes part in the race can hold their head high.
Sub 30 runners for 2021 are Jorge Hernaez Navarro, Callan Blanchknox and Daniel Kerekes.