(Posted - 21 Jun 2012)The 2012 Salomon Trail Run Series is set to launch onto Victorian trails this weekend with Round One of the four-event series taking place in - of all places for a wilderness run - the middle of the city.
A record field of more than one thousand runners will enjoy running the single tracks found within Yarra Bend Park, found only kilometres from Melbourne's concrete jungle but a wild world away, ensconced as they are in thick stands of eucalypt on the banks of the Yarra River.
For this, the first race in the series, there are a few professional racers signed up, although they are more used to a tarmac track rather than a dirty trail and their speeds will be slowed from their usual 300km/h to around 10-15km/h.
V8 Supercar racing star Rick Kelly will join his driver team mates Karl Reindler and Samantha Reid, along with a crew from their Supercar racing team outfit, Kelly Racing, to tackle the long course 10km event as part of their fitness campaign for the day job racing cars.
Kelly was the second youngest driver ever to win a Championship title in the V8 Supercar category in 2006. Team mate Karl won the 2004 Australian Formula 3 Championship, and a string of off-shore categories before moving into V8 Supercars. Reid is a Formula Ford driver on the rise through the ranks and has driven the Bathurst 12-Hour.
The Kelly Gang will likely compete in all but one of the four event Salomon Trail Run Series, using the trail time to boost their fitness, which is an important factor when performing at an elite level in motorsports.
With the female field outweighing the male based on current registrations, it is no surprise that the most obvious battles at the pointy end will be by the girls.
Last year's series winner Kath Preston (nee Ewels) is back for another tilt at the title and will be hard to beat, having registered a clean sweep of each outing last year. But vying for the Race One win will be the likes of Nalini Blacker, who took a category third place at Studley Park in 2011; Natasha Key who took a first in the 40-49 age group category but actually beat Blacker over the line; and the red hot shots at an upset, the Dornom sisters Elizabeth and Bernadette, who are notable endurance athletes in multisport and triathlon (Elizabeth also took a second place at last year's Macedon event while Bernadette came third in the 155km Marysville to Melbourne Multisport in April.).
Others may place a wager on Sam Gash, a notable adventure and expedition ultra runner who is also ambassador for Rapid Ascent'sSurf Coast Century . Known primarily for her longer run achievements, she took a second placing at the 50km Mt Macedon trail event recently and could be a show in what is a sprint event for her.
The men's category is anyone's race at present with last year's clean sweep series winner Ben Ashkettle yet to register (although rumours are...). Dan Robertson may be the one to watch having registered a smashing time in the 10km event at the recent Mt Macedon trail running festival, as will Dan Travena, partner of Sam Gash, who is a handy runner.
Tim Ladner could be worth backing, too, having been the U/20 winner at last year's Salomon Trail Run Series event at Macedon in a top five time overall. Then there is Campbell Maffett, a notable middle distance to marathon runner who was first in the 40-49 category at Macedon and Silvan last year, both results within coo-ee of Ashkettle's times.
Of course also pounding the dirt will be rising Salomon Trail Run Series star, Scott Knabel, who is on a journey to turn his lifelong battle with obesity around by entering the Series with a view to eventually shedding the kilograms enough to run a 100km ultra. He is set to complete the series, beginning with the run on Sunday. See the beginning of his journey here:
Joining those in contention for line honours will be up to one thousand recreational runners - a near-record field for trail running in Australia - showing up having taken heed of the mantra 'Bitumen is Boring'. They will enjoy one of two runs on Sunday: the 5km short course or the 10.8km long course, in what is the beginning of Australia's most popular trail run series with an expected 4500 entries registered over the four events running from June through September.
Following Race One at Studley Park, the series moves to an all new course featuring superb trails that explore Plenty Gorge within Yellow Gum Park, near Plenty in Melbourne's north-east (29 July); then it is on to Silvan in the Dandenongs (26 August); with the finale event venturing down to Anglesea on the Surf Coast (23 September), to coincide with the Surf Coast Century, which takes place the day prior (Saturday 22 September).
The 2012 Salomon Trail Run Series line-up is:
1. Sunday 24 June, Studley Park, Kew, Melbourne: 5km / 10.8km
2. Sunday 29 July, Plenty Gorge: 6.4km / 11.8km
3. Sunday 26 August, Silvan, Dandenong Ranges: 7.3km / 14.3km
4. Sunday 23 September, Anglesea, Great Ocean Road: 7.9km / 14.6km + the new Surf Coast Century, a new 100km ultra marathon (on Sept 22).
Entries remain open online until Friday 9am, thereafter runners can still enter on the day www.salomontrailseries.com.au .
For more information on the Surf Coast Ultra 100km trail run (solo and relay teams), see www.surfcoastcentury.com.au .