By Daniel Lewis
Blue Mountains athlete Brendan Davies was the in-form favourite to win the Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon in the wild Wolgan Valley near Lithgow on Sunday June 16, but it was a man from the notably flat inner Sydney suburb of Petersham who had the superior ability on the spectacular course’s big steep climbs to clinch the race.
On a slightly altered course to last year’s inaugural Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon, and against an exceptional field of top trail runners, Tony Fattorini shaved 11 minutes off the old race record with his time of 3:28:11.
He was nine minutes ahead of Davies (3:37:27), while another top Blue Mountains runner, Andrew Lee, was third in 3:39:13.
Last year’s winner, Mick Donges from the Blue Mountains, came fifth.
Davies, 36, won this year’s The North Face 100 in the Blue Mountains in a world-class time, making him the man everybody wanted to beat in the Wolgan Valley.
Fattorini had already reminded his fellow elite runners of his amazing climbing ability when he took out the Glow Worm Tunnel Trail Running Weekend’s Mystery Mountain Dash on the Saturday.
Mystery Mountain rises very steeply to a height of 370m from the banks of the Wolgan River opposite the old Newnes pub that is the only building still standing from Newnes’s heyday as a shale oil mining community early last century.
Leaving in groups of two about a minute apart, runners dashed from the old railway station platform to see who could be the quickest to the top of the mountain.
The run represented a lung- and leg-busting 349m rise in elevation over just 986m.
Fattorini raced to the top in an incredible 13:03, while Davies was 5th in 14:32.
In the marathon the following day, Davies led out the field, but was overtaken by Fattorini, 38, on the first big climb along the Pipeline Track to the top of Pipeline Pass – another incredibly steep bit of track that at its most difficult climbs 340m in just a kilometre.
The track follows the old shale oil pipeline that linked Newnes with another shale oil mining outpost, Glen Davis, in the neighbouring Capertee Valley.
Davies went past Fattorini to regain the lead going downhill on the other side of the pass, but Fattorini again reeled him in on the return journey.
”Brendan and I had a bit of a ding-dong battle,” is how Fattorini put it after the race. ”He flew past me on the downhill and I crawled past him on the uphill.”
The race was still less than half over and Davies was confident at the time that he could catch Fattorini again, but his legs started to feel heavy and Fattorini was never headed.
”Tony is a really good climber,” Davies said. ”I’m absolutely inspired by Tony. We have had some good head-to-heads in the past and he is definitely leading the ledger. I don’t think I have ever beaten him when he has been at his best and he was definitely at his best today. He is known for his uphills. He is world-class in that uphill stuff. He is known for his high anaerobic threshold and he can just go up a hill like nobody else I have ever seen.”
Fattorini felt the huge amount of racing Davies has done in recent months ”has just started to catch up with him”.
New Zealand running sensation Ruby Muir, 21, took out the women’s title with a new race record of 3:51:39.
Muir showed her class by finishing sixth overall in the marathon and also being more than half an hour faster than the next quickest woman.
A Glow Worm Tunnel Half Marathon was also run on Sunday, with New Zealand runner Adrian Bailey claiming the men’s title in 1:32:36 and Reegan Ellis from the Northern Beaches of Sydney taking the women’s title in 1:50:15.
Race director Sean Greenhill of the Blue Mountains-based Mountain Sports said the beauty of the course and the fascinating history of the the Wolgan Valley as well as the top field of runners saw more than 600 registrations for the four events that made up the Glow Worm Tunnel Trail Running Weekend, including the 6km fun run through the old industrial ruins of Newnes left over from its days as a shale oil mining town.
The fun run is named the Ted English Bolt in honour of a Newnes resident who was arrested for running naked through the bush in 1907.
Brendan Davies loves his running so much he even entered the fun run, coming third.
Greenhill said: ”It’s been good to see nobody has emulated Ted English and run the race in the nude.”