On Friday the 26th of July a small team of Kiwi mountain runners head over the ‘ditch’ to the Sunshine Coast of Queensland to contest the Pomona King of the Mountain race earned after their individual efforts at the 2012 Kawerau King of the Mountain Race.
The race runs from the centre of Pomona township, past streets crowded with thousands of well-wishers and supporters, then heads ‘bush’ towards the mountain.
The runners commence climbing a set of low hills before confronting the mountain. The track up the mountain is little more than a goat track, with parts now modified with steps. In some places, it is only wide enough for one or two runners.
The mountain provides a steep almost vertical climb. The return down the mountain requires strength, agility, a good sense of balance, and an immunity to fear.
The course, and indeed the race, has to be seen to be believed!
Entrants in the Pomona King of the Mountain come from all over Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Rim and the United Kingdom and naturally there is a strong rivalry between Australian and New Zealand participants.
Traditionally each year as part of the Trans Tasman Mountain Challenge the NZ team officially travels as part of the Kawerau King of the Mountain race representatives, this being the ‘sister’ race of the Pomona event. The NZ contingency are generously funded by the Kawerau race committee, with spots earned by competing at the Kawerau King of the Mountain Race.
Although these two events have similarities, the ‘skill sets’ required to compete are entirely different and it is quite rare for anyone to be convincing winners of both races.
This year the NZ team will be represented by Helen Rountree in the Open Women’s, Chris Morrissey in the Open Men’s, Glen Tarboton in the Junior Men’s and Andy Town in the Veteran Men’s.
The highly respected and huge talent that is Morrissey will give NZ their best hope in the Open Men’s race and overall, he will be seeded number 2 behind the prolific local Sunshine Coast man Neil Labinsky who seems unbeatable on this course and holds the record. Is this Chris’s chance to shine though?? He is on fire at the moment and is running with confidence, this could be his best chance to take it to Neil and get the win he deserves.
Rountree, who was the title winner of Women’s Open Race this year, the New Zealand mountain running champs will have the benefit of massive strength and power, but as a first time competitor at Pomona she may find this a disadvantage, having said this, if she negotiates the steep decent well she can easily match the top Australian runners on this course.
Tarboton had a great race at Kawerau to qualify as the top junior, he has just turned 18 and has been training in the French Alps in preparation for Pomona, look for him to get a top place finish overall.
Town who has raced at Pomona six times previously had his best result last year taking 4th place overall, he’s coming off a series of injuries this season, but he will benefit from course knowledge and some recent form of late.