Ultramarathon man

Ultramarathon man

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Phil Gore at this year’s Herdy’s Frontyard Ultra – his third ultramarathon win of 2023.

You may not have heard the name Phil Gore, but the Darling Down’s-based runner and Armadale firefighter is a dominant force in the world of ultra-marathon running, having just nabbed first place in the unforgiving Herdy’s Frontyard Ultra – his third in as many years.

An ultramarathon covers any distance farther than a standard marathon, and a typical race can go from 50km to over 100 miles.

But those numbers don’t do justice to the sorts of feats Phil has become known for.

On the weekend of March 17, he took to the track at Herdsman Lake along with nearly 300 other runners for the Herdy’s Frontyard Ultra (HFU) and came away with the top spot with a distance of 382.47km.

Unlike a typical race, the HFU is punishing endurance test, requiring runners to complete one lap of the 6.71km loop each hour – anyone who doesn’t finish the lap in time, or drops out of the race, is knocked out.

Mercilessly, 293 of those starting racers are given the placing DNF – “Did Not Finish” – while second place is given the title of “Assist.”

After 57 laps Phil came away with the First Place. He earned the title in 2022 (50 laps, 335.5km) and 2021 (48 laps, 322.08km), too.

“I definitely have an element of stubbornness, I don’t want to quit,” Phil said.

“The last person is the only one counted as the finished – that’s harsh but it’s also the appeal of the event, it’s just part of the charm.

“With the backyard you can either time out or tap out – you want to aim for a time out, that you’ve left everything on the track.”

Surprisingly, ultramarathons are a relatively new pastime for the 36-year-old, who began running shorter distances of 5km in high school.

“I picked it up again at the end of 2014 – that coincided with getting a job as a fiery – and did 5km up to marathon distances for a while,” he said.

“It was never something I intended to work towards, I would look at ultra runs and think ‘that’s something I could never do,’ I couldn’t wrap my head around it.”

In 2017, along with a group of friends, Phil completed 16 parkruns in 24 hours for a total of 80km – and followed it up the next year with 24 parkruns over the same time for a total distance of 120km

“We hired a bus and drove between different events – it was a real sense of accomplishment,” he said.

His first official ultramarathon came in 2019 at the Lighthorse Ultra in Joondalup, where runners complete as many laps of a 2.5km loop as they can in 24 hours.

“A lot of people were running ahead, I settled into about 15th place,” Phil said.

“Then they started dropping out, stopping for rests – it was the tortoise and the hare.

“I ended up in second place, it was well beyond what I thought I’d do – it was 124km and I averaged just over 10km per hour.

“I thought, maybe I’m alright at this ultra-running thing.”

The thought is now manifest. Phil has placed first in every ultramarathon event he has competed in since 2020 – at times racing for 76 hours at a stretch, for more than 500km.

In October he heads to the US for the Big Dog’s Backyard Ultra – his first time traveling internationally to compete.

“It will be a challenge, the travel, the track will be harder, I can only take what I can fit in my suitcase,” Phil said.

“I will give it my best but it will be a lot more challenging for me than these local ones.”

In the meantime, Phil said his training compliments his work as a career firefighter at Armadale Fire & Rescue.

“We could be called out for a bushfire and work through the whole night, and I think, ‘this is good training.’

“Same as a fire, you just have to keep going until it’s all done and dusted.”