KATHRYN Austin is taking great strides in the gruelling sport of ultra marathon.
The Rockhampton runner is set for the Tarawera Ultra 100 in New Zealand tomorrow, which is part of the Ultra Trail World Tour.
The 100km course starts in Rotorua and ends in Kawerau in the Bay of Plenty, and Austin aims to complete it in 12 hours.
She is primed for the race and is going in feeling confident after an outstanding performance in her last distance event.
She was the first female to finish the Alpine Challenge, one of the most challenging mountain trail runs in the Southern Hemisphere.
Austin completed the 100-mile (160km) course through the Victorian Alps in just under 35 hours.
"That was a real eye opener; there were very few checkpoints where you could meet your crew," she said.
"I just had to keep my legs turning over. The longest stop was probably 20 minutes in a checkpoint.
"The Alpine Challenge requires a completely different mindset; it's a really powerful game to play when you know you have that extra 60km."
Austin said the New Zealand event would present a new challenge and a new race plan.
And she says it is vital to have Plans A to Z in place for every race because you never know what you will encounter.
"Everything is unpredictable. When you're standing on the start line, you just don't know what nature's going to give you.
"You can have a plan in place but it can change instantly if it rains, or you feel a bit ill in the stomach.
"In those instances, you have to adapt your race plan accordingly.
"You have to overcome a lot of hurdles and you just have to move on and keep thinking, I've got a finishing line to get to.
"It takes a lot of discipline to stay focused when you are running for so long; you might not see another person for two to three hours.
"It's a big mental game."
And it's a game that Austin has quickly mastered.
She started running in 2011 and only ran her first trial ultra in 2014. Twelve months later she was ranked seventh in Australia and 17th overall on the ultra leader board.
She thrives on the support from the ultra running community.
"It's a different culture and that's what I love so much about trail running," Austin said.
"It is such an encouraging environment, not like so many sports that are so competitive.
"They are not there to beat you; they are there to get you to the finish line and celebrate it.
"The first, second and thirds are just a bonus. The only expectations are your own."
Austin continues to chase her dream of competing in the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, a 100-mile run across France, Italy and Switzerland.
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