Great Barrier Reef Ultra Marathon - Port Douglas

Ultra-marathon winner Willis pays tribute to partner

BIG RACE WINNER: Sidney Willis runs towards the ultra marathon finish line along Four Mil

BIG RACE WINNER: Sidney Willis runs towards the ultra marathon finish line along Four Mile Beach at Port Douglas. Picture: ANNA ROGERS

COOL Frenchman Sid Willis claimed a comfortable victory in the men’s ultra-marathon yesterday – and then backed it up with a slick triumph in the chivalry stakes.

Willis defied the limits of human endurance as he put his body through 74km of pain – the distance from Cairns to Mossman – at Port Douglas’ Great Barrier Reef Marathon Festival.

He finished in 7:08:27, more than seven minutes clear of Adam Fox, with local hero Al Spence a further 15 minutes in arrears in third.

The victory capped a stunning foreign assault on the event, with Willis’ partner, Holland’s Saskia Jurriaans, storming to the women’s marathon title only hours earlier.

Despite the obvious fatigue, Willis kept his wits about him when asked which of the pair’s victories was more meaningful.

“I’m always proud of her – she deserved to win,” he said.

“But, of course, I would (have preferred her to win than me).”

Willis only stumbled upon the Port Douglas event while searching the internet in France. He immediately signed up and got training, mentally preparing for the infamous Bump Track.

“It is a fast course – in France we have way more hills,” he said. “I wanted to try a fast course.

“But I was actually one of the ones who took it (Bump Track) the slowest.

“With my experience I know you have to go very slowly and keep a lot of energy.

“So my approach was pretty good.”

In the end, it was a victory built on a dynamic 10km push that started at about the 27km mark.

“I didn’t expect this,” he said of his win. Even during the race I wasn’t with the lead-out group at the start.

“I was about sixth but then I started to accelerate.

“I saw they were about two minutes in front of me so I thought I may as well take some risks.

“I could have blown up but I thought ‘if I win, I win’.

“After a while your legs really hurt and everything hurts but it’s all in your head.”

You can’t run 74km in face-melting humidity without a long list of hurdles.

“The conditions were better than I thought,” Townsville-based Willis said.

“It was a bit of a shock at the end and the temperature went up about 10C.

“I got a bit worried and I had to run in the water at the end.

“My feet were like wet sponges and it was very hot.

“But I got through it which made it all worthwhile.”