AUSTRALIAN Ultra Runner of the Year Brendan Davies is on record pace in the Hunter's Great North Walk 100 endurance event despite punishing conditions.
Davies is leading a field of more than 160 runners who left Teralba at 6 this morning on one of Australia's toughest distance events following the Great North Walk.
Davies, who set a course record of 19 hours 27 minutes last year for the 176 kilometre "100 Miler" from Teralba to Patonga left checkpoint two at Congewai with the temperature on 30 degrees and climbing.
Running with him was France's Pierre Viguier, one of 15 international competitors, aiming to take the 100 kilometre title and record of 9 hours 58 minutes set in last year's cool and wet conditions.
Great North Walk 100 race director Dave Byrnes said conditions were cool when runners headed off at 6am, but were hotter than predicted by 11am.
"It's baking out here," he said.
"I think there's going to be some challenges for competitors."
Mr Byrnes said Davies' record pace was a surprise given the conditions, but the Australian Ultra Runner of the Year was accustomed to extremes.
"It's either going to be an extraordinary performance or a big blow-up," Mr Byrnes said.
"It was an extraordinary performance by Brendan last year but it's much tougher conditions today."
The Great North Walk 100 started in 2005. It is divided into two events - the "100 Miler" of 176 kilometres and the 100 kilometre event - run simultaneously along a course which has more than 6200 metres of ascents and descents between Teralba and Patonga.
Only 13 runners finished the full course in 2005.
Entrants needed to cope with "precipitous ascents and descents, muddy trails and creek crossings, slippery rocks and roots, and hard-to-follow trails" through the night.
Despite the punishing course and time limits of 22 hours for the 100 kilometre event, and 36 hours for the full event to Patonga, runners have travelled from across Australia and from New Caledonia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and France to take part.