After having run in a few Running Wild events, I decided to enter their 30km trail run in Glenbrook at the end of November. 10 minutes before the start a fellow runner ‘persuaded’ me to switch to the full Marathon option. I was hesitant, but was also completely ignorant about how much harder a trail marathon was, so agreed to switch. At the 35km mark I was officially in the most pain I’d ever experienced running and was grateful for the last 7km being downhill. Somehow, I finished in third place. I was so chuffed as I got a t-shirt and a bottle of wine, my first ever prize from running!
A few days post race, I received an email notifying me that my position in Glenbrook guaranteed me a place on the start line of the 6 foot track Marathon. Cool. Sounds good. I made a few calls and had a few chats with my new running friends, and it turns out that this ‘6 foot’ race was pretty hard to get in to, so it looked like I was doing it. Entry day rolled around, I got my entry in, right...now what? I started to ask a few more questions. So is this harder than Glenbrook? Any big hills? Really? OH....
Anyone with small kids can appreciate that training for an event such as 6 foot, is logistically challenging. Somehow I was able to find this balance (most of the time), and I must credit much of that to my husband, who is self employed and often shuffled his work, did school runs, made school lunches and cooked dinners to allow me to get my training in. He was acutely aware that running made me happy. It gave me head space from my wonderful, yet very busy life.
As my training progressed I saw myself improving in my race results in the Running Wild events. My enthusiasm for this event grew each day. I started to just run whenever someone else was; I enjoyed the banter and the company, and the knowledge that there are other people out there that understand why running is so important to me. This led to me running most days, and unfortunately 4 weeks out from the start line, after visiting my osteopath for a sore shin, I found out I had given myself a substantial ‘over training’ injury and would now be a long shot to start the race. I was so disappointed! I decided to seek some more advice. I reluctantly had an MRI and felt comforted in the knowledge that I had at least tried everything. The MRI returned some positive findings. I would be getting to the start line, just with a very long taper! In my heart I knew I could do it, but my confidence was thrown.
Of course the day before the race my 22 month old daughter develops a bad case of gastro, my 4 year old has fevers and I am still making mercy dashes to Rebel to ensure I have options for pants to wear! At this point I remember thinking to myself, why? Am I mental? Probably! With my daughter on the improve and the support of my parents to help my husband with the kids, I made the decision at 8.30pm to exit the house of spew to go stay with a friend who was also racing. This was the BEST decision. From the minute I arrived on her doorstep I felt relaxed. I realised my nerves were not at all about my race, but about my family, and feeling torn between the 2. After some lovely chats and some snacks I headed to bed and slept like a log.
6am – alarm sounded. Eyes flicked open. I sat bolt upright in bed. I felt relieved and happy, I made it, it was race day...bring it on!
Before I knew it I found myself approaching a completely crammed start line. I couldn’t have got to the back if I tried, so I jumped in the front line. Felt a bit out of place amongst very tall, fast looking men. I had a moment where I thought, what am I doing here? But at least I would get to the stairs earlier...which is something people kept telling me was very important. BANG – and we were running. Fuel belt started to ride up instantly, and bounce around everywhere! Seriously, I’m sprinting down a fire trail with some very fast tall men and now I have to adjust a fuel belt...I started laughing! As we approached the stairs we slowed to a fast walk, as I was told we would. I really enjoyed this. It settled the nerves and allowed me to take my time on the tricky stuff. From the bottom of the stairs though, it was on!
I ran with a fellow beer better Garth to the river, he was also on debut and we chatted about how both of us had likely gone out too hard, yet neither of us slowed down, funny that! I got the river in the time I roughly hoped for and loved crossing it! There is something completely excellent about being waist deep in water in the middle of a running race! However, the pebbles that remained in my shoes upon exit of the river...not so excellent! Will be investing in the fancy shoe covers next time!
I knew from this point the real work would begin, and I was pleased to be into it, every bit I got through made me closer to the top. I started to climb Mini Mini, and soon found myself walking. In fact I stopped and walked before I really felt I had to, because there were some very fit and fast looking people around me walking, and I thought to myself ‘I’m guessing they know what they’re doing, so I’ll do the same’. I didn’t dawdle though, I power walked up those hills, counting the beat of my step in my head and jogging the sections I could. I felt triumphant as I reached the top of Pluvi, as if the toughest part was done. I had mentally committed to running all of black range, and so at this point I popped in my ear phones and cranked up some Michal Jackson...oh yeah....smooth criminal!!!
I found the first few KM’s of black range possibly the toughest of the course, but held my form and felt good again a few KM’s in and picked up the pace a little. I started enjoying the coke from here on, as I simply couldn’t stomach gels anymore. As I passed through deviation I started to get a rush of adrenaline (or was that caffeine?) knowing that I was nearing the back end of the course. Then at the 37km mark, a wonderful surprise, my friend and her children standing cheering me on at a check point with signs saying ‘go Auntie Jo’, I got goose bumps and kicked it up a gear. As I made my way through the last few hilly sections of the course I found myself getting frustrated. Every time I looked up and saw an incline, I started asking other runners "is this the last hill"? They just kept on coming!
I crossed the road and knew I was on the home stretch, slippery slopes and steep down hills. OUCH! My quads were not keen on that at all!! As I heard the crowd and hit the concrete ramp I looked down and saw my family. My mum, dad, husband, 2 sons and daughter were all there, smiling, cheering and waving madly. Oh man, this was such an indescribable feeling, it’s this moment that makes it all worth it, before I’d even crossed the line! I found energy somehow to sprint the home stretch and after a little Toyota style jump on the finish line I fell into the arms of my family and friends. My 4 year old placed my medal around my neck and my mum (who has never really liked the fact that I run so much) was tearing up with pride.
I finished in 4 hours 38 Minutes. I was the 13th female home and won myself some beer! To be honest, the numbers didn’t matter much to me. Perhaps they will more in future years, but not this year. I loved watching my friends and fellow beer betters come through, each with the same expressions of relief and joy. I’m pleased to report, my leg held up well, truth be told I didn’t feel it at all until after the race!
This race is like no other race I have done. Obviously there is nothing in this world that compares to the birth of my children, but the sense of pride one feels after accomplishing this event, is as close as I have been to that feeling! It came with sacrifice, it came with bucket loads of support from family and friends, but for me it was totally worth it. I have a new awareness of what I am capable of, not only physically, but mentally. I am strong, I am fit and I am so very happy. I think the very best part, and it is hard to chose, is the people I’ve met along the way. I am changed. I will be back!