In my quest to run a marathon in each state of Australia I had made a choice to run Alice Springs marathon rather than the Australian Outback Marathon. The main consideration was the cost and time required for the latter, which is sold by Travelling Fit as a multi day package deal.
Craig and I, and our daughter Emily had undertaken this event in 2013, when Emily ran (and won!) the 11km event, and we had completed the half marathon. That race was Craig’s last before he succumbed to injury. We had an awesome time in Uluru in 2013 and had done all of the tourist things then, so I didn’t feel a need to return. Thus as it was when my plan for the year was developed, I was running Adelaide 14 August 2016, and Alice Springs 21 August 2016. Many people take the week and do the two events as part of a road trip – I didn’t have the time to do so and planned to fly there and back twice!
The Australian Outback Marathon came up on my news feed on Facebook on Thursday 28 July. The event was happening two days later. I’d had a good recovery from the Gold Coast marathon (3 July 2016), and staring down the barrel of Adelaide and the Alice Springs only one week apart, had the crazy idea of finding out if I could get a last minute race-only entry for Uluru. With Craig on the job I left for work. I checked my messages at 10am – I was in! The Travelling Fit people had been absolutely wonderful and arranged a generous deal for me involving race entry, t-shirt, medal and meals. I booked my flights at 11am and in the meantime Craig had rung the Ayers Rock Resort and booked accommodation.
So it came to be that the next day I drove to Sydney and flew to Uluru! I met the event organiser Michael and paid him in cash ?. We enjoyed the traditional welcome and then the pasta party where I met several runners including Richard who was also on a mission to run a marathon in every state. He had already done several and was looking to finish with the Cadbury marathon in Tasmania in January 2017. I mentioned the Ross marathon in the same state occurring in September and Richard noted it down.
Race morning was a real buzz of excitement. We met in the lobby and I saw a lady wearing a Marathon Maniacs visor. We introduced ourselves – she was Masako Ishida from Japan who had run marathons all over the world including Easter Island. Masako introduced me to another lady – Sarah from the USA. Sarah was worried about finishing in the cutoff time of 7 hours. Turns out Sarah had completed multiple marathons around the world however her PB was around 7 hours. Sarah ultimately finished in 7:01 so I’m sure she came away with a medal!
Buses took us out to the start and we were thrilled to see the Field of Light installation still alight because it was not yet dawn. There were over 200 competitors in the marathon, as well as more in the shorter distances, including around 50 young Marines who had driven into Uluru from an exercise somewhere in NT.
This event was probably one of my favourite marathons of this year. It reminded me of what I love about marathon tourism and the difference running with like-minded people can make to my mental well-being during an event. From the very start I was running with people who were there to finish the race – not to thrash themselves. People chatted and shared information and stopped to take photographs. Other Marathon Maniacs from the USA ran up to me with Hi-5s. I ran for a time with the fellow who is the voice behind the microphone at the Gold Coast marathon! The volunteers were friendly and could not do enough for us.
The course was mainly tight packed dirt with stretches of sand. It was all red. There were sand hills to run up and then down the other side. There were drinks at well spaced intervals, and even a toilet! The terrain was certainly dissimilar to bitumen and it showed with muscles squealing a little during parts of the event, and in the couple of days after.
About halfway I came up behind a man wearing a Marathon Maniacs t-shirt. I spoke briefly to him and got out my iPhone and took a photo of us. His name was Dan, from the USA.
He said he was finishing his Seven Marathons on Seven Continents challenge at Uluru and that he was finding the event a bit tough. I encouraged him and took a few steps to continue to run on from him, and then made the decision to stick with him. Best decision ever! Dan and I stayed together for the next 21km and it was awesome. I never thought I’d say this but as we ran over the finish line I think I could have easily done another 42km! Such is the difference when your head is in the game and not working against you!
In 2013 I wore Asics Gel Kayanos for the event. Sometime after that I changed shoes and now wear Saucony Fastwitch. I think they’re an exceptional, light weight, 4mm drop shoe. I’ve done heaps of marathons in them. There is one design feature that puts them apart from most other shoes, being they have small holes in the sole to allow sweat to drain out, and in rain of course that lets water in. It didn’t occur to me that those same pesky drain holes would also let sand in! And sand came in! Goodness a lot of sand came in. It didn’t really bother me during the event – I stopped once and tipped it out but as I’ve said above, I ran a fantastic race and felt very fresh at the end.
I stayed at the finish for ages after we were done. The atmosphere was exceptional and the post-race food was fantastic. I saw others whom I’d run with or passed along the way and chatted to them. Eventually I caught the bus back to my accommodation.
Sadly my feet weren’t as fresh as me when I got back to the hotel. I knew a blister had come up on my right little toe during the event but it hadn’t really caused me much pain. As it was a few hours between finishing the event and getting to the shower the blister had grown and in fact had spread almost all the way around my toe. In the days to come all of the skin came away and my toe was degloved! Back at the accommodation though I walked (painfully) up to the local shop and bought some Betadine cream to prevent infection.
I felt extremely guilty the next day when I made the choice to abandon my shoes in Uluru. These faithful puppies had been with me through multiple marathons and had been my most favourite pair of the Fastwitch model I have owned (I’m onto my 4th pair now and these were number 2). In making the decision however I knew the shoes were trashed. The sand was never going to be completely gone and there would be an ongoing risk of the sand causing friction and more blisters. The fact the sole was nearly worn through played a part too!
Of course it was in Uluru that my friend Dan spoke about Marathon Globetrotters. I tried to stop him – honestly I did – as I knew what another marathon club with its own membership requirements would unleash once it was explained to me – but he wouldn’t stop! And what is heard can now never be unheard. And thus I belong to Marathon Globetrotters as a Provisional Member (requirement is five countries completed). To be a Full Member I need 10 countries, of which I have done eight. Damn you Dan! ?
So would I recommend the Australian Outback Marathon – absolutely! And would I recommend you go with the package – most definitely! It looked as though they’d improved even more on the fantastic one we did in 2013. And the running event itself was also tweeked with what they had at the start and finish to be even better than 2013. It was awesome.
Australian Outback Marathon was number 17.