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Month: July 2016

Australian Outback Marathon

Australian Outback Marathon

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.

Snap marathon decision made!
Snap marathon decision made!

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.

Field of Light installation
Field of Light installation

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.

They had a helicopter with a photographer!
They had a helicopter with a photographer! All the photos were free – part of the package. I think I had a great deal!

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.

Down was easier than up!
Down was easier than up!

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.

Dan and me at 21km
Dan and me at 21km

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!

Dan and me
Dan and me
Finished!
Finished!

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.

Lots of sand!
Lots of sand!

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.

The dirt and sand just clung on!
The dirt and sand just clung on!

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!

Goodbye faithful shoes! And yes there's a chip packet - salt is helpful after a marathon! ?
Goodbye faithful shoes! And yes there’s a chip packet – salt is helpful after a marathon! ?

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! ?

Marathon Globetrotters
Marathon Globetrotters

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.

Gold Coast Airport Marathon

Gold Coast Airport Marathon

This marathon was my second go at running a marathon in Queensland. I’d had my first DNF at Caboolture not long after returning from Chile – what seemed like a fun idea of running 400 metre loops of an historic village from dusk until dawn quickly turned ugly – not helped by the acquisition of a Northern American cold virus cultivated in a tiny tent in Antarctica! In Caboolture I’d managed about 14km and pulled the pin, so the choices thereafter were Gold Coast, or another marathon involving laps of a University north of Brisbane sometime in August. Gold Coast it was!

Gold Coast was on the calendar three weeks after Perth. This was my third marathon in five weeks and my plan from the outset was to take it very easy. Perth had not been overly pleasant and I was determined that this marathon would be as low key as possible.

My dear friend Hayley had already offered to come along as support crew. We have run many kilometres together and I was looking forward to the weekend away. We went out for our usual Saturday morning run the weekend before and it seemed to me there was a little spark around the idea of Hayley running with me rather than crewing. I was excited – we’ve done events together before and supporting one another comes very easy. On Tuesday Hayley messaged me – she’d entered! What a champion – entering a marathon six days out! I felt confident that however I may feel physically during the event, I’d get through with Hayley by my side.

We caught the early flight from Newcastle to Brisbane, and then drove to the Gold Coast. Our hotel was across the road from the expo and we walked over to pick up our bibs. Hayley has a good eye for recognising people and chatted and waved to other competitors both at the expo and during the event. I don’t know how she does it – most runners look the same to me!

We found a little Italian place for dinner and followed that with our complimentary glass of champagne at the hotel. I guess that epitomised the tone of the event for us – no stress and taking opportunities to enjoy the little things!

Race day morning we dressed and caught the complimentary shuttle to the start. Everything was extremely well done – even the toilet queue moved quickly due to the huge number of portable toilets. Rob de Castella gave some words of encouragement and then we were off!

image
On the course

The day was reasonably warm and there was only minimal shade on the course. Drink stations were plentiful and there was an extraordinary amount of crowd support over big distances. I loved the signs people had made like “Touch here for Power”, and the number of kids holding out their hands for hi-5s as we ran past.

We stopped to use the toilets on the foreshore and I checked Facebook where I saw a post from Hayley’s mother Fiona encouraging us. I took a photo and posted it; and Fiona and I became Facebook friends during the run!

What a beautiful day!
What a beautiful day!

We heard several times from our running group friends and there were plenty of “You got this” tags flying around! I tried to get Hayley to call that out to others but she declined for some reason!

Another photo stop!
Another photo opportunity!

Things went along fine until about 34km where my body started to complain on the slight hilly inclines. We slowed to a walk and kept this up fairly briskly until about 39km where we started to run once again. There were Encouragers on the course whose job was to encourage runners over the line. What a fun job that would be! The last kilometre was sensational – huge crowds and lots of cheering – it felt like we were sprinting but in reality we were really only going faster than walking! We came over the line to a big clap from Rob de Castella, so of course we pounced and asked him for a photo.

A massive running legend. Hayley apologised that we were sweaty but he didn't mind!
A massive running legend. Hayley apologised that we were sweaty but he didn’t mind!

The trip back to the hotel was again very easy except we were chatting so much we missed our stop! Never mind – we were the second last stop on that line and so just stayed on the shuttle at the last stop – the driver changed ends and off we went again!

The hotel had been inundated with late checkout requests and was unable to accommodate us. Instead they let us use the shower facilities for the gym. We used these facilities really well! Hayley was involved in a push-up challenge in the days around the marathon and was compelled to get these done despite having just run 42km. I sat on the floor in the change room and took photos of her as evidence of her mad undertaking and we laughed and laughed.

I could put in a photo of the push-ups but what happens in the change rooms stays in the change rooms!
I could put in a photo of the push-ups but what happens in the change room stays in the change room!

Back at Brisbane airport we went to the Qantas lounge and made good use of the free food and alcohol. Hayley spotted a celebrity (like I said – she’s good at spotting people) and whittled down the possibilities for who it could be until she determined it was an actor from Underbelly. It was a shame to have to leave the lounge when they called our flight!

So Gold Coast was never about racing and all about having a good time. And we did!

Gold Coast Airport Marathon was number 16.