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Category: Australian marathon sweep

8 marathons in 8 Australian states

Ross Marathon, Tasmania

Ross Marathon, Tasmania

Ross was the marathon that had to be done. The other states were completed and it was a foregone conclusion that Ross had to be run or my quest was over. And thus Craig and I went to this tiny historic town in the middle of Tasmania for Fathers Day 4 Sept 2016.

I had become lax in my preparation. I checked details for the event Friday afternoon as I was packing. The website and Facebook didn’t give much detail so I went to Strava. My stomach dropped – what was this? Four laps? 5.5km out and back x 4? I messaged the organisers to confirm – yes, four laps. Remembering Punta Arenas I rethought my sinking feeling and targeted being able to see Craig each 10km.

We flew Newcastle to Melbourne; Melbourne to Launceston; and hired a car to drive to Ross. It was lovely to finally see Bass Strait from the air, and we landed in rain with a plan to drive to Cataract Gorge.

Bass Strait
Bass Strait

The gorge was a lot of fun – we rode the longest chairlift in the world and back across a bridge over the gorge before continuing the drive around Launceston and then onto Ross.

Chairlift
Chairlift
The gorge
The gorge
Launceston
Launceston

Spring had come on time and there was a multitude of lambs gambolling in the fields en route.

Twins everywhere!
Twins everywhere!

We had a short break in the little town of Campbell Town where we startled an urban wombat who scurried around the street like a well muscled dog!

Marauding wombat!
Marauding wombat!
Red Bridge 1838
Red Bridge 1838

That night we went to the pasta dinner and listened to an entertaining talk by Josh Harris, an upcoming distance runner seeking to qualify for the marathon in the 2020 Olympics.

Ross historic bridge
Ross historic bridge
War Memorial
War Memorial

Marathon day dawned with near freezing conditions. We wandered the two blocks to the start and all too soon we were off! I ran the first 7km with a lovely lady who had run quite a few marathons in the past 12 months. My friend Richard whom I’d initially met in Uluru and again in Adelaide, and who had also done Canberra, Gold Coast and Perth, was also there with his wife Rachael.

About to start
About to start

One striking feature of the event was the headwind after the turn at 5.5km. I’m not sure I’ve ever run in anything quite so strong. Punta Arenas was strong, but this was savage. Sheep were sheltering behind sheds. Trees were bent over. Supporters were in Arctic gear and by the fourth lap had abandoned their positions! My pace slowed to a walk for some of the return, and I freely admit to walking the entire return to town on the final lap!

It wasn’t my best race. The toe degloving from Uluru and again in Adelaide continued to plague me, and the alteration in gait to compensate led to issues with my knee. I couldn’t run more than a few paces without my knee giving out – something Craig later suggested could be a tendonopathy – the tendon gets over stressed or tired and stops working! Once again I was very fortunate to also have phone support from my friend Hayley, and messages from my daughters and friends. ❤

One charming feature of the event was the bell placed at the top of the only (but steep) hill on the course!

Second ring of the bell! There were still people there at that stage to take the photo!
Second ring of the bell! There were still people there at that stage to take the photo!
Lonely last turnaround
Lonely last turnaround
Only in a rural marathon!
Only in a rural marathon!

Craig was by now right into Pokemon Go and mapped out his own course incorporating the small number of Pokestops and bakeries in the township, progressing around from one to the next as the hours passed. He was thankful for his own achievements of that morning.

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Gym owner!

It was marvellous to come over the line at the finish and know I’d achieved the goal. The motel people let me shower in the caravan park amenities and we then drove back to Launceston and did the hop to Melbourne. I was anxious about the walk from T1 to T4 in Melbourne as it’s about 1km, but with a glass of champagne and some Panadol I managed!

Standing not quite straight at the finish, due to my leg issue!
Standing not quite straight at the finish, due to my leg issue!

I emailed the Marathon Maniacs people in the next days and they increased my achievement level to Ruthenium – 13 marathons in 13 different states and/or countries in 365 days! Honestly, who thinks of these things? ?

Ross Marathon was number 19.

Adelaide Marathon

Adelaide Marathon

The Adelaide Marathon is organised by the South Australian Road Runners Club and has some quirky features, from a static website and slightly complex entry system, to the bib collection process operating on an honour system in an unmanned office in the city – runners walked into the office and found their bib in a stack in numerical order – picked it up, and left!

Initially I thought I was going alone to this event, however closer to time Craig decided he wanted to come along, and thus we flew into Adelaide Saturday afternoon, staying near the start in the lovely Intercontinental Adelaide. We had a little excursion to a nearby running store where Craig tried on and subsequently ordered a pair of Hoka One shoes. Craig and I both live in hope that he can find a way to start running once again despite his nasty ankle issues, and trying out these padded shoes is the latest idea to try to facilitate this!

Hoka One shoes come in size 15!
Hoka One shoes come in size 15!

The event had a very casual feel with easy access to the start line. Just prior to the start I spied Richard whom I had met just weeks before in Uluru. Richard was in Adelaide with his daughter and confirmed that he had entered the Ross marathon in Tasmania that we had discussed in Uluru.

Prior to the start
Prior to the start
Heading off!
Heading off!

I was wearing my Marathon Maniacs race t-shirt and because of this did not want for company for much of the event. Male runners in particular ran with me for several kilometres at a time chatting about marathons – many of these guys had multiple marathons under their belts and were keen to share information about different events. It certainly helped the time go by! A fellow ran up to me at one point whom I immediately identified as Simon, also a Marathon Maniac – he was wearing the shirt and had indicated on the Maniacs website that he would be attending Adelaide. Simon is a crazy marathon runner who ran his first marathon in February 2016 and has already completed three marathons in three days! He is trialing the Ketogenic diet as his preferred diet for marathons. This diet is one that is high in fat and low in carbohydrates and was developed for use in those with epilepsy. There is some research about it being useful for distance running. Simon ran a massive PB in Adelaide, going under 4 hours for the first time so if you can stomach drinking cream before an event it might be worth a go!

One of the guys
One of the guys
Another of the guys
Another of the guys

Adelaide marathon is a beautiful course consisting of two laps – each lap is almost a figure eight, meandering around the Botanic Gardens and along the River Torrens. Our accommodation was in the cross over of this figure eight and thus Craig came down to wave and take photos each time I crossed it. My running friends were also sending messages of support which was lovely.

About 5km in.
About 5km in.

My toe was something of a disaster in Adelaide and the issues were not helped by my ridiculous decision to pack shoes I’d only worn for 100km. I’d thrown out the shoes I’d worn in Uluru because of the amount of sand they’d retained in that event. My shoes I’d been breaking in (they’d done about 300km) still weren’t overly comfortable and thus I decided to take the newest pair. What a crazy decision! The degloved toe quickly developed massive blisters while the stiffness of the non worn in shoes made for pain in the arch of my foot. Despite having sworn I would never cry in a marathon again I did actually think crying would help, but no tears would come!

Finishing in Adelaide Oval made up for all the trouble I had in the last 10km. Running into the Oval was very exciting and the crowd support was wonderful. There was something quite special about it!

Finishing!
Finishing!

I hobbled with Craig back to the taxi zone outside our hotel and, still in my running gear, we went straight to the airport. Once through security we headed to the Qantas Lounge with my fingers crossed they wouldn’t turn me away because of my attire! The lady at the desk was amazing and handed over a towel and toiletries so I could shower, even offering Craig his own as well. I managed to shower and freshen up and hobble again out to find Craig who was extremely helpful in finding food and drinks to help my recovery.

Another fateful decision was made at that point, and that was to leave the blisters intact until we got home. This was done because of the perceived issues with potential infection by breaking the blister but in retrospect was not a good idea. It was quite some hours before we arrived home and in that time the blisters grew larger and larger and within 24 hours of returning home all of the skin had again peeled off my toe leaving it red and angry and painful. Such is the lesson from this that I now have a travel specific range of Betadine products to apply as required!

So I’d say my experience in Adelaide had largely good, with bad and ugly moments! The new shoe problem was a rookie mistake one wouldn’t expect from someone who had run 17 marathons prior to this one.

And thus, one marathon to go for the Australian states challenge and also for the ANZAC sweep. Ross marathon, in three weeks.

Adelaide Marathon was number 18.

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!

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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.

Perth Marathon

Perth Marathon

Running Perth was always going to be a big call as it was only one week after Christchurch. Craig and I flew from Sydney to Perth via Melbourne on the Saturday, going straight to the bib pickup point from the airport. We had a quick walk around the city and then had a nice dinner at the hotel.

The event started in the park near the casino and we caught a taxi there from our hotel. Craig had exams the week after and had his books to continue studying while I was running. The course was two laps, following the river. It was beautiful.

I encountered issues with my right hip flexors about 4km into the run. I knew straight away this wasn’t a good sign! My pace slowed from the usual 5:30 per kilometre to over 6 minutes/km, and I was anxious that I was feeling this bad so early on. Knowing the course was lapping back on itself I concentrated on finding people to chat with and encourage as it would distract me from unhelpful and negative thoughts. My search however was largely fruitless – few people were up for a chat and in fact few people responded to the encouragement. There seemed to be lots of music in ears so I guess maybe they were just focussed and didn’t hear me.

Having fun on my own
Having fun on my own

One highlight of the run was seeing Steve Moneghetti pacing the 3:30 group. Not often you see a legend running by!

In retrospect too I recognise that I saw Simon, also a Marathon Maniac during the run. We didn’t meet properly until Adelaide some weeks later, but I do remember the shirt going past. Richard whom I later met in Uluru, was also in Perth, being a local, but he would have been miles in front of me that day!

Halfway
Halfway

Finishing the marathon was an excellent feeling. I knew despite being slower than normal that knocking over two marathons in quick succession was always going to be hard, and I’d done it.

The finish "sprint"
The finish “sprint”

I’d arranged a local tour operator to take us on a half day tour that same afternoon, and we ended the day at a seaside restaurant recommended by a friend.

Dinner
Dinner

The next morning we had an early flight home. We spent some time in the Qantas lounge at Perth, surrounded initially by more hi-vis workwear than one would see in a King Gee store. It was all the people waiting for their early flights to Karratha! On the final leg home from Melbourne the display on the plane read the destination was Singapore! Photographed that and sent to Emily. Her response was priceless!!

Destination Singapore!
Destination Singapore!
?
?

Perth Marathon was number 15.

Ultra Trail Australia 50

Ultra Trail Australia 50

I run with the same core group of ladies approximately four times each week. We have spent many, many hours running together and have formed lovely friendships along the way. Mid 2015 my friend Megan said to me “Anne, will you come and run UTA50 with me?” to which I responded “No” – I’d done my time with a trail ultra when I ran 6 foot track. She then said “It is for my birthday” – and there it was – I was committed to the event! I was running another trail ultra in May 2016 for Megan’s 40th birthday.

This group of running friends is a bit special. We’re all busy, professional women who get up early four mornings a week and meet to go running. Long runs on Saturdays have been known to start at 4:30am for 32km with us being home in time for children’s sports and husband commitments. We all know what it’s like to balance the needs of the children, the husband, work, study and our own sports and the support within our little group is tremendous. Of the ten ladies who signed up for UTA50, six had previously run at least one marathon, and the other four were super fit women who committed to the training required. Two ladies also agreed to come as our support crew – one did most of the training with us and most likely could have run the event, and the other moved her entire life around just for that weekend!

Training for UTA50 involved a bit of tweeking of our normal running program. Intervals were replaced by stairs; and the long run each second weekend involved a long trail rather than road run. There is a massive set of stairs not far from our usual meeting point, and loops of “Cardiff stairs” became the norm. As we came closer to the event we ventured out to the Watagan state forest to Mount Faulk Rd – something of a mission in itself just to get there in the first place, and certainly nowhere you’d want to be in the dark without company. Banjos were playing as we alighted the vehicles some mornings.

Pre dawn starts at Mt Faulk
Pre dawn starts at Mt Faulk
Back down Mt Faulk Rd
Back down Mt Faulk Rd
Kara & Hayley ran a trail marathon during training. Kara's first marathon!
Kara & Hayley ran a trail marathon during training. Kara’s first marathon!

There was an opportunity for those who had not previously run a marathon to gain a qualifying time for a faster start group by running a Strava segment on the course, and thus for one of the long runs a group went to Katoomba and ran the 17km segment. That in itself was an operation for all to co-ordinate. I didn’t go along that day as I’d entered the marathon in Wangaratta and slunk off there instead to try to overcome the shame of the DNF at Caboolture!

Strava segment done!
Strava segment done!

We hired a house in Leura for the UTA50 weekend, staying for two nights. Megan had chosen a colour scheme for our group, now aptly named “Team Fortay”, and Hayley had organised matching visors for us to wear. Our group has a number of sayings appropriate to events and running, one of which is “It’s all about the photo” and we were not going to miss an opportunity for a good photo for this occasion!

Race day was terrific weather with a brisk start, quickly warming up to good running conditions.

Prior to the start
Prior to the start
About to start!
About to start!

The first 14km involved stairs – down – up – down – up and on and on. We’d been warned about the stairs and for this reason had trained a lot on the Cardiff stairs. What a joke! Cardiff stairs were like Kindergarten stairs compared to the stairs on the course. In single file we traversed these monstrous beasts – some barely more than ladders. One couldn’t stop because of the queue behind, but luckily, thanks to the start groupings, most people were of a similar pace and fitness. I honestly thought my heart would stop on some of the climbs and I only kept going because of the people behind, however no-one was shoving to get past!

Ultra Trail Australia 2016
Who puts a photographer at the top of the stairs?
Single trail sections early on
Single trail sections early on

We came out of the bush right near our house in Leura, and there were Nicole and Monique with drinks and food! How wonderful it was to see them! They had written on the road in chalk and were smiling and happy and encouraging.

Loving the day!
Loving the day!
Nicole & Monique were incredible
Nicole & Monique were incredible

Our group had split up by this point, with different groupings perhaps 10 minutes apart. Hayley and I were at the back, determined to have a good time and agreeing that we would stay together at a pace that worked for us both.

Ultra Trail Australia 2016
Having a blast
Halfway
Halfway

The next stop was at Queen Victoria Hospital at 28km. The few kilometres prior to this were quite exposed and on bitumen, and we arrived hot and ready for a little break. Nicole and Monique were there as well, and we stopped and chatted for a while before running on. The next 15km were quite extraordinary in terms of the terrain we traversed. I’ve never seen such big hills and they went on forever! We had a terrain map and took to counting the number of hills to climb until the end.

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Checkpoint 2

At Leura Forest Hayley and I caught up with another runner, Kathy. She explained that she’d had a fall earlier in the event and this had thrown her both mentally and physically. She had regrouped, but like us all, was tiring toward the end. We ran the last few kilometres together, and as happens at events like this, we’ve stayed in touch ever since!

Leura Forest
Leura Forest

The dreaded Furber steps loomed up and we commenced our climb. Honestly, after everything else we’d encountered on the course, I thought by comparison the Furber steps were a cinch. Others who had zoomed over other parts of the course thought differently, however I could smell the finish line and the three of us just kept going. There was carnage everywhere – people lying on the ground next to the steps; people crawling; people going up backward; people stopping to let others past. We came to the top and Hayley called to me to start running! OMG, running at 49.5km but of course she was right – it was only 500 metres to go and we were running up to the finishing chute. Kathy was slightly ahead but then slowed and waited for us, and we crossed the line together! 50km with 3433 metres of elevation and 4052 calories expended! Epic.

We were thrilled!
We were thrilled!
Crossing the line with Kathy
Crossing the line with Kathy
Kathy's family were at the finish too
Kathy’s family were at the finish too
Such a buzz!
Such a buzz!
The morning after!
The morning after!

UTA50 was number 13.

Canberra Marathon

Canberra Marathon

Canberra Marathon was an obvious choice for the Australian Capital Territory. There were a couple of others to choose from however one was right at the end of the season and there was no doubt it could have been very hot. Craig and I had run in Canberra before, with the Mothers Day classic 10km in 2011 and the Canberra half in 2013. We have always loved Canberra and look forward to spending time there whenever we have the opportunity.

The start was right near our favourite hotel – the Hyatt Hotel Canberra that never fails to disappoint. We had a lovely meal in the restaurant the night before and I know that following the start of the marathon, Craig and Verity had a wonderful time at the breakfast buffet!

Hyatt Hotel Canberra
Hyatt Hotel Canberra
Trusty support crew!
Trusty support crew!

Four ladies from our running group were also running the marathon. I looked for them at the start but it wasn’t until we were out on the course near one of the turnarounds that I saw them. They were flying! I’d had a pretty good first half as well. I’d found the 4 hour pacers and stuck with them for the first 21km, making for easy, stress free running with others making decisions about the pace. I had never tried this technique before and on the day it was excellent.

Crowd support was a bit light-on, particularly when we went out west of the city centre around the University area. Craig and Verity had attempted to drive there but the roads were closed. Around 30km I came upon Kath who was using the event as a training run for UTA50. We ran together for approximately 2km and then at a drink stop I told her to go on without me. I walked the next kilometre and phoned Craig for a quick chat before setting off again.

I felt pretty good as we came up behind the Hyatt Hotel with about 3km to go. I increased my speed and at the same time the crowd support also picked up. The finishing kilometre was really fun with cheering, plenty of space to run, and even some shade on the course. Waving to my friends who were on the sides of the finishing chute (they had all done awesome times), I came across the line in 4:17 – my second fastest time ever and fastest since 2013. It was thrilling and completely unexpected! I’d had a very good day and I think the pacing group made the most difference.

Happy at the finish
Happy at the finish

Canberra Marathon was number 12.

Wangaratta Marathon

Wangaratta Marathon

When I drew up the schedule for running a marathon in every state I hesitated when it came to Victoria. There were two obvious choices – Wangaratta, right at the beginning of the Australian running season, or Melbourne, closer to the end of the season. I couldn’t make up my mind. Wangaratta made sense in some respects because a lot can happen over the course of a year and leaving Victoria for last to run Melbourne, with only one month to go before the cutoff for Marathon Maniacs when there was a possibility I could get injured sounded a bit risky. On the other hand though, the temperatures forecast for Wangaratta looked very warm, and there was no easy way to get there other than by road – a drive of 7:30.

My confidence was down. I’d had a go at Caboolture Dusk to Dawn marathon and pulled out at 14km because I wasn’t well and the whole thing was a big struggle. This had been hard to swallow after the success of Punta Arenas and in a moment of doubt I thought perhaps I should abandon the quest for the 13 marathons. I had however already booked my flight to Auckland for 5 March 2016 so with encouragement from Craig decided to go ahead and enter Wangaratta.

For the first time ever in a marathon, I went to Wangaratta in stealth mode. My running friends had been wonderful after Caboolture but I felt I had let them down by pulling out. They were running the segment for UTA50 the same weekend so I just said I had plans for the weekend, and Craig, Verity and I drove to Victoria on the Saturday. It was very hot when we arrived and we went straight to the local oval for bib pickup before having a nice Italian dinner in a local restaurant. We scoped out the course which was two laps, mainly on a cycleway.

The marathon was a really nice event. The course was flat and had a lot of shade. We set off just before dawn and in truth it didn’t really get hot until the very end.

Pre-dawn start
Pre-dawn start

Craig and Verity had a map of the course and popped up all over it with snacks and drinks. There was a lot of support from runners to one another and I used the phrase “You got this”, learned in Punta Arenas, on everyone I passed. Encouraging others made a massive difference to me and kept me focussed on finding the next person to speak to.

Stopping for a drink
Stopping for a drink

I also ran for a time with a fellow who thanked me after for getting him through the tougher section in suburbia. Perhaps the only highlight of that particular section was the fabulous man who stood on his front lawn with a hose and sprayed everyone going past!

On the cycleway
On the cycleway
Early morning suburbia
Early morning suburbia

The only difficulty I encountered was coming back through the start to commence the second lap. I came in on the tail of the 5km walking event heading out and quickly became lost in a sea of people. Fortunately a keen-eyed volunteer spotted me and yelled for me to run toward her, as the marathon course went a different way for a time!

I really enjoyed the final kilometre and running over the line to see Craig and Verity.

A picture tells a thousand words!
A picture tells a thousand words!

From there we went back to our caravan park and I jumped in the pool. It was tremendous! And then I confessed to my friends what I’d done! And then we drove back home!

I made the marathon newsletter!
I made their marathon newsletter!

Wangaratta Marathon was number 10.

Six Foot Track Marathon

Six Foot Track Marathon

I’d been keen to run the Six Foot Track Marathon and had set out to qualify for it by running a marathon in under 4 hours 20 minutes the year before. With this qualifying time in hand I stood by my computer the morning the race entry opened and pounced, scoring myself an entry. The whole thing sold out in minutes!

I did some long trail runs in the weeks leading up to the event, bearing in mind I was also running the Tokyo Marathon two weeks before Six Foot. As indicated in the write-up for Tokyo, two weeks before Tokyo I tore my calf in training and had nursed it back to the point where I had been able to run most of Tokyo. I wasn’t sure how I would go in a serious trail like Six Foot, but all was booked and there was no way I was dropping out!

Six Foot Track Marathon is actually a trail ultra as it is 45km. It runs from Katoomba to Jenolan Caves on the historic Six Foot Track, first carved through the bush in 1884 to allow access by cart to Jenolan Caves. It was a bridle trail of six foot in width to allow two drays to pass one another.

Craig and I went to Katoomba the day before the event. Following bib collection we enjoyed a nice afternoon tea at our hotel. We’d booked to stay at Lilianfels, a boutique hotel near the 3 Sisters and where we’d stayed before. It is a beautiful place and we had a lovely dinner knowing we’d be up super early to get to the bus collection point for the start.

We parked at Katoomba High School and joined the long queues for the buses. This race is an iconic event and the organisation was seamless. We arrived at the Explorers’ Tree and stood with the rest of the runners waiting for the start, which was in five waves. I was in wave five. The plan was for Craig to go on one of the buses to the finish line at Jenolan Caves and wait there for me. He had some of his uni books and planned on studying once there.

Waiting at the start
Waiting at the start

I saw some of my running group friends at the start. They were all in waves in front of me and suggested I join in with them. Not wanting to be disqualified from something I’d worked hard to get into, I declined, and following a group hug they set off. I was pretty anxious about the run knowing it was a challenging event, but after Tokyo I’d resolved to NEVER cry in a marathon again!

Nervous at the start
Nervous at the start

Finally it was my turn. The gun fired and runners ran for about 200 metres and then came to a halt at the top of the first flight of stairs. From there it was 2km straight down, all rocky and uneven stairs, with some water crossings. We were all in single file. It wasn’t terribly safe but that was to be expected particularly when 800 runners had already bolted down the same stairs, spreading water and mud all around. Two ladies a bit in front of me paused to pose for the photographer and there was a chorus of complaints from behind about holding people up! At the time I thought it was ridiculous that people were trying to rush, especially when the groups were seeded and thus we were all roughly as capable as one another.

Trying to smile and wave while not falling over
Trying to smile and wave while not falling over

At the bottom of the stairs was a long section of fire trail and then some single trail, leading to the river crossing at 15km.

Crossing farmland
Crossing farmland

Cox’s River crossing is one of those things that defines this event. In 2012 the event had been cancelled because the river was so high, but on the day I ran it was about knee deep. On the other side of the river were chairs for us to sit down and take off shoes which volunteers then dunked in large garbages full of water to wash out the river gravel.

Cox's River
Cox’s River

The next 15km were almost straight up! Nothing could have prepared me for this. I hadn’t done much research beyond knowing what time I needed to qualify.  This lack of research was reflected again when it dawned on me that there was a cut-off for this event! Runners needed to stay ahead of the sweepers for their wave. I had no idea! No wonder the other runners had complained at people slowing down for photos. I worked out I was actually ahead – running with wave 4, having passed their sweepers at some stage. The sweepers for my wave were about 20 minutes behind.

I spoke to the wave 4 sweepers who told me if I stayed ahead of them I’d be fine. I must say I struggled a lot with that 15km climb and half heartedly asked whether there was a quick way out! At times I felt I was barely moving forward. I reminded myself I wasn’t going to cry and haven’t since!

At one point I was running along and a red bellied black snake came slithering out of the bush on my left. I swerved around it, yelling “snake” and kept going.

At the top of the mountain there was some respite and I stopped at an aid station where I finally got something to eat. The aid stations are supposed to be stocked so runners don’t need to carry nutrition but each one prior to 30km had been cleared out by fast runners. I’d done all that distance on absolutely nothing!

Once I’d thrown down a couple of gels my energy returned and I took off! The last 15km were sensational. I ran really well and overtook heaps of people who had overtaken me on the long climb. I fell over on a small creek crossing, taking a chunk out of my knee, but the blood running down my leg only made me look more hardcore!

Last 15km
Last 15km
Enjoying it now!
Enjoying it now!

By this time I was within 3km of the end and finally had some phone reception. I sent Craig a quick message to let him know I wasn’t far off and then ploughed on. The final couple of kilometres were downhill and unfortunately I had to slow to a walk because my toes and toenails were banging very painfully into the front of my shoes. The final few hundred metres were a dream – back on concrete and a handrail! I zoomed down and across the finishing chute – 6 hours 43 minutes – ahead of both the wave 4 and wave 5 pacers!

Finishing chute
Finishing chute

I sought out the wave 4 pacers and shook hands with them, thanking them for their support and company during the massive climb. Craig had a drink and food ready for me. Turns out he hadn’t done any study – he’d sat all day chatting with a lady whose husband wasn’t too far behind me. He was an ultra ironman and the things he does to complete his events defy common sense!

Finished!
Finished!

I got changed and we boarded the bus back to Katoomba. I was exhausted and Craig drove us back to Thornleigh in Sydney where we stopped for something for dinner. I couldn’t eat but was just so elated to have finished the race.

Would I do it again? No. It was one of those bucket-list events and I’ve done it. I’ve got the shirt and the medal to prove it!

Six Foot Track Marathon was number 5.

Macleay River Marathon

Macleay River Marathon

After running in Rotorua and then in Greenland I had in mind to run the 6 foot track marathon. 6 foot track is an iconic trail event and one of those marathons where the entry opens and all spots are taken within five minutes. Not only that, runners had to qualify by running a road marathon in under 4:20. My PB for a marathon was well over five hours however I figured that I could cut a significant amount of time off my PB by entering a fast course and not walking (like in Rotorua) and running on bitumen and not snow (like in Greenland). My research told me that the two fastest courses anywhere near where I live were Gold Coast Airport marathon and Macleay River marathon (held in the little town of South West Rocks on the mid north NSW coast). Not a big fan of huge crowds and thinking about the logistics of getting the family to the event, I chose the three-hour road trip to South West Rocks. I’d previously run a half marathon there and knew the course, which helped with the decision as well.

My training for my first competitive marathon wasn’t overly good. My husband Craig had been my training partner since 2010 but hadn’t recovered at all well from Greenland in 2012. He had run the Canberra half in April 2013 although for the first time we had agreed prior to that race that I would skip ahead. Seeing the writing on the wall I had joined a local running club called Night Striders – a women-only group, but I hadn’t really done much running with them. About three weeks out from Macleay River I posted a question on the Night Striders Facebook page asking whether people thought I could still pull off a marathon despite less than ideal training, and the encouragement was immense – Yes, do it.

So I did. There were two other Night Striders at the start – Kirby and Lauren. We ran together for the first 15km at which time Lauren dropped off; and then Kirby and I ran together until about 24km when I dropped off. The next 8km were a struggle – my pace slowed and I began to suffer mentally. I knew though I had only to make it to 32km where Craig was meeting me with our children, and my son Alexander was going to run the next 5-10km with me.

At the start with Emily, Kirby & Lauren
At the start with Emily, Kirby and Lauren
We were off!
We were off!
We were a blur of speed!
We were a blur of speed!

Sure enough at 32km along came Craig. Alexander jumped out of the car and off we went together. I was still well on track for the sub 4:20 time, and Alexander provided excellent support, carrying my water belt and snacks. With 5km to go my daughter Emily also joined us, and the three of us ran toward the finish. As happens a lot when I run, the last kilometre was my fastest and I came across the finish line in around 4:12. I was thrilled.

Big smile & big relief!
Big smile & big relief!

Alexander had already run the 10km event (in 43:51 with no training!) and it was a massive ask for him to run another 10km when he’d never done the distance before!

The 10km event.
The 10km event.

Emily had run the 5km event with my youngest daughter Verity, and then did the last 5km on top of that.

Wildlife on the 5km run!
Wildlife on the 5km run!

Craig had also run a PB in the half, going under 1:50!

Tallest runner in the field!
Tallest runner in the field!

Everyone had a fantastic morning at the event. The club puts on a great day, with super organisation, prizes and refreshments. I’ve had two really positive races there.

Macleay River marathon was number 3.