surf coast trail marathon – not a race recap

It was one of my running goals this year to not run. Odd, I know. I wanted to make sure I gave up some of my potential runs and chose to volunteer instead. The running community has given me so much over the last few years, I wanted to be able to give something back and make sure others could experience what I have. Hence why I didn’t run the Surf Coast trail half marathon today but instead chose to don a high vis vest and volunteer instead.

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Sunrise from our briefing point in Torquay

For those who haven’t volunteered at a running event before, it’s not hard. I was a marshal today which involved turning up for briefing (easy), finding my given marshal point (quite easy) and raising my arm every now and then to point in the appropriate direction, accompanied by cheering and words of encouragement (very easy). The hardest part was probably not running although I did quite a lot of pacing around to keep myself warm while I waited enthusiastically for some runners to cheer on.

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My marshal point

In fact, I’m actually quite enamoured with this whole volunteering thing. You get a whole different perspective on running, events and the human spirit. I saw fast runners today for whom the whole thing looked completely effortless. And many of them gave up some much needed breathing time to thank me for volunteering.

I saw a whole range of different runners with different styles and different levels of concentration and pain on their faces. I saw some runners at the back of the pack who I thought were just amazing. It’s one thing to run with a group of people around you for motivation or with crowds awaiting you at the aid stations. It’s quite another to be out there almost alone, knowing you’ll be out there for twice as long as the ones at the front. All running requires you to draw deep but I feel like that sort of running requires you to draw into a magical well of miraculous depth. A well that most of us never have to find out whether we have access to. So my loudest and most enthusiastic cheers of the day went to those runners who had been out on the course the longest.

And, when the sweepers came through, letting me know that my shift was over, I headed along to the next aid station to continue cheering people on and gaining further appreciation for the human spirit as I watched runners wading across a river on the course which they probably hadn’t realised was going to be there. Resulting in my very wet feet thanks to the king tide that engulfed them when I was paying more attention to the runners than I was to where I was standing. All in the name of running fun.

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So, all in all, a very successful volunteering experience. If you haven’t volunteered at an event before, do it. Not as daunting as you’d think and a great way to spend a few hours. A huge congratulations to every single runner out there on the course today – you’re all simply incredible 🙂

 

 

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Surf coast trail half marathon – race recap

If you had asked me last night whether I would be writing a race recap about this, I wouldn’t have known what to tell you. I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to run it until I actually found myself at the start line and, even then, I doubted my ability to finish it. Surf coast trail half is my 4th half marathon so I knew I was capable of the distance but the terrain was a complete unknown and more than a bit daunting – 4km of beach running and a variety of ‘inclines’. I love a good trail and this was sure to be one but I hadn’t run a trail event of this length and really wasn’t sure what I was capable of.

We arrived at the start with plenty of time, thanks to our fabulous friend Grant who was acting as our driver and support crew for the day. It was a very crisp morning and a lot of the talk was about whether or not to run with or ditch various layers of clothing. Having bought myself a hydration pack yesterday, I opted to run with one longer top, knowing I could stow it away if I needed to.

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Hanging out at the start line

After the mandatory 2 toilet stops, we made our way down onto the beach for the briefing, keeping out of the way of the marathoners coming through. This briefing consisted mainly of ‘That’s the ocean. Keep it on your left’ – definitely advice to follow! Soon enough, it was time to start and we all headed off along the rather soft sand, running down towards the water looking for elusive ‘hard sand’. We really didn’t find any and ended up laughing hysterically while jog/walking as we had to keep running back up the beach every time a wave came near.

If we had thought the beach was a challenge, the steps we needed to climb to get off it and the hill that followed were so much worse. It was the hill that kept on giving….and giving….and giving. I was again starting to doubt my ability to do this. Thankfully it did flatten out eventually and we were rewarded with frequent amazing views that reminded us why we were doing it.

The wonderful thing about this course is how you are treated not only to stunning ocean views at regular intervals but also the variety of running through bush a little inland and we were treated to some of this approaching Anglesea. We also had a bit more beach running to face as we descended down to run across the river mouth and back up the river to the first aid station. As aid stations go, this was fabulous with pumping music to motivate, water and Tailwind hydration as well as a selection of food. On top of that, friendly and encouraging volunteers to look after us and keep us moving.

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The glorious trail – such a great variety of surfaces and scenery

Back on the trail, I was feeling a little more positive although still quite overwhelmed by the distance and terrain still to be covered. However, as always, running with Jill was fabulous and distracted me perfectly so the kilometres ticked by quite quickly. On this part of the trail, there were some gorgeous little paths which looked almost like fairy grottos and enough twists and turns to keep us interested. It’s funny looking on the map – we were so close to civilisation but really had no idea and felt like we were out in the middle of nowhere. If I wasn’t running with someone, it could have been quite lonely as there weren’t many other runners near us.

We zipped around the carpark at Point Roadknight and then started to have more glimpses of the lighthouse at Airey’s which was getting closer all the time. Along a bit further and we were met again by our support crew, Grant, who wanted to see us run down on the beach. This was the part I’d been dreading but, through our usual brand of general shenanigans, it ended up being a heap of fun with jump shots, selfies galore and more wave dodging. However I still felt every bit of the 3.3km of beach – a long way to run, even with relatively hard sand. We were very grateful for the aid station at the end of it and paused for refreshment.

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Urquhart’s Beach – 3.3km of running goodness

 

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Couldn’t possibly miss a chance for a selfie (or 10!)

Back on the trail again and it was now starting to feel like the end was in sight but also felt hard – everything by now was hurting, including bits that didn’t normally (like the inside of my big toes – what’s with that?!?!). The frequent glimpses of the lighthouse were much needed and we very much had the ‘getting it done’ attitude. Thankfully, there was some downhill towards the lighthouse which allowed us to get into a bit of a running groove. We also had another small beach detour and another hill to follow it although neither were terrible.

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Airey’s lighthouse not looking too far away…

Finally, we were approaching the lighthouse then on the last stretch, in sight of Fairhaven Surf Club, but knowing there was one last hill to climb. Climb it we did – it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fast but it was done. We were directed by the fabulous volunteers down onto the beach for the final stretch then, after dodging the waves lapping at the base, had to climb stairs to reach the finish line at the top.

All done, we took our finish line shots and wandered around a little aimlessly, as you tend to after a long run. After pulling ourselves together, we headed for Airey’s pub for our free beer – just the tonic needed to start our rehydration!

So, was it awesome? Yes, absolutely. The scenery was the best I’ve seen in an event, the volunteers were outstanding and the trail was as varied as you could possibly want. Add to that our brilliant support crew and you couldn’t ask for more in an event. Will I do it again? No. Never. I’m really, really happy I did it and I’ll be equally happy to keep this as a ‘once in a lifetime’ sort of event. Probably 🙂

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Scenes from my run

I live in an amazing part of the world and am so lucky to run where I do. Hence why I’m very excited this week to link up with Erika, Patty and Marcia for Tuesdays on the run to share ‘scenes from my run’.

I’ve got some picturesque neighbourhood runs through man-made wetland areas which I tend to stick to during the week as they’re close (although are starting to get a little too familiar!). On weekends, I like to take my long run somewhere a little different so head either for the hills (5 minutes drive) or the beach (from about 20 minutes drive). My absolutely favourite place to run at the moment is along the Surf Coast trail & Great Ocean Road – they can only be described as stunning!

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In fact, I’m about to do something a little crazy and sign up for the Surf Coast trail half marathon in June. I’ve got the Great Ocean Road half in May along some amazing coastline so this just seems to make it the perfect pair. I’m a little nervous about it being a trail half (including some beach running!) but I used to think 5km seemed like a ridiculously long way so I just have to keep remembering that I’ve overcome self-doubt before and can do it again. Wish me luck!