The day started at 3.30am with the usual breakfast of peanut butter on an English muffin and a coffee only normal thing about the day really, as what sort of person gets up at 3.30am to torture themselves? I had all my gear ready, gels, replacement tablets (replace carbs and minerals and stuff like that, not my sanity), bib, drinks, shoes all waiting for me so a quick get ready plan went into play. I then had a quick 10 mins walk to the local Hotel where the race bus departed, but let me advise you Hobart's street lighting is seriously inadequate and we are during a new moon, so the area was pitch black and it is hilly, "Streets of San Francisco" style so I was cautious, didn't want to roll an ankle on the way to the race bus, that would make a funny story after 30 odd weeks of training....not.
Met my buddy (and training guru, supporter and more) George at the bus (I was on it, he was wandering around it outside thinking I was running late or had chickened out) and we then headed out to the race start. The journey consisted of George telling me things like "we run up this hill", "we pass this place" etc. and me staring out the window into the pitch black wondering how he has night vision.
Not a lot to report per race except a couple of compulsory nervous toilet breaks and a panic moment where George let me know that even though it was a loop course of two lots of 21kms we don't actually go back into the chocolate factory grounds, we turn around about 1km out. Now that wouldn't have been much of a big deal but I'd left my carb replacement drinks with a friend who was going to meet me half way for a top up (or belt swap to be more precise) before she ran her own event which started later. Planning was all stuffed now, I was going to have to run the last 21kms on water and a few gels. I let her know via SMS not to worry, but she was determined to make sure I was alright. A mid race SMS from me (thank god I took my phone) and she arranged to leave my spare belt with the volunteers at the 21km mark drink station, what a legend. She did wait there for a few hours cheering on most of the field (bar myself at the tail end) before she ran to the start of her event. Wonderful effort by my unofficial support crew.
I mentioned earlier that the race is called the Cadbury Marathon and that it starts and finishes in a chocolate factory. I didn't spot any Oompa Loompas, nor got to visit the gift shop, but I do know that I'm one of a few hundred people who have mixed long distance running with chocolate consumption. Even though I'm a vegan and didn't participate in the milk chocolate devouring comp at the finish line, I do have a couple of chocolate bars and a large purple Cadbury Marathon beach town for my efforts. It is funny to watch these athletes, who have been on strict diets for months, just throw it all out the window and hook into a family sized block of chocolate as though it was their last ever meal.
Race started with a "10 seconds to the start, 8, 7 etc", no hoopla, no sirens, guns, no timing mat (you get gun time as your official result so the 30 seconds or so it took me to get over the start line itself, as I started at the back of the field, is included in my official time, which doesn't mean a lot over such a long distance). George was with me for the first 300 metres or so, putting on film my first marathon start, and then he went off to run his own brilliant race. I was running next to Olympic Gold medalist, Cathy Freeman for the first half a kilometre or so and was tempted to go a little harder to say "I've beaten Cathy Freeman over 400 metres" but that would be stupid, funny but stupid as a still had 42kms ahead of me. Race started with a few loops of the surrounding housing area and a number of my buddies from parkrun, who were running in later events (half marathon and 5kms) were probably the loudest cheer squad on course, yelling "go messy boy" as I passed them on those loops. Thanks guys, started my day with a huge smile, and even had people a lot later in the race tell me that I didn't look that messy, so great encouragement.
We then headed down a pretty big hill, which meant we were going to have to run back up it 41kms later - ouch, and onto the main roads, passing the world class MONA Gallery, around the back of the Elwick racecourse (where the Hobart cup will be run later this month) and over this bridge, which had a steady climb, just what you need for aching legs. On the bridge I was passed by a very fast police motorcycle who was leading out the half marathon runners, and quite a few guys who were running faster than I do 200m sprints and they were keeping that up for 21kms!
Once over the bridge you do a turnaround, back to where we started (roughly) and then do it all again.
The second time I got to the Elwick racecourse I hit the infamous "wall", about 29 kms into the event my brain was pushing me to finish and my body was just stopping. You read all about it in all the books and articles but until you've experienced it you can't explain what it is like (or seen it as everyone around me was also dropping like flies - and being a loop course I could see the same thing happening to the people who were way in front of me). This is when the mental toughness had to kick in - focus on a witches hat about 50m away and get to it, and then do it again, and again and again ad infinituum (well that's what it felt like).
I did have to have a quick toilet break about 36 kms in and getting down the steps of the portaloo was interesting in itself, as was the officials deciding to open the roads to traffic one hour earlier than scheduled "as there weren't many of us left on the course". This caused a bit of undue stress as there wasn't always footpaths to follow so I had to remain alert to oncoming traffic.
Three kilometres from the finish I pass a bas station and sitting there was George, Scott and Joanne, all ready to get me through the last bit of pain. Now no disrespect here, but after getting through 39kms there was no way in the world I was not going to finish, but their presence did buoy me a little as I pushed through the last big hill and onto the finish line.
Over the line I get a large medal, a Cadbury's beach towel, some chocolate and a huge cheer from my support crew and my wonderful family, who had put up with months of training and days of laziness leading up to the event as well the upcoming days of complaining about the pain after the event.
A special thanks to George, Joanne, Scott, Carol,
I'll be checking in again in the coming days with a number of post race humorous tales as I stagger about with a ruined body and will be keeping this blog going with updates on how I'm tracking for the 100km Oxfam Trailwalk in April.
Photos to be uploaded later today.