It feels like a dream. Five days on and my recovery has been sensational. I have bounds of energy and am ready to tackle a good run. I promised myself two weeks off to allow my body to recover as I have pushed it too soon a couple of times in the past. And particularly after how tough I found the run I thought this was a wise idea.
I am feeling really good.
The Great Ocean Road Marathon 2015. Set in an incredibly divine location, with a vibrant race-day vibe, and so much fun the day before with the Kids Gallop and other races.
The brutal truth? It was the toughest run I have ever done and I hit almost the lowest mental point that I can think of in all my training for three marathons. I had the thought at one point that perhaps I could just drop out – can’t believe that I have admitted to that feeling. Luckily the course does not allow for that. It is a point to point along a fairly remote road. When that realisation came immediately upon my first ever thought of quitting, I knew I would get it done. It could be messy, it sure wasn’t going to be pretty, but I would be doing it along with all the others near me at that time. We were a tribe, and we were together. I also had the added incentive of my gorgeous family waiting for me at the finish line.
But let’s go back to the race start. It is incredibly well organised with the marathon and half marathon starting at the same time at different points along the road. From the finish line you take a bus to the start so you drive the route before you run it. The beauty is that you drive the route with 50 other marathoners in your bus, watching the sun come up over the ocean. Here is a dodgy photo I took from the bus that can not capture the absolute beauty of the moment.
I was lucky enough to be sitting with a marathon veteran friend of mine who had run the Great Ocean Road the year before. He knew what we were in for and had trained doubly hard this year to ensure he was fit enough. I had already felt a sneaking suspicion that my training would not be good enough but on the road to the start I had it confirmed.
We made light of it. He joked with me that the Great Ocean Road marathon is a metaphor for life with its literal ups and downs as well as the physical and mental ones along the way. He told me to keep in mind that I was running a metaphor. He repeated it at the start line, “Remember Roz, you are running a metaphor” with a glint of a cheeky smile on his face. I remembered it along the way and it made me smile even when I was momentarily lost.
This is how the start line looked…..
The race started beautifully. I made myself head out slow knowing that this race in particular would benefit from me being measured and reasonable. The first hills were gentle and comfortable. The sun was slowly rising in the sky and the world was looking magical in the early light. I didn’t care that there were a large number of people running past me. That was ok. It was my race, my pace. I even stopped to take a photo early on from one of the lookouts.
And so it continued. The road wound around the coastline, beautiful slopes upwards to the sky and towards the beach and gentle curves down towards the trees. The uphills were often in the sun with the corresponding down hill in shadow. I felt like I was cruising for the first 10km and it went in a flash. The next 8km were very comfortable. Then I took my second gel and started to feel a little queasy. I ignored it and at the next drinks station made sure I had two cups of water. That helped a little and I kept on trucking, making sure I soaked in every essence of the beautiful views, the sounds of the ocean and the damp smell of the trees. I chatted to a couple of other women who were about my pace and found out there were plenty of Sydney siders in the group. They had better hills to train on than I did. One lady was on her fifth Great Ocean Road marathon – unbelievable! I received some lovely complements on my dress from the little crew that was forming as we neared the half way point and an exclamation of delight from one of the volunteers at the drink station who declared me the best dressed.
I had promised myself that, if I needed to, I was allowed to walk some of the hill just past the half marathon start line. It is the largest on the route and having given myself permission, I took that option. I felt that I was being sensible and saving myself for the long km’s ahead. I think it was the beginning of the end as I hadn’t factored in that it would then give me permission to walk a few more hills. I have never walked a “run” before.
I attempted to take my third gel somewhere around 27km and the resulting gag reflex was not a good sign. Since the gels were making me feel sick I stopped taking them and by 32k I was well beyond what I had hoped for in terms of time and energy. My training had not prepared me for the course and I knew that going into it. But what I didn’t realise is how much of a toll this would have especially if I wasn’t able to fuel my body while I was out there. I kept drinking fluids from my hydration pack and taking water at the drinks stations.
I rang my husband to let him know that I would be late. That is when I almost lost it. Admitting out loud that I was finding it hard to keep going, that I had flirted with the idea of quitting, that I felt crook in my guts. You are usually ok if you can just keep those thoughts on the inside, in your own private vault. Expressing them out into the open, letting them free like white doves on a wedding day opens them up to being devoured by birds of prey. I choked back a tear. I told him I would get it done and that I would text when I was at the 40k mark. Of course he gave me support – it wasn’t soft and comforting support, he is not like that, it was practical, pragmatic and directed. “Stop taking the gels, you know what to do, set little goals for yourself and achieve them, it’s all heart from here, get it done, work towards getting home in less than 5 hours, you know what to do, this is not your first marathon.”
So off I went knowing that I had to get to the 40km mark so I could text my husband. Running at whatever pace I could muster and walking the steepest parts of the hills. I had a laugh with Matt about this being his first marathon. Why would you do that to yourself? Might be the one and only! He had been leap frogging me for most of the race as I ran the hills which he walked and then he beat me on the downhill. His first ever marathon. Totally crazy! I was sorry that I eventually left him behind. I laughed with the girl in the fluro yellow top who ran the uphills and walked the downhill. She said she found going up easier. I was encouraged by an interesting guy who I had seen talking to almost everyone as we walked the steepest hills and ran the rest. I find marathoners at my pace to be such lovely people. There for the experience and personal achievement. Happy to encourage others and be encouraged in return. Despite the physical agony of those last 14km I had some of the most special moments with the runners around me. And then there were the long gaps with no one…… Except the beautiful view.
I think it must have been the second last drink station, there was a girl about my daughter’s age holding out a banana. I had just grabbed two cups of water and asked her if she could put the banana under my arm. She looked at me quizzically and I wondered for a moment if perhaps I was slurring my words. But then she worked it out and I had the banana tucked in my elbow. That saved me and I will not forget her gorgeous face in a hurry. I gagged while eating the banana and only made it half way through but I am sure that is what got me through those last 6k. They sure weren’t pretty. Cliffy Young shuffle ALL the way.
As I came past the last drink station I saw out of the corner of my eye a guy jump out of a chair by the side of the road and dash over towards me. It was my mate Jarrod! We ran the Barossa Marathon together at about the same time last year. It was hilarious because the first words out of his mouth were, “you must be having a hell of a run.” And the volunteer at the drink station who had just given me two cups of water said to him, “don’t make her stop man, she’s nearly there!” Jarrod laughed, “don’t worry, I won’t.” He said he had been waiting for ages and wondered if he had missed me. He was surprised at how late I was. Then it clicked what he meant by a “hell of a run”. A “hell” of a run. Yep! He told me there wasn’t long to go and it was great that I was getting it done. I looked at him and asked him why he wasn’t going to run with me to the finish? I seriously had thought that he might and it had filled me with hope. But no. There were children and a gorgeous partner for him to attend to. Sigh.
Those last few kilometres were beyond tough. I was going so slow, they were taking so long and I saw the five hour time click over. Texts were coming in, I could hear them beep over my playlist that I had ramped up to keep me going.
By now the roadside was full of supporters and they were clapping and cheering us all on. They kept saying, “not long now, you are almost there!” and I felt like raging at them. I am NOT almost there, this is going on forever and it is never going to end. I knew that was a little irrational so I smiled sweetly and thanked them for coming out. And then finally, there it was, way in the distance, the white shape of the finish line banner. YES!
And there they were, my husband and my children. I opened my arms wide as I saw my husband went to take a photo and the roadside crowd put out their hands for some high fives. My kids ran to me and started to run alongside me. I had to make them slow down!!
I cracked the biggest grin. I was there! I was here! It was all behind me. I made my children hold my hands and we crossed the finish line together. It was so beautiful to be with them, to have seen my husband, to be at the end. As soon as I was over the finish mat I stopped and bent over holding myself up on my legs. The gentleman with the microphone called my name and said how glamorous I looked in my dress. He came over the talk to me and the kids. It was very sweet. We had a laugh and I thanked him and all the volunteers for their amazing support.
A few steps further forward and there were the volunteers with the medals. I asked the kids who we should get our medal from but I already knew. There was a gorgeous woman with a huge smile on her face and I said it had to be her. She then asked my daughter if she wanted to put the medal around my neck. How beautiful was that! Of course, she did. I lent forward and there it was. The memento to show that I had made it all the way under my own steam. Another pic with the kids and there was my husband with cuddles and food.
After collapsing on the grass for a while, I managed to creakily make my way down to the beach to put my legs in the freezing cold ocean. It was delightful and there was a large number of marathoners out there enjoying the natural ice bath.
So that was it. That was my run on a sunny Sunday morning.
It was tough. Physically and mentally.
It was also the most magical, inspiring, and affirming run of my life.
The views are spectacular, the other marathoners I met along the way were gorgeous, the volunteers incredible with their support and encouragement. My time does not reflect the amazingness of the run, what I learnt, what I saw, what I heard, felt, smelt and who I met.
They are just numbers…. 44.5k in 5:06 6:53 pace.
Proud? Not really.
Sure of who I am and what I can do, how much grit and determination I have at my core under my soft, effusive exterior?