There’s a theory – go in with low expectations and you won’t be disappointed.
I used this theory with some success on Thursday night when I went to see the recent three-peat premiership winning but now cellar-dwelling Hawks take on the top-of-the-table Crows at the Adelaide Oval. I was not particularly confident but hoping for a good contest. Against all odds (unbelievably paying $7.50 in a 2 horse race!) the Hawks managed to pull off a miracle win!
I don’t often subscribe to this theory in running events. If I don’t expect to do well, I generally don’t run. (As evidenced by my recent ‘wussing out’ of the Mt Misery race, and to a lesser extent, the Cleland 50k).
This weekend was different. I’d been running laps around the 6 hour event course for the past 3 weeks, and it was time for a break from the monotony! Never mind that I have done next to no hills training (Sturt Gorge 6 weeks ago was probably the last time I ran any kind of trail).
But, it WAS an excuse for a weekend away with friends, so it was with little hesitation that I signed up for the 21.1km.
The course was a 10.5km loop, with the options being 1, 2 or 4 loops. The mathematicians among you may have worked out that 4 loops = a marathon. This was the first year that the Tower Trail Run included a marathon.
With running buddies Karen, Daryl and Wendy, I hit the road at reasonable o’clock on Friday for the drive to Mt Gambier. The journey was uneventful but I did insist on a rest stop at Coonawarra, which just happens to be one of Australia’s leading Cabernet Sauvignon regions. So, naturally there was some wine tasting (and subsequent purchasing) on the cards! Majella was our hydration stop and let’s just say it’s a good thing Karen and Daryl have an SUV with a big boot!
Our AirBNB accommodation was in a great location – before we headed out for dinner, we went for a walk to the parkrun start location where we’d be heading the following morning, and were pleased to find it was only an easy 7 minute walk away! (As it turned out, it was also walking distance to the Tower Trail Run start!)
The accommodation was nice – although my room was what appeared to be the back porch before an extension was built. It had no door (a doorway, but no door), it was a through room to the laundry, and there was a (frosted glass) window just above my bed, on the other side of which was the bathroom!
On Saturday morning we walked to parkrun and it seemed like half of Adelaide was there, including my Boston buddy Maree who happened to be in town for a party!
It was my second time doing Mt Gambier parkrun so it held no surprises for me (Maree was also a ‘veteran’) although I had forgotten that the first climb is practically right at the start!
The last time I’d been here was in December when the famous Blue Lake was at its picturesque blue best, and was constantly distracted by its beauty during the run! Now, it was more of a slate grey but I was still distracted, thanks to an amazing rainbow which seemed to end in the lake – I would have stopped and taken a photo had I brought my phone with me!
I ran most of it with Andy, one of the guys from SRG (Adelaide’s Southern Running Group), until he took off at the end – a few of the guys who had already finished were egging me on to chase him but I was ‘supposed’ to be taking it easy so I declined. Turned out he was just trying to get under 25 minutes, which he did, as did I. And Maree was first female!
As per tradition we gathered at the fantastic Metro Cafe and Bakery for coffee and some pretty spectacular looking cakes!
We ended up booking in there for dinner as well, as they have a good vegan-friendly menu.
In the afternoon we headed to check out Mt Schank. You can hike down to the bottom but we decided to save that for AFTER the run! The weather was pretty perfect on Saturday afternoon, though!
I had an email from our AirBNB host, checking if everything was OK. I asked if there were any spare blankets, as it had been a little cold on Friday night. Later that afternoon she turned up unexpectedly with 3 brand new faux mink blankets which were much appreciated!
Sunday morning was chilly but fortunately there was no rain at that stage, so we were able to walk to the start/finish line. We were all doing the half marathon which had a very civilised start time of 8:30! The marathon had started at 7, just before it got light.
My pre-race preparation was nothing out of the ordinary other than a fair bit of angst and swearing while trying to put on my new gaiters – this would be my first time ever using gaiters. I had brought a singlet, T-shirt and long sleeved top with me, so I could decide on the morning what would be best. In the end I went with the T-shirt and arm warmers, as well as gloves. Sunnies did not look like they would be needed but I thought it best to take them just in case. Ditto with my cap, which would also keep rain (which was forecast) out of my eyes!
With plenty of time to spare we made the short walk to the large permanent concrete shelter that served as the start/finish area. It was the ideal spot, with plenty of parking nearby, several permanent toilets (as well as portaloos!) and ample shelter. And the obligatory coffee van, which I was looking forward to patronising after the race!
We got to see most of the marathoners coming past during the time we waited for our start. There were plenty of familiar faces among them, including Mick and Howard at the pointy end! Howard’s partner and support crew Pauline had kindly offered to look after our bags for us while we ran!
I ran with my small race vest and 500ml of Gatorade – I probably could have got by without anything but I like to be able to keep going without needing to stop at drink stations. Having the vest also allowed me to carry a light rain jacket just in case. With minimal weight in the pack it felt like wearing ‘Nothing at all!’
We got started at 8.30 and very quickly we were running uphill. The race started on road, and a few of the marathoners passed us coming back the other way. One of them was Graham, who has a very distinctive running style. We greeted each other, and he said he could spot me from a mile away – I replied ‘I could say the same about you!’
At first I was running with Glen, one of the SRG runners, but it wasn’t long before he was ahead of me. I intentionally started conservatively. I had not much idea of what to expect, having not studied the course beforehand. I just didn’t see much point!
The course was interesting, challenging and scenic. Being 2 laps, I used the first lap as a bit of a ‘reccy’. Quite early on I saw Sputnik, who took a pic of me and said “There’s one for your blog!” to which I replied that I was looking for suitable selfie spots on the first lap, then I’d actually take photos second time around!
There were stairs, which I quickly realised I was better off walking up rather than trying to run. Alongside the stairs I’d generally find a well-worn mud track, which I figured out was sometimes easier to walk or jog up than the uneven stairs.
There were also some nice downhill bits – some nice wide flat dirt track which I could fly down, and others that were a bit treacherous with moss and tree roots, and I had to exercise caution.
And of course there were uphills – some short and sharp and some longer but not too steep, both of which I would try to run up. The longer steep hills I wouldn’t even attempt to run.
I kept my gloves on until about 6km in, and during one of the long steep climbs I had time to take off my pack and put them in there, to save having to carry them. Another reason why the pack was worth having!
The course was impeccably marked. I could always see the pink tape in the trees or on the fence to signify that I was on the right track. And there were arrows and ‘Wrong Way’ X signs wherever there might be some ambiguity. This was particularly helpful on my second lap, especially just after passing the start/finish line where Nikki, one of the awesome Race Directors along with husband Phil who also happens to be the man behind Mt Gambier parkrun, was announcing all the runners as they passed by – a lovely touch! As I started my second lap I was on my own, and the route I’d run just over an hour earlier now felt unfamiliar! I was a bit confused when I started to see half marathoners as well as marathoners coming back the other way – I hadn’t recalled that on the first lap, but the pink tape let me know I was on the right track!
There were plenty of marshals out there as well as frequent drink stations – a very well supported event! FABULOUS volunteers and in a lovely touch, they all got medals too, with special ‘VOLUNTEER’ ribbons.
I had gone in with no real expectations and not really even a time goal, although it’s funny how these things change when you cross the start line! Initially I had said ‘sub 3 hours’ as a conservative goal. However, cutoff time for the half was 3 hours 50 – I would normally be WELL under cutoff time so I thought maybe 3 hours was a bit TOO conservative! I had 2.5 hours in my mind but, not knowing the course and knowing that going up hills is definitely a weakness, I wasn’t sure how realistic that was. I ran the first lap without exerting myself TOO much, knowing I had to do it all over again. I only occasionally looked at my watch, mainly to see how much further I had to go, not so much to look at time or pace. I had forgotten to turn off my pace alerts from training – consequently my watch was beeping at me every time I went under 5:30 and over 6:00 minutes per kilometre (which was often!)
I was pleasantly surprised to reach the halfway mark in just over 1 hour 10 minutes. That gave me roughly a 10 minute buffer for the second lap to still run 2:30. I was expecting to run the second lap slower but not 10 minutes slower, so I was pretty confident.
I wasn’t racing anyone else, although every time I passed another woman I did try to sneak a look at her bib colour. There was one girl ahead of me for quite a long time who I eventually passed going up a hill on lap 2 – after I passed her I noted she was a half marathoner but actually I was thinking more of an age group placing than an overall placing! I was one of 7 in my age group so I was hoping for a top 3 placing there. As far as I could tell, an overall podium finish was out of the question!
Not long into lap 2 I was passed by Mick, the eventual winner of the marathon, on his final lap. He was well ahead of Howard who ended up finishing second, and in fact Mick was the only marathoner who passed me. He called out to me before he passed me – he must have recognised me from my signature striped arm warmers – and congratulated me on Boston before flying off into the distance! Well, actually I kept him in sight for a time, and was heartened to see him walking up one of the steep hills, but by the time I got to the top of the hill and back on the flat, he was long gone!
One of my favourite bits was a downhill section that was all stairs. A few people I encountered on the second lap were having knee and calf issues which were aggravated by the downhill (and down stair) sections, but I was able to get into a good rhythm, and the evenness of the stairs meant that, even though I was being a bit cautious (it had been raining on my second lap, so everything was a bit more slippery), I could get up some decent speed. There was even a photographer at the bottom of the stairs who would have got some great shots! (I made sure I gave my nose a quick wipe with my sleeve before getting to him on the second lap – didn’t want any errant boogers ruining my race photos! Although, when I said that to the photographer, he jokingly replied “That’s what Photoshop is for!”)
Speaking of race photos, I had decided that on my second lap I would stop for a quick selfie at the Centenary Tower, after which the race was named. However, as it turned out, I didn’t need to, as a photographer had been posted there! He was asking everyone to stop for a couple of photos – given that it was at the end of a fairly long climb, I wasn’t exactly moving that fast anyway, so stopping was not an issue – I think he got some great shots too!
It was all (mostly) downhill from there. I started passing a lot of 10k run/walkers and some marathoners too. With only 1k or so to go, I caught up with Glen who informed me that he thought I was in 6th or 7th place. I decided to go for it in that last kilometre and once I reached the 2 girls with the cowbells (who really added hugely to the atmosphere – thanks girls!) I picked up the pace and (politely of course) passed everyone I could, including one familiar face in Ros, who was in the 10k event.
Before too long I could hear the finish line festivities and knew I was nearly there! Up ahead I saw a familiar figure in Graham. I realised I would need to pass him so snuck past him to keep my momentum going. He realised who it was and he wasn’t having any of that, so he picked up the pace and practically sprinted past me to the finish line and into the aid station, me giving chase but unable to catch him! After receiving my awesome medal, I went to jokingly have a go at him for making me sprint, and was gobsmacked when he told me he still had a lap to go! I had assumed he was finished!
A little later, his partner Vivienne told me she’d seen him a little further up the road and he’d said he was regretting the sprint finish! I was looking forward to exacting some ‘revenge’ when he came back on his final lap!
I had finished in just over 2 hours 20. In fact, when I later checked my results, I had managed a marginal negative split by around 16 seconds (I guess, in part, I have Graham to thank for that!) – well beyond expectations! I ended up in 5th place out of the women – less than 5 seconds behind 4th (thanks again to Graham!) and less than 2 minutes behind 3rd place! And I did manage to place first in my age group too – all of that was just a bonus. More importantly I had a most enjoyable run, got out of it unscathed and did a surprisingly good time considering my lack of recent trail running! I had started to think I just wasn’t cut out for trail running, even though I really enjoy it! I don’t imagine I’ll ever be a podium contender but to be able to go out there and do reasonably well and enjoy every minute is encouraging!
I’d only drunk one of my two Gatorade bottles during the race (250ml in total) so I finished that off after having annihilated a can of Coke and a long black – then I eagerly devoured the nut bar I’d brought with me! (I’d been thinking about the nut bar from about halfway through the race but when I finished, all I could think about was Coke and coffee!)
Not long after that Karen and then Wendy finished, both happy with their runs – both under 3 hours. Daryl was still out there and unfortunately got caught up in a pretty heavy shower! Eventually we saw him coming in the distance and gave him a great reception as he finished! Not long before Daryl, Kristy crossed the line, also to a great cheer, and she was also very happy with how she went!
I decided to head along the course to meet up with Graham, being careful not to go near any of the timing equipment, given that I was still wearing my race bib! It wasn’t long before I saw him coming, quickly passing my bib to the marshal to look after for a minute, before chasing Graham to the finish!
We were all getting pretty cold by then so headed back to the house to get into some warm clothes and defrost! And of course, eat all of the things!
Unlike most of the Adelaide people we opted to stay another night in the Mount and have a leisurely drive back on Monday – including another winery stop of course – this time at Wynn’s!
On Sunday afternoon we went for a drive to Port Macdonnell for chips by the sea while watching kiteboarders. Karen and I had a disagreement about feeding chips to the circling seagulls (she was pro, I was very anti, and of course I was right!) before heading back to town for the perfect recovery meal, takeaway from Gourmet India and red bubbles from Majella!
It was a fantastic weekend all around – and just a wonderful, scenic, friendly and enjoyable event. I hope to be back again to do it all again next year and would recommend it to anyone who loves trail running! I won’t do the marathon – 4 laps of that course is just not for me, but I would absolutely do the half again!
Congratulations and thanks again to Phil, Nikki and all the amazing volunteers for making it all possible!
This week, we go back to where it all (ie this blog) began!
2 years ago I ran the Barossa Marathon and wrote a little report about it, which I posted on my Facebook page. The positive feedback I received about this report (in some cases from people I hadn’t even met before) in the subsequent days, led me to create ‘Random Thoughts and Race Reports’ and I guess you could say the rest is history!
I am in the process of creating a new blog which I’ll share when I’ve finished playing around with some of the formatting (amid much swearing, at times!)
Anyway, back to Barossa. Some months ago, knowing that it was 6 weeks after Boston and 2 weeks after I got back to Australia, I volunteered to do the 2 hour pacing gig for the half marathon. I figured, I wasn’t really going to be in ‘race shape’ and I find pacing really enjoyable and rewarding, so it would be a great way to be involved!
Up until last weekend, I hadn’t run 21.1km since Boston, so I was actually a bit unsure if I could even run a sub 2 hour half, let alone pace one! So I went out and ran about 10 laps of the Uni Loop (2.2km) and came in about 4 minutes under the 2 hours. I wasn’t trying to push hard but by the same token I wasn’t trying to run ‘slow’. I was just running at the pace I was comfortable with. So that pretty much confirmed to me that I could do the pacer gig!
Ideally you want to be able to run about 15 minutes faster than the time you’re pacing. I don’t think I could run 1:45 at the moment but I was definitely confident I had this!
I bought a new costume to run in – ostensibly to make me easier to spot for those trying to run with me, but just quietly because I kind of enjoy dressing up in wacky outfits! This one was a psychedelic hippie dress, complete with belt and headband. I even found a pair of sunglasses which were left at my house a few years ago but never claimed, that fit the outfit perfectly – and my yellow Boston calf sleeves were a perfect match! Underneath was another brand new item, my new 2XU compression shorts.
The weather wasn’t looking too good! There was a lot of rain overnight (both at home in Adelaide and up in the Barossa) and more rain forecast for race day. I was not looking forward to the idea of running in the rain – mostly for the reason that it would slow me down, and I couldn’t really afford to lose too much speed!
I went up with Beck, who wasn’t running this year due to injury but was still happy to go up and cheer! She picked me up at 5:45am so we would get to Tanunda in time to see the start of the marathon at 7. (The half didn’t start until 7:45)
Fortunately, although it was cold (and colder when we got to Tanunda), the rain appeared to be holding off.
We made it with minutes to spare – just enough time to wish the marathoners all the best and see them set off! (One thing I like about Barossa and Adelaide as opposed to some of the larger marathons, is that, as spectators, we could actually get into the starting area literally minutes before the start!)
The next 45 minutes went very quickly – just enough time to collect my bib and pacer balloons, stand in a lengthy toilet queue, then attempt a contortionist routine in trying to change out of my warm multiple layers and into my race ‘kit’ within the confines of a small toilet cubicle. Once that was done it was pretty much time to go to the start line! Luckily I had Beck there to take my bags as I probably would not have had time to getto the baggage tent!
I was one of 3 pacers in the half. We had Bryn doing 1:30 (his first pacer gig) and Jim 1:45 (Jim’s a veteran pacer and pretty much has the 1:45 slot sewn up!) with me doing my favourite, 2:00. I wasn’t sure exactly where to stand, as I couldn’t see Jim. In the end I just chose a spot well behind Bryn, and behind a few people I knew were planning to run sub-2. It didn’t really matter that much – 21.1km gives plenty of time to sort out pace and position!
(As it turned out, Jim wasn’t there – he actually missed the start due to bib issues, and went flying past me a little while after the start! He did eventually catch up to the 1:45 group and expertly paced them to the finish!)
I started my watch on the gun, rather than as I crossed the line. That way, if I crossed the line in 2:00 exactly on the clock, everyone who was with me would get under 2 hours, regardless of whether they started in front of me or behind me. (That was a lesson I learned during my very first pacing gig!)
For those who aren’t familiar, the role of a pacer is to run as close as possible to a specified time, and people who want to run that time (or thereabouts) just need to stick with the pacer and don’t need to worry about their own pace. It is particularly useful for runners who don’t use a GPS watch. As a pacer, there is definitely a bit of pressure but it’s also really enjoyable and rewarding to see your pace group achieve their goals.
I know I’m going to forget some people so apologies if I do! There were a lot of runners either with me or just ahead of me. Michelle was trying to stick with me as long as possible but her main goal was a sub 2:15 to qualify for Wonderland trail run. Eventually she dropped off my ‘bus’ but she got in well under her goal time! Regular running buddy Nat was with me for a while and ended up finishing just a few minutes behind me, saying that she really enjoyed the run.
Sally thought she would be running just ahead of me but ended up smashing out a huge PB and on top of that won 2 bottles of wine in the random prize draw!
Others running ahead of me included Gary (different Gary from the one we’d seen off in the marathon!), Victoria, Ali and Peter. There were definitely a few PBs among that lot – they didn’t need any pacing help from me!
With me pretty much from the start were Brianna, fresh off a PB at the Paris Marathon, and first time half marathoner Kathryn from Brisbane (who was unaccustomed to the cold weather that we turned on for her!) Brianna was hoping to go sub 2 but hadn’t run that far since Paris, and Kathryn was just hoping to stick with me as long as possible – she’d done a half distance in training, in about 2:10.
Due to the staggering of the start times for the marathon, half, 10k and 5k, there were never any issues with congestion. We didn’t see the 5k or 10k runners at all (in fact, I never even saw race ambassador Jess Trengove, who won the 10k race) but we did get to see the marathoners on multiple occasions, and due to the ‘out and back’ sections we also got to see all the half marathoners (over 500 finishers!) – from the leaders all the way to the back of the pack!
Pace-wise it took me about 3km to hit my goal pace of 5:37 – 5:38 mins per km. I found Barossa the easiest out of all the halves I’ve paced – due to the flat nature of the course and the favourable weather conditions. Once I hit my pace I managed to hold onto it. Towards the end I did a few calculations so I would come in JUST under the 2 hours, so I did need to slow down just a touch!
I think with about 5km to go, Brianna took off but Kathryn was still with me! She was determined to stick with me until 16km, then it would be ‘just a parkrun to go!’ Personally I don’t find that comparison super helpful but it certainly works for a lot of people!
Eventually we reached the ‘parkrun turnaround mark’ (2.5km to go) and it became apparent that Kathryn was going to get under 2 hours! It was kind of like a proud mother bird moment for me when she took off with around 1km to go – I had to hold onto my pace so couldn’t go with her but I was thinking ‘Fly, my pretties!’ as each runner left my ‘nest’!
There were a few other runners around me who were looking good for sub 2 – some just in front and some just behind. One guy, Gerard, had not long given up smoking and was on track for a PB (and finished just seconds behind me) and regular running buddy Deb was ahead of me for a good portion of the race, but stuck with me after I passed her, and also came in under 2 hours. Another girl, whose name I didn’t get but who was wearing a Step Into Life top and not wearing a watch, was also hoping for a sub 2 and I’m not sure if she finished ahead of me or behind me but she came up to me afterwards and told me she got the sub-2! And then there was another regular running buddy Fiona, who was determined not to let me pass her (jokingly telling me I was going too fast) and ended up finishing about half a minute ahead of me.
I crossed the line with 1:59:42 on the clock. My official time was 1:59:18 which I was pleased with!
And the timing was perfect because not 5 minutes after I finished, the heavens opened! Unfortunately that meant missing the presentations for the 5, 10 and 21.1k as I hightailed it back to Beck’s car to get changed into some warm, dry clothes and then head back to see our friends finish the marathon!
There was a large group of runners around the 3:30 pacer (I think the only pacer in the marathon) including Coralie, Rebecca and Jenny. Not long after that were Carrie, Amanda and Leon (doing his 347th marathon for the year, by my calculation!) with a small gap to my 2015 Barossa running buddy Kay and fellow 2017 Boston Marathon finisher Graham! Then came a few more familiar faces, Peter and Dave, but for me the best moment of the day was seeing Gary finish.
Gary’s daughter Tahlia had run the 10k, and as I approached the end of my half, I saw Tahlia running back to meet her dad. We waited what seemed like ages at the finish (but it wasn’t actually that long – we were just cold and in need of wine!) until we saw Mark, who had been running with Gary when I’d last seen them, so we knew Gary couldn’t be far behind! And sure enough, around 30 seconds later, there was that distinctive purple T-shirt! We gave Gary a huge cheer and I think he might have been a bit fired up (after pretty much crawling across the finish line in his first marathon at Adelaide last year, he had, as he put it, ‘some running demons to vanquish’) and was yelling and cheering and high fiving! It was definitely a highlight for me and I’m sure it was a very special moment for Gary and Tahlia!
As we were getting cold and Beck had post-wine family commitments, we left pretty much straight after Gary finished, for a well earned wine tasting at Hentley Farm (I tasted 9 wines and liked them all – unfortunately the budget would only stretch to one bottle – I went with a Grenache Shiraz Zinfandel, mainly because I’ve never tried or even seen that blend before!
So once again, SARRC have put on another excellent event – the weather wasn’t kind to everyone (the marathoners and some of the half marathoners behind me certainly copped it a lot worse than I did) but it was ideal running weather for me, the volunteers were fabulous as always, the spectators were great, and my fellow runners were always friendly and supportive!
Thanks to everyone involved in making this such a great day! And especially to Beck for chauffeuring me – I owe you one!
I describe my recent USA holiday as ‘epic’ but as we know, that word is thrown around waaaay too much. It was amazingly fun, and action-packed, but epic? Probably not. I don’t think the tale of my month in the States will be handed down from generation to generation, somehow!
I do want to do something proper epic though, one day. The idea of running from one city to another has definitely entered my mind (Melbourne to Adelaide maybe? Mount Gambier to Adelaide?) and with the right support, could happen! (Actually with a good group of people it could be a lot of fun!)
One race that I would LOVE to be able to do, but which is WAY beyond me at the moment (never say never, but I can’t see it happening anytime soon!) is Coast2Kosci – about 240km from the coast at Eden to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko, the highest point in Australia. I’m not particularly interested in mega long races (although I do want to tick off a 100 miler one day) but this one appeals to me greatly.
Maybe not so much ‘epic’ but something that would take a lot of work, would be the ‘Not The Adelaide Cup’ human races (as opposed to horse races) – pretty much all the fun of a day at the races but with humans racing instead of horses. That WILL happen one day!
I don’t have to look far to see actual epic adventures. I just have to go down my Facebook news feed and I thought this week I might highlight a few friends who have done (or are in the process of doing) freaking amazing stuff!
First cab off the rank, being freshest in the mind, was David Turnbull’s record-breaking run which ended last Wednesday night – the entire Heysen Trail, just under 1200km of it, from north to south in 13 days 16 hours and 16 minutes – breaking the previous record by a massive 16 hours!
I first met DT after The North Face 100 (now Ultra-Trail Australia 100) 2 years ago. He did brilliantly that day and made a good first impression on me by buying a bottle of wine for fellow ultra running legend Andrew, Andrew’s wife and crew Lara, and myself!
We’ve shared the track a few times since then – I got to watch him smash out 130+ km in the Adelaide 12 hour event in 2015 while I was running around in circles for 6 hours, and we were both winners in the 100km state track championships earlier this year (although he was long gone by the time I eventually finished!).
I was fortunate enough, along with fellow trail runners Tina and Ryley, to be able to join DT for a very short section of the trail (around 4km!) last Monday, and was amazed at how well he was travelling, despite the fact that he was approaching 900km at that stage! On a few occasions he would start running up a hill, and I’d be thinking, “Are you kidding? I’m not going to be able to keep up with a guy who’s run almost 1000km?” but then after a few steps he’d be walking again and Tina and I would be able to catch up!
DT was posting his location on his Facebook page every hour or so, which allowed people to find him and run with him for a bit – if they could keep up! It was a privilege to be able to share a small part of what turned out to be a FKT (Fastest Known Time) and a real eye-opener to see what goes into these audacious (and in this case ultimately successful) attempts! I believe there will be some kind of book about this and I really look forward to reading it!
Still in progress is another massive undertaking, The Million Dollar Run. This is a 3000km run from Adelaide to Brisbane to raise $1m for DEBRA Australia. I first met Andrew in December 2015 at a birthday run for fellow runner Barry, 6 hours around the 2.2km Uni Loop, sounds like fun, right? Well I only did 5 laps that day (my excuses being that it was a stinking hot day and plus I had to go to work!) but Andrew completed his first marathon and as I recall in not too shabby a time! The Million Dollar Run was already on the cards then, but it’s taken a while for it to actually happen! At the time of writing he’s pretty close to Melbourne! Amazing stuff!
Finally for this week we have School of the Road – last year, fellow runner Travis, Fiona and their son Patch, who has autism, embarked on a truly epic adventure, cycling from Washington State to Washington DC, around 5000km, an absolutely amazing and inspiring journey, showing, as they said, that ‘anything is possible’!
So there you have it, 3 inspirational people doing amazing things for very worthy causes! Hopefully I will be able to come even remotely close to such epicness one day!
Last year, I volunteered at this event with Karen, it being 1 week after we’d done the Ultra-Trail Australia 100km. We’d both decided to wear Snow White costumes. Why, I hear you ask? To which I reply, have you met us?
This year, given that I’m not doing UTA, I entered the race. So what if it was only 2 days after I arrived back in Australia? And so what if, aside from running in a forest in Portland a week and a half ago, I had not run a trail in well over 2 months?
There was a 6k, 12k and 20k. I entered the 12k, so I at least had some sense in me! After the trail run in Portland last week I realised I was going to be very underdone and would have dropped down to the 6k if there wasn’t a fee attached to the change!
I went into this race with zero expectations. Which meant I couldn’t really be disappointed, whatever happened!
Kit-wise I went with a new black lulu skirt (one of my overseas purchases) and my new pink argyle calf sleeves bought at the Boston expo, which I absolutely did not need but which were pretty and only $10!
Given that I was running the 12k, I figured my small race vest would be enough – 500ml of Gatorade should see me through, and there were a few drink stations along the way where I could refill them with water if needed.
I arrived at the start, at Blackwood Football Club, early enough to see the start of the 20k, which started at 8.
It was chilly at the start but it was sunny and it was likely to be warmish out there. So I needed to factor in both arm warmers and sunscreen.
I had originally chosen black and white arm warmers, then remembered I had pink and grey, so I threw both pairs in.
I asked Chantal which ones I should wear. Pink and grey was the winner. What was I thinking? Of course I should wear the pink!
I hadn’t studied the course. I rarely do. And as a ‘non-competitor’ in this race, I could comfortably rely on following the people in front.
Pretty soon we were away – starting with a nice comfortable downhill.
“IT’S A TRAP!” I thought to myself. As all trail runners know, “What goes down must come up!” (I certainly learned that at Boston!)
It wasn’t long before we hit the first hill. And then I quickly remembered how not good at hills I am. (I remember, late in the race, someone behind me telling someone else “I’m great on downhills but I suck at uphills”. I was almost going to turn around and say “Me too! Except the bit about being great at downhills!”)
The course was quite technical. Which was actually good. There were multiple water crossings, and a bit of rock climbing in amongst the uphill slogs and the downhills! I found it easier than just running up hill – the variety was a good distraction, and it was kind of fun! (I didn’t see anyone fall into the water – I very much hoped I wouldn’t!)
Climbing over boulders is relatively easy for me, being blessed with long legs! Getting under low branches (along with finding a height-appropriate man!) is not so easy – thankfully I can only recall one ‘limbo’ that I had to do!
There was a guy behind me who had run the practice run last weekend and mentioned a few times that he’d got very lost! I had told him to let me know if he wanted to pass me, but after hearing that, jokingly told him I didn’t want him taking the lead! (In his defence, there were no course markings last week, and the trail at times was difficult to pick out!)
On the course marking, I have to say, this course was IMPECCABLY marked. As one who is, shall we say, ‘navigationally challenged’, I never felt like I was in danger of getting lost – thanks so much to the awesome volunteers who marked the course!
After around 6k I said “OK that’s enough for me!” – again cursing myself for not entering the 6k in the first place!
But of course we all know that’s not how it works. I entered the 12k, and I would run 12k (or thereabouts – the other thing we all know is that trail distances are approximate at best!)
From about 10k to 11k it was a hard slog – and the elevation profile backs that up! There was a lot of walking in that kilometre but I knew it was ‘nearly’ over. (Fellow parkrunner Alex had passed me at around the 7k mark, telling me there was ‘only a parkrun to go’ – which is a lot more encouraging with 5k to go in a marathon than it is with 5k to go in a 12k!)
There was a nice little bit of downhill towards the end. Even though there was a bit of up as well, I managed to keep running, albeit a slow plod, because I knew the end was (metaphorically) in sight.
My normal rule when it comes to hills, is “Never run up a hill if you can’t see the end of it!” Meaning, I will run up a short steep hill (in fact, it’s usually easier to run it than walk it) but a long steady climb I will usually walk (and probably faster than I could run!)
Eventually I was at the finish line and ran under the arch – stopping the clock (figuratively) in a touch over 1 hr 25.
Although I had no expectations leading into the race, there were a lot of pleasing signs:
Under 90 minutes ✔ (not that I had a time goal, but I really did)
Didn’t fall over ✔
Didn’t die! ✔
One thing I will hopefully remember for next time is to wear my cycling gloves – that would have been handy (no pun intended) for climbing over boulders. Plus if I did fall over, I could save myself with my hands!
I then proceeded to chat with a lot of the fellow runners, who all wanted to know about Boston and my holiday (which I don’t think I will ever get sick of talking about) in between eating my body weight in vegan brownies (thanks again Maurice!)
For once I didn’t win any prizes in the random prize draw but I guess it’s only fair to give some other people a go!
This was yet another fantastic event from the wonderful people at Trail Running SA. Great course, perfectly marked, brilliant weather – what more could you ask! Congrats to all the runners, and of course once again the amazing volunteers need to be thanked for making it all possible!
I could not think of a better way to ease back into ‘normal life’ – out on the beautiful Adelaide trails with great friends!
Next event for me is the Barossa half marathon (2 hour pacer). And I have my outfit organised – getting pretty excited! (Now I have 2 weeks to make sure I can actually run 21.1 in 2 hours!)
Although, I was tempted to enter a 50k trail ultra in Oregon next weekend…
I had 2 full days in Washington DC – arriving late Friday afternoon and leaving early Monday morning. And having never been before, naturally I wanted to see everything!
I took a Greyhound from Philly, arriving at Union Station, and from there it was a short walk to the bus that took me pretty much to the hostel door.
I can’t speak highly enough of the hostel – HighRoad DC – probably the best hostel I’ve stayed in. You name it, they’ve got it.
Friendly and helpful staff
Fantastic location in Adams Morgan neighbourhood
Free wifi (seems to be pretty much the norm over here, except at JFK airport!)
Power points EVERYWHERE, including on each bed (yes, even the top bunks – I was ‘lucky’ enough to get a top bunk once again)
Reading lights on each bed
Free hire of locks for the lockers in the dorms
Plenty of space in the dorms for luggage
Fully equipped kitchen
Pancakes on Sunday mornings
Activities and recommendations for things to do each day
One of the guys even baked choc chip cookies on Sunday evening – they smelled amazing! (I didn’t bother to ask if they were vegan – just enjoyed the smell!)
I checked in to my room and quickly found a vegan-friendly place across the road thanks to my trusty Happy Cow app – Amsterdam Falafel Shop! Perfect! Highly recommend!
And then I met my bunk mate, Reece. I could detect an Australian accent so when he asked where I was from I just said Adelaide. He said “Me too!” SO Adelaide! (I forgot to do the ‘one degree of separation’ thing – I’m sure we have at least one friend or acquaintance in common!)
I found out at check-in that there was a big science march taking place on Saturday, and a lot of the hostel guests were visiting DC for the march. I hadn’t heard about it, therefore naturally I hadn’t planned on going, but thought it would be worth checking out! Plus, the march was starting at the Washington Monument, which I wanted to see anyway!
Friday night I went for a wander to the nearby second hand bookstore which was open until 10! Nearly bought a few books too but had to think of the weight and the room it would take up in my suitcase! My plan is to hold off getting my second bag out, until I get to Vegas!
I was surprised at the number of people who were up early for breakfast on Saturday, until I remembered the march – the reason many of the hostel guests were in Washington. I met a few of them including Julia who was handing out hand knitted ‘pussy hats’ for people to wear at the march (beanies that looked like cat ears!) and I gratefully took one!
No. 1 on my list for Saturday was Roosevelt Island parkrun.
parkrun is not big in the USA yet but is growing. On Saturday, the 9th USA parkrun was launched, in Minnesota. Of the 9 parkruns in the States, 3 are in the DC area! Roosevelt Island was the closest to where I was staying. It was going to take me about an hour to get there by public transport (including a walk at the end, as there are no vehicles on the island) so I thought I may as well run the 5.2km – a good warmup!
After a few scenic diversions I eventually found the sign that showed me I was in the right spot.
I introduced myself to the Run Director, Darrell, who I later found out is also the boss of parkrun USA!
I also met a few Aussies who are on a posting from Canberra – Scott, Jaycob and Kate, who invited me to come for coffee afterwards – because post-parkrun coffee is not really a ‘thing’ here. Yet.
The run itself was lovely – a few little hills, and mostly on fire track and boardwalk! It’s a hidden secret (which explains in part why it was so hard for me to find) and it’s hard to believe you’re in a big city! I managed to sneak in under 25 minutes which was pleasing given that Boston was less than 5 days earlier!
After the run I went with my new Aussie friends to a coffee shop called Grace Street Coffee. You can rely on Aussies, and runners, to find good coffee wherever you go! I got some great recommendations for things to do, and they very kindly gave me a lift back to my hostel which was great – I’d planned to run back, but it was raining, and also it would give me more time for exploring!
After lunch at the ever-reliable Sweetgreen, first stop was the White House. I didn’t stop here long – just long enough for a quick photo op!
Then I made my way to the Science March – first a rally at the Washington Monument which had been going since the morning, and then eventually a march to the Capitol (which I didn’t join).
After all the marchers had passed by I finally made my way to the Washington Monument!
From there I walked past the War Memorial to the imposing Lincoln Memorial.
And then more walking, all the way back PAST the Washington Monument, to the Capitol!
A lot of the signs from the march had been left behind outside the Capitol.
After I eventually got back to the hostel, I was on my way to Trader Joe’s to grab a few things when I saw Busboys and Poets, a restaurant/bookstore recommended by Aussie Kate and decided to have dinner there. It looked busy but I asked if I could get a seat at the bar – instead they showed me to a group of lounges around a central table and I happily took a seat there!
After dinner I had a look in the bookstore. I was tempted to buy a few books but again held myself back!
Sunday’s adventure began early. I had originally planned to run to Arlington but then I would have had to go back to the hostel for a shower before doing anything else. So I decided instead to walk, leaving the hostel at about 7:10am. I made a slight detour via the Australian Embassy! Not a particularly attractive building compared to many of the impressive and imposing structures around the city!
My next plan was to visit the Einstein Memorial, recommended by Julia, but couldn’t find it, so decided to do that at the end of the day, after the museums were closed.
Then I made my way across the Arlington Memorial Bridge to the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. This route was popular with runners! And Sunday was a much better day weather-wise compared to rainy Saturday!
From Arlington Cemetery I took the train to the Pentagon, ostensibly to visit the Memorial, but I was also keen to see The Pentagon itself (even though photographing the building is not allowed!)
From the Pentagon I took a train back across to DC. Leaving the station, I met up with a guy called Josh who was visiting from Jersey and was trying to find the National Mall. I was looking for Pennsylvania Av which wasn’t far from there, so we walked together and chatted. After a while we realised we were a bit lost. Then it got to the point where it would have been awkward for me to reveal that I had Google Maps on my phone! Eventually we got where we needed to be! My first stop was Newseum. Now a lot of the museums (all the Smithsonian ones) in DC are free. Newseum is not, but there was an exhibition there that I really wanted to see – Louder Than Words – Rock, Power and Politics. So I paid my money and went in!
First stop was the FBI exhibition – they had pieces from various different crimes including the Boston bombing (naturally of particular interest to me) and 9/11.
Then it was up to the top floor, first to the balcony with this awesome view up Pennsylvania!
And then the exhibition I came for. I took many photos – I won’t bore you with all of them – I’ve just picked out a few of my favourites – but I’ve decided that on my next US trip I need to visit the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland!
I could have spent a whole day here, easily, but I really wanted to go to the Air and Space Museum so I went to the 9/11 exhibition before heading off.
There was a big focus here on the reporters and photographers – there was a short film about some of the reporters and cameramen who were involved in reporting the news. And one photographer who was killed when the tower went down. Powerful stuff!
From there I made the dash to the Air and Space Museum. Being free, I wasn’t so concerned about getting my money’s worth! I did buy a ticket to see ‘The Dark Universe’ (narrated by Neil DeGrasse Tyson – that was the sealer!) in the planetarium. Spectacular and well worth the extra money!
I would definitely recommend a trip to the Air and Space Museum but give yourself half a day if you can! (And of course there are SO many other amazing museums that are also free!)
Then I found Einstein!
By the time I eventually got back to the hostel (around 7:45pm) I’d done close to 40000 steps for the second day in a row – 28km!
As I finish writing this I’m in Chicago. I did see the Pentagon from above on the flight here (spewing I couldn’t get a pic as I was in an aisle seat!). I could easily have spent a week in DC and not got bored! If you’re wondering whether or not a stop in DC is worthwhile on your next US trip, wonder no more! (2 full days is barely enough!)
Oh and there’s a pretty awesome marathon that I now want to do – the Marine Corps Marathon – one of the biggest in the world! Just add that to the list…
I’m going to assume you’ve read my previous posts or have an idea about what the Boston Marathon is and what it means to run it – otherwise I could very well fill the equivalent of one whole blog post just with the background!
So, following on from my last post. I had my traditional pre-marathon dinner of pizza (I Googled and found a pizza joint with a vegan menu, you guessed it, within walking distance from where I was staying!) from the All Star Pizza Bar – delicious pizza! I could only eat half! Well I probably COULD have eaten more than that…
Just a few doors down was a liquor store and after umming and ahhing over the choices I eventually settled on a local craft cider.
Then it was time to work out what time I needed to set my alarm (a very civilised 6:30 – I also set one for 6:35 and 6:40!) and get my gear ready. Because the bib is quite ‘long’ I decided to pin it to my top instead of wearing it attached to my belt as I normally do.
With security being (understandably) very tight, there are strict rules about what you can and can’t take to the start line and have in your finish line bag. I had planned to bring an Australian flag to the finish but that was on the banned list (not that they have anything particularly against Australians, just large flags in general are banned!) So we were all given a small start line bag (mainly just for nutrition and drinks) and a larger finish line bag (I put my long sleeved finisher shirt, a T-shirt in case it was warm, long pants and thongs in there). All of that was packed and ready to go, my gear was all laid out and my breakfast, except the stuff that needs refrigerating, was also in the bag. Because my start time was 10:50, and I would be getting on the bus to the start at Hopkinton between 8 and 8:40, and I would be on a train from Cambridge at around 7:30, it would be too early for me to eat breakfast before leaving the house. I had brought a disposable container with a lid and a disposable plastic spoon (which may or may not have been courtesy of Cathay Pacific) so I could eat breakfast just before getting on the shuttle bus!
I had decided to change one thing on race day – instead of the (slightly stretched and therefore more for aesthetic than practical value) aqua calf sleeves I’d planned to wear, I opted for the BRAND NEW, NEVER BEFORE TRIED 2XU ones I’d bought from the expo. “What happened to not trying anything new on race day?” I hear you ask. But when you consider that I’m in Boston, and my top has a yellow trim on it, how could I not wear these babies?
I did tape my feet – despite my new favourite Steigen socks being pretty much guaranteed blister-proof, I wasn’t taking any chances – a blister can totally ruin your day!
I set 3 alarms – not leaving anything to chance!
I actually woke up before the first one – another guest at the house where I’m staying, Alissa, was also running the marathon but she was in an earlier wave, so she needed to be up and gone earlier. So I took my time getting ready. I decided to leave the beanie at home – it was going to be a warm day and I kind of liked the beanie so I didn’t want to have to ditch it! I did wear the track pants, even though they weren’t really needed, because I needed to make room in my suitcase for all my new purchases!
I headed to the train and while on the train I decided to put my gloves in my finish line bag – no way would they be needed! In fact the arm warmers were probably superfluous too but they look cool so they stayed!
At Boston Common I dropped off my finish bag and headed to the bus loading area. With strict rules on what could and could not be taken on the bus, I ate my breakfast before getting in the bus queue.
The girl next to me on the bus was a veteran of 7 Bostons, being a local. She has never done any other marathon! She told me it is not a fast course (which I knew, but then, she doesn’t have anything to compare it to!) and at that point I decided not to get too hung up on the sub-4. Que sera, sera! As long as I had that sweet medal hanging around my neck at the end, time was irrelevant!
We arrived at the Athletes Village at Hopkinton. They had everything! Fruit, bagels, gels, mini Clif bars (I did have one of those) and even coffee! I can’t do coffee before a race!
Everything was supremely well organised, the whole day! The portaloos at the village were plentiful but (well the one I used) pretty nasty! I wonder if as many spectators would high five runners if they knew what the portaloos were like! The MC kept making announcements about which wave and corral needed to go where and when. There was really no excuse for not knowing where to go! (He kept calling our wave the ‘Smurf’ wave on account of our bibs being blue!)
Pretty soon our wave (Wave 3) was called and it was time to make our way into our corrals and to the start. It all happened pretty quickly. All along the way there were opportunities to discard clothing which would all then go to charity (much of it was probably purchased from charity stores in the first place – I know mine was!)
Being a warm day (they described it as ‘hot’ and it did feel that way at times while running but it was actually mid 70s which is around 24 degrees Celsius) I put sunscreen on while walking to the start.
And pretty soon we were away!
It’s going to be pretty hard for me to describe this race in any great detail – although I did try to take in as much of it as I could, given that I was on unfamiliar turf, I probably can’t do it justice.
I’m going to try to keep it in some kind of chronological order but I’ll also be jumping all over the place – bear with me!
I did buy this book, at the Harvard Book Store, on Tuesday, which I hoped may help!
As I had been told by all of the many friends I have who have previously run Boston, “It’s downhill at the beginning, don’t get carried away, save your legs!” Easier said than done!
The crowd, right from the start, was phenomenal and got right behind me. My name was emblazoned across the front of my top in big bright yellow letters so it could be seen from a distance. That was an idea I got from friend Tory who ran Boston 2 years ago. It meant the crowd could cheer for you by name. Unlike all the other marathons I’ve done, the Boston bibs don’t have names on them.
I went in with no plan and no pacing strategy. I’d set my ‘slow alert’ on my watch to 7 minutes per km. That was more to alert me if my GPS dropped out (which has happened several times recently) rather than to tell me if I was running too slow. I didn’t expect that I would actually be running that slow, but as it turned out, at times I was! I was still HOPING for sub 4. I was fully expecting a ‘Personal Worst’ and absolutely fine with that!
The sports drink on the course was lemon-lime Gatorade which for once was what I was used to! From previous experience at City-Bay in Adelaide (up to 40 000 people) and City2Surf in Sydney (around 70 000) I expected that the drink stations might be hard to get to. So despite being familiar and comfortable with the sports drink, I still carried a handheld bottle of Gatorade so I could drink whenever I needed to. The drink stations were very frequent (almost too frequent!), being every mile from mile 2 onwards. I had been told that there was first one on the right, and soon after, one on the left. So if you happened to be on the ‘wrong’ side of the road it didn’t matter, you didn’t need to fight your way through the crowd to get a drink!
Paper cups were good too. Much easier to drink out of than plastic. You could fold it into a spout and drink without wearing half of it! (Although, it was warm, and many people were pouring water on themselves intentionally. As long as that didn’t happen with the Gatorade!)
Speaking of pouring water, there were a few spots along the course where fire hydrants were made into makeshift sprinklers – I can tell you they were VERY much appreciated! I did make the mistake the first time of getting too close to the water source and consequently getting DRENCHED – I soon learned to stay a bit away from the hydrant and just get a LIGHT shower!
I was amazed throughout the race, at how many people were there (there always seemed to be a sea of people ahead) and yet I never felt like it was congested. Whereas, when I did City2Surf, I actually couldn’t get close to a drink station!
Around the 2 mile mark, in Ashland, near the first drink station, the ‘Rocky’ thrme tune was blasting – great motivation! (I read in the book that this is a tradition – Rocky theme on a continuous loop – so nice and motivating for the runners who are just passing through, but must be VERY tedious for the spectators!
I wasn’t aware of it at the time but within Ashland, at around 4 miles, is where Kathrine Switzer famously was almost dragged off the course in 1967, for being a woman back in the Dark Ages when it was a ‘men-only’ event.
Back to the crowd support. I was expecting great things and boy did they deliver! There were quiet patches, sure (and at times I actually needed a bit of ‘quiet time’ to focus and drop the pace and effort down a notch) but for most of the 42.2km (or as they say here, 26.2 miles – doesn’t sound quite so bad, does it?) there was amazing support. As I said earlier, having my name on my top made ALL the difference. I didn’t know a single person out there but it seemed like everyone knew me! And a LOT of fellow runners commented on it, too! There was one point where someone called out “GO JANE!” and a few moments later, “GO RUNNER NEXT TO JANE!” Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!
It seemed appropriate that in the home of the TV show ‘Cheers’ that it really did feel like everybody knew my name!
There were MANY high fives. Hundreds, I’m sure! Many were from kids but there were a few from very enthusiastic gentlemen, many with a beer in the other hand, and a few stung a bit! (I made a mental note, after one particularly ‘stingy’ one, to only high five kids from then on! That lasted about 2 minutes!)
The spectators were also handing out stuff left right and centre. Oranges were popular, along with water (in between the official drink stations), ice, ice blocks, licorice, and even beer! The only thing I took was 2 bottles of water throughout the course of the race. Having a water bottle as well as my handheld Gatorade made high fiving a bit more challenging but I was determined to make it work – the Gatorade bottle could slide up over my wrist, freeing up my hand. It did mean, though, that I could just take the centre line through the drink stations and avoid getting caught up in the congestion (which, truth be tokd, wasn’t actually that bad).
After Ashland we arrived in Framingham. A few things I can remember here (with the help of my trusty book) was the massive party atmosphere and the sports scoreboard! The party atmosphere, as it had done for a lot of the early part of the race, had got me really pumped up (especially with the crowd yelling out my name) and caused me to run a fair bit faster than I probably should have at that point. So while I found the crowd support incredibly motivating, and there was much air punching and fist pumping as well as high fiving, it may have caused me to spend a bit too much energy early! The sports scoreboards is another tradition – the Red Sox always play at Fenway Park on Marathon Monday so there was someone along the side of the road posting score updates from the game (which the Sox did end up winning) on a blackboard.
Somewhere in Framingham we passed the 10k mark. I wasn’t looking at my watch – and when I did look at it, it was just to look at the distance – not time or pace. However Strava reliably informs me that at the 10k mark I was sitting on 5:12 pace with a time of 52:24. Somewhat way too fast for what was expected to be around a 4 hour marathon!
Around the 12km mark we entered Natick which according to my trusty book, is a local Native American name meaning ‘place of hills’. Not sure if that’s ACTUALLY true but never let the truth get in the way of a good story! Here the Fire Department was kind enough to give us a cooling spray station which was much appreciated!
Then came Wellesley and the famous/infamous ‘Scream Tunnel’ which is around the 20k mark. This is where hundreds of girls from Wellesley College line the course and create a level of noise that can be heard from (seemingly) miles away. This is where, if you’re that way inclined, if you can’t get a kiss, there’s something seriously wrong! This tradition dates back to the earliest days of the Boston Marathon, remembering that back then, women weren’t allowed to compete. These days, a few guys join in the fun – I guess they would like their chances, given that the field now would be close to 50% women!
I did see a few guys with signs asking for kisses but decided not to take them up on the offer – I settled for a whole bunch of high fives!
There were LOTS of great signs along the way. One of the most memorable was a girl holding up a signs saying ‘Nipple Vaseline Station’ (or words to that effect!) I ran past her saying “I’m good!” and laughing! And someone had my personal favourite sign (the one I held up at the 2014 Adelaide Marathon) – “Run like someone just called you a jogger!”
Then there was this guy. I saw him but it didn’t register at the time what it was.
I saw a few participants in wheelchairs – not the elites though, they start before the runners as they go CRAZY fast. I remember seeing Aussie legend Kurt Fearnley during the Gold Coast Marathon last year, coming back the other way – unbelievably fast! But as Boston is one way rather than out-and-back, we weren’t going to see any of those speedsters! (Fearnley ended up finishing 4th at Boston this year)
There was one guy in a wheelchair who was going backwards (with a few supporters helping)! I did ask if he was going backwards the whole way but I couldn’t understand what they said.
Turned out he was – and has done so many times before!
I saw a few walking with crutches, several amputees with prostheses (proper running prostheses, like that guy whose name I don’t want to mention here) and a few moon boots. I also saw one girl just in her socks and carrying her shoes – presumably blisters? (Bet she was wishing she’d taped!)
I wondered about the crutches and moon boot but then I thought, if I’d qualified and then the unthinkable had happened there’s no way I would have missed this. So if it meant walking it, with crutches, in a moon boot – so be it!
There were also a lot of visually impaired runners with sighted guides. I noticed 2 spots along the course where there were changeovers of guides. And at one point there was a guy calling out that there was a visually impaired runner and guide coming down the middle of the road so we could keep out of their way.
Still within the town of Wellesley we reached the halfway mark (well, in distance anyway!) According to Strava I reached halfway in 1:52:48 which is 5:21 minutes per km. I didn’t know that at the time (again, not looking at my watch!) but based on the time clocks that were at every mile marker, and knowing that we had started 50 minutes after the official start of the race, I thought I was on just under 2 hours. And with some hills coming up in the second half, I was pretty sure a negative split was not on the cards – so I held out little to no hope of a sub-4!
I heard music… and it was Bon Jovi, but not the song I expected to hear when I was ‘halfway there’ – instead it was ‘It’s My Life’ (still good!) I had to settle for singing the chorus of ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ in my head!
Not long after this came the 4 Newton Hills between 26 and around 34km, the last one being the infamous Heartbreak Hill. Now, I am in no way a mountain goat, but the hills didn’t scare me. I figured, if I had to walk up some of them, so be it. As it turned out, I managed to run the whole way although I did slow down to a plod at several stages (that was when my watch started notifying me that I was going slower than 7 minutes per km). I didn’t find any of the hills too terrible – if anything I found the heat more of a problem than the hills. I didn’t notice anything particularly menacing about Heartbreak Hill, nor did I get complacent after having ‘summited’, knowing that there was still a long, long way to go! My Strava time for the Newton Hills segment was 48:44 (6:13 minutes per km) with an overall elevation of 62m which doesn’t sound so bad, does it? The Heartbreak Hill segment itself (800 metres) I completed in 5:53 (6:47 minutes per km) and the elevation was 29m. 29m over 800m is quite a lot. Not that you should compare apples and oranges but if you put that elevation over 100km you’re looking at 3600m elevation. So yeah, it is steep but it is short.
Around here we passed Boston College. This was when spectators had paper cups of drinks which I quickly realised were beer! (I didn’t take any drinks from cups during the race – only bottles of water!)
This was also where I was looking out for Adelaide friend Maree’s daughter Emily, who was to be holding a yellow inflatable kangaroo. Unfortunately I had never met Emily so I didn’t know what she looked like! In preparation I took out the small Australian flag that I had in my pocket, and I did see a kangaroo, only it was a guy holding it! I held up my flag and cheered, and later found out that Emily WAS there and called out to me, only with all the other people cheering for me, I didn’t hear her! Turned out she’d given the kangaroo to the guy to hold as he was taller and would be more easily seen by the runners!
I can’t remember exactly where it was, but I saw a marquee to the left that had ‘Run Jane Run’ on the side of it! I pointed out my name to the supporters hanging out there (presumably supporting someone else called Jane, not me, but I like to think they’d heard I was coming) and got an extra enthusiastic high five from each of them! (I did hear quite a lot of people throughout the race calling out “Run Jane Run” and “See Jane Run” which was pretty cool!)
At around 22 miles we reached Brookline, and Beacon St which seemed to go forever – not so many welcome distractions here! The ‘T’ train was still running, parallel to the course, and some of the passengers waved to us!
Coolidge Corner was a welcome relief from the relative monotony, with a large cheering crowd – including one girl who went out of her way to track me down and send me this photo!
Next came the iconic CITGO sign with just one mile to go. It’s pretty big though so you can see it WELL before you hit the last mile! But, once you see it, you know you’re nearly there! And I could hear the cheering of the crowd at the Sox game at Fenway Park!
With about 1 mile to go, I snuck a look at my watch. I roughly calculated that if I did just under a 9 minute mile I might get the sub-4. (If I’d known for sure at this point that the sub-4 was definitely off the table, I planned to back right off and just enjoy the ride. But it was still a vague possibility so, while I still continued to enjoy it (and high five), I gave it my best shot.)
1 mile has never seemed quite so far! But the crowd was once again incredible. One girl was handing out stars that had ‘BOSTON STRONG’ written on them so I grabbed one of those.
One guy called me ‘a savage’ – I’m not quite sure exactly what to make of that but I have to assume it was a compliment – spectators heckling runners during a marathon is not really a thing, certainly not in Boston!
Those last 2 turns. ‘Right on Hereford, left on Boylston’.
And there it was – the finish line!
Tiny Australian flag aloft, I sprinted (well it felt like a sprint, I’m sure it didn’t look like it!) to the finish line and I was done!
I JUST FINISHED THE BOSTON FREAKING MARATHON!
Watch stopped. Time (officially) was 4:00:19 – oh so close! But, I had done it! (I later found out that my finish time of around 2:50pm was exactly the time the first bomb had gone off 4 years ago – eerie!)
As we started the long walk out of the finish area I got chatting to a girl called Millie who wanted to get a selfie with me!
Then came the best bit – that glorious bling!
As had been the case for the rest of the day (and the weekend as a whole), the finish area was really well organised. Everyone was given a shiny blanket (like a space blanket – to keep warm) and even a sticker to hold it closed so we didn’t have to hold it on! And we were also given Clif bars, fruit, water and a goodie bag with more food!
After leaving the finish area I went to try to find my Adelaide running buddy Maree, but I somehow missed her (easy enough to do with 30 000 runners out there!) While waiting I met a girl who had a brother who had lived in Australia for a while – I asked her where and she said ‘Adelaide’ – I said ‘No way, that’s where I’m from!’ Normally when I tell Americans that I’m from Australia, they’ve never even heard of Adelaide! I got to meet him briefly – my one Adelaide connection for the day!
I then made my way back to Cambridge (my only issue for the day was getting out – the marathon was still going, so I couldn’t cross Boylston St – so after going round in circles for a while I eventually got out!)
One of the coolest things was the number of people I met during the walk to the bus, who congratulated me – complete strangers! (Of course, for those who were also marathon finishers, the sentiments were reciprocated!) It was pretty obvious in my case as I was still proudly wearing my medal, my race kit and my ‘shiny blanket’!
(Side note – one of the many things I love about Boston is how the people here can actually understand me when I speak, unlike many other places in the USA! It’s because they don’t pronounce the letter ‘R’ unless its followed by a vowel. Just like us! So they pronounce ‘Harvard’ like ‘Hahvuhd’ whereas other Americans would say ‘Harrvarrd’.)
First order of business when I got back home was the rest of last night’s pizza!
Then a shower, compression tights on, and off to Fenway Park for the after party!
I didn’t stay long as I didn’t know anyone there but I did get to walk on the field (not on the grass but on the dirt around the edge) and sit in the dugouts which was really cool!
After that I walked (further than I thought I’d be walking) to Ben and Jerry’s for a non-dairy dessert (PB and Cookies, my favourite!) On the way there was a motorcycle cop leading a bunch of runners who got cheers from passers-by. I asked a girl waiting at the lights what it was all about, she told me it was the marathon race director running the course (this was around 9pm) as he does every year! So that was a really cool thing to have seen!
After Ben and Jerry’s I headed back home to Cambridge and to bed after a long, amazing, huge and very satisfying day!
It was everything I thought it would be and more! Thanks to the city of Boston, the BAA and the 9500 wicked awesome volunteers as well as the 30 000 runners – what a freaking amazing event!
Just a footnote – the following day I happened to be at adidas Runbase on Boylston Street to exchange a hoodie. Talk about being in the right place at the right time – as I walked out of the store, Kathrine Switzer just happened to be involved in a ceremony to retire her famous #261 bib, the one she controversially wore 50 years ago and again this year. It was so fitting to be able to see someone who was essentially a pioneer for women’s marathoners, still doing marathons and being an ambassador for female athletes 50 years later! I’m currently reading her book so this was such a cool way to end my marathon experience!
As I post this, it is marathon eve! All the training leading up to last year’s qualifier and the training that started just after Christmas, has led me to this point! All that is left to do is run the thing – which of course will be a subject for another post!
But before that, wouldn’t you like to hear about my first week in the States? Of course you would!
It started with an epic 34 hour journey – a 3am alarm, a 4am taxi and a flight that ended up leaving around 7am from Adelaide. I was lucky enough to get one of the ‘extra legroom’ seats at no extra cost!
That was the short flight, only around 9 hours. Then came the big one, 16 hours from Hong Kong to JFK (with only a few hours stopover in Hong Kong). No extra legroom this time but I was on the aisle in the middle set of 3 seats, with no-one in the middle seat. So while I couldn’t stretch out, I could both get up and move around as I pleased, AND sleep without a neighbour needing to disturb me. And I did manage to catch a few Z’s on that flight too!
Because I was using a shared shuttle, and I was the last to get dropped off, it was nearly midnight by the time I got to my hostel – the Blue Moon Hotel on the Lower East Side.
All my roommates were asleep so I had to somehow find my bed in the dark (top bunk – not my preferred choice but any bed was good at this point!)
The next morning I took the subway to Central Park for a much needed leg loosener! Unsurprisingly I wasn’t the only one that had that idea! It is an extremely popular spot for runners, and with good reason. I just had to negotiate my way around all of the tourists! (Maybe early morning would have been better, but there was no way I was setting an alarm that day!)
After that I found an awesome cafe across the road from the hostel and had some amazing avocado toast and good coffee (and learning that ‘Americano’ is what they call a long black here!!)
I then spent most of the rest of the day checking out the neighbourhood which was really cool. Busy, yes – it is New York after all – but not crawling with tourists like Times Square! Lots of cool street art too!
I even found a restaurant with my name on it but I didn’t go in as it didn’t look very vegan-friendly!
That night I went to a comedy club – UCBT – which was within walking distance. The show was only $8 and it was a bit of fun – it is a monthly event called ‘Channel 101’ and people can submit clips of up to 5 minutes of their own comedy show, the judging panel narrows the field down to 10, and those are voted on by the audience at a live screening. The top 5 then get to be part of next month’s screening, with a new episode. It was pretty cool – in the end 4 of the 5 shows that I voted for, were in the top 5!
On Wednesday I found the vegan bakery! Erin McKenna’s Bakery, once again, JUST around the corner! Did I mention how much I like this area? I had a donut which was delicious (if a little sticky) and then made my way to the Port Authority Bus Terminal to take a bus to Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. It was quite a long trip – I didn’t arrive until 4pm and I hadn’t thought to pack a lunch! I had an apple and a granola bar in my bag and at the last minute I bought a bag of chips from a vending machine at the station. But that wasn’t exactly enough!
The reason for my trip to Mohegan Sun was not to visit one of the largest casinos in the world (impressive though it is – I do have a few nights in Vegas coming up so I should get my fair share of casinos!) but instead to see the legendary Def Leppard live. 25 years ago I wanted to see them when they came to Adelaide but my mum wouldn’t let me (and I do still remind her of this on occasions!). On one of their more recent Australian tours I happened to be inconveniently overseas. I had tickets to see them during their Vegas stint in 2013 but ended up cancelling that trip altogether. Then I heard they were doing a North American tour and thought – can I make this work? Mohegan Sun was the only date that fit with my travel plans (everything was already booked) even if it meant missing the best part of 2 days in New York. And I did have to wake up at 1:30am to book tickets as soon as they went on sale – no way was I missing this!
So anyway, on arrival at the casino I found the shuttle to my hotel, checked in, literally dumped my bag, got changed, and went back downstairs to get the shuttle back to the casino – I needed to find food, stat! I had been Googling using the free wifi on the bus, for vegan options at Mohegan Sun, but hadn’t found anything. I’m sure I could have got something at one of the restaurants but I just wanted something quick. So sweet potato fries it was! Followed by my first experience of Ben and Jerry’s vegan icecream – PB and cookies! So good! Australia NEEDS this!
I had a bit of a wander around the shops and hung out for a while at the record store which was playing a live DVD from the most recent Leppard tour – SO GOOD!
I entered the arena after the first band, Tesla, had already started. I’d heard of them but I don’t think they were very big in Australia. I am a big fan of the guy they’re named after, and electric cars are pretty cool too! I only knew one of their songs (and that was a cover!) but they sounded pretty tight.
My seat was good too – despite being in the second to back row, I had an excellent view. I genuinely believe there is not a bad seat in that arena! (Later on I was seriously wishing I was up the front – but I’m pretty sure VIP tickets were not in the budget!)
Next up was Poison – I wasn’t expecting to know many of their songs but they only played for about an hour and I actually knew all of the songs because it was exclusively old stuff! They really got the crowd going and sounded great!
Then it was time for the main event. I don’t want to go on too much about this but it really was one of the best concerts (if not THE best) I’ve ever been to. I always wonder how hard it must be for a band that’s been around for a long time, to come up with a set list – so many good songs, how do you choose? There will always be a few mandatory songs but there will always be good songs that get missed. And when the band is still recording excellent music even now, how much new stuff do you play and how much of the old favourites? Well I reckon they got it pretty spot on – not surprisingly the set was heavy on old stuff but still with a few tracks from the latest album which, while probably not as well received as the classics, sat very comfortably among them.
Apart from the fact that they make damn good music, one of the things I love about this band is how they’ve kept going after some pretty serious shit! And they are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year – coincidentally, so am I!
Not to mention, musically I love their sound – those delicious harmonies, and the way that every member of the band is equal up there and gets their share of the spotlight, unlike some bands where it’s all about the lead singer and guitarist!
I hope they manage to find their way back to Australia sometime and when they do I will certainly be giving VIP seats SERIOUS consideration!
It took a while for us all to get out of the arena (it was a capacity crowd of 10 000) and even longer for me to find my way out of the casino to the shuttle bus pickup point!
Then it was back to the hotel and a night in my own room – luxury!
Breakfast in the morning was a buffet and finding vegan options was a bit of a challenge so peanut butter on toast and cereal with almond milk it was! At least that would tide me over until I got back to NYC!
Then came me almost missing my bus back to New York. It wasn’t my fault, the concierge had told me the night before that I could just call a cab in the morning and it would come pretty quickly. But when I rang I was told that there was only one cab company in town and 2 of the 3 drivers had called in sick, so I couldn’t get picked up until 1:30. Which wasn’t particularly useful given that my bus was leaving the casino at 10! Luckily it wasn’t that far, as my only option was to walk! I made it with 3 minutes to spare but as it turned out the bus was about 15 minutes late, so I made it with plenty of time in the end.
I got lunch (a ‘tuna’ salad) from the vegan grocer Orchard Grocer down the road from the hotel on Orchard St and then went next door to vegan shoe store Mooshoes – I did buy a couple of things but the main attraction for me was the cat Marlowe who hangs out on the fron counter (in a shoe box, of course!)
Next up was a very pleasant walk across the Williamsburg Bridge (the views were magnificent but the bars made it impossible to take any decent photos!) to Williamsburg in Brooklyn where I found more street art and a motorcycle/coffee shop with my name on it!
Then I grabbed some DELICIOUS vegan sushi from Hana on Rivington St and headed off to see an off-Broadway show – Avenue Q. Highly recommended! (Tip – todaytix.com is a good website to find cheap tix on the day or a few days beforehand!)
Friday morning I went for my last run before the marathon, across the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. It was not a particularly cohesive run what with all the photo stops!
After that I took the train to Brooklyn. I notice that the train stations in NYC are almost like art galleries – lots of awesome mosaic work! And on the Brooklyn side some cool glass panels!
The main reason for going to Brooklyn was to check out brand new avocado bar Avocaderia, which 2 of my Adelaide friends had alerted me to the previous night.
I then went for a walk to Sunset Park – very much a local park. Not one for the tourists but pretty amazing views across to Manhattan!
My last tourist stop for the day was Wall Street where I wanted to see the temporary ‘Fearless Girl‘ sculpture, staring down the famous bull.
Then it was off to Broadway for another show – Noel Coward’s ‘Present Laughter’ starring Kevin Kline and also featuring Cobie Smulders (best known for playing Robin on ‘How I Met Your Mother’) – an EXCELLENT show.
So that was it for New York – Saturday morning I caught the Greyhound to Boston. First stop was my AirBNB in Cambridge (a lovely spot!) to drop off my bags before heading out for coffee and lunch at the highly recommended Veggie Galaxy!
Next up was a trip to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play – it was a great game which the Sox won 2-1. It happened to be Jackie Robinson day – the 70th anniversary of the first African-American player in the Major League, so all players on both teams were wearing Robinson’s number, 42. Which was a tad confising for this foreigner at first until I worked it out! It was also the 4th anniversary of the Boston bombings – marked with a moment of reflection at the time the first bomb had gone off, 4 years earlier. So a very significant day all around!
The atmosphere was fantastic – the whole crowd sang along to ‘Sweet Caroline’ with the mascot egging us all on!
Sunday was nothing but Expo Day. I got up late and went across the road to the local brewery/coffee shop (for a coffee, in case you were wondering!) before jumping on the bus to the expo.
But first, the finish line…
Got to the expo and collected my race number and my finisher shirt (which I tried on for size and promptly put it back in the bag – I was surprised by how many people were wandering around the expo in their shirts! Don’t they know it’s bad luck?)
The next few hours (I think it was 3 – totally lost track of time!) I wandered through the expo and I don’t want to think about how much money I spent but it was all stuff I needed (isn’t it always?) WOW that place is overwhelming! My main dilemma was whether to get the small or medium Celebration jacket. After much deliberation and consultation I went with the latter!
I wrote my name on the wall – lucky I’m tall because the only real spaces were at the top. Extended periods of times standing on your toes are good for you the day before a marathon, right?
I didn’t expect to see a swimming pool – that you could actually try out!
I also watched about the last 6 miles of a video of the course which was on a loop! The last 6 miles was enough for me!
Aaand I finally made it out of the expo with only 2 T-shirts, the aforementioned jacket, a hoodie, 2 pairs of calf sleeves, a running light, a bunch of Clif bars, a bumper sticker and a new pair of runners (not the Boston special ones, just my regular ones which were RIDICULOUSLY cheap compared to back home!)
So now it’s time to head back to Cambridge, make sure I’m all sorted for the morning, and go get me a pizza and cider as per tradition!