Coastal Classic | 2014

3h56m03s PB

What’s with races being scheduled so early? I can understand the logic during the summer when the days are longer and the temperatures become significantly hotter once the clock ticks towards noon. But right now it still feels like winter.

As I lie in bed deliberating the pro’s and con’s of not only getting up but then driving for an hour, waiting on a train platform for 1/2 hour, catching a train for another 1/2 hour, and then registering, preparing, warming-up and waiting for 1 1/2 hours before starting, I seriously question my sanity and consider ditching my second Coastal Classic.

After all, it has been raining heavily all night and it’s still raining now. The track will be slippery. I haven’t prepared specifically for this event. I don’t want to get injured. I haven’t prepared sufficiently for this event. I would hate to not finish.

What’s more, I was out the night before celebrating a friend’s birthday: drinking beer (my preferred method of carb-loading). So here I am subsisting on 4 1/2 hours of sleep. All good excuses but pretty lame reasons to pull-out.

End of discussion. Tired and grumpy, out of bed I crawl, reassuring myself that now that the hard part is over everything from hereon in will be much, much easier.

The run (now in its 5th year) follows the picturesque coastal walk from Otford to Bundeena through the Royal National Park in Sydney’s south. To say it’s a a stunning location doesn’t really do it justice. It is quite simply magnificent!

Yet weeks and weeks and weeks of rain will play havoc with the trail. I envisage deep puddles and squelching mud that will add to our challenge. And that’s exactly what we encounter.

It’s not even remotely like a typical road race: there is no smooth bitumen, gently undulating and pleasantly even. It’s jagged rocks and wind-scoured sandstone platforms; sandy trails followed by sandy beaches; steel-mesh walkways and timber planks laid across muddy tracks. Running creeks and stagnant puddles. Greasy grass and precarious palm fronds underfoot. Broken branches to trip us up and fallen trees to clamber over. And a bit more mud that acts remarkably like quicksand.

Up and down and up and down again.

Given the conditions, I’m surprised at how dry the route is in many sections. And yet, just when I think we’ve seen the last of the mud, we’re confronted by another section that is worse than the last.

To be honest, I don’t think anything could have truly prepared me for this. All the same, the beauty of the scenery, the soothing sound of the crashing waves, and my determination to not only finish the course but complete it under 4 hours, spurs me on to run when I would much prefer to walk.

I also have visions of leeches writhing all over my shoes as one runner describes (whilst we’re on the train from Sutherland to Otford) how his friend (who recently ran this course) looked down at his shoes in horror at a Medusa-like scene. Great!

Despite the arduous nature of the event the competitor enthusiasm is high and the banter amongst fellow runners is light-hearted and friendly; encouraging and inspiring.

The weather, for the most part, is now favourable. The sun shines at the start and the occasional rain shower does little to dampen our spirits. The cool breeze is bracing and invigorating.

Volunteers at the four checkpoints hand-out water and fruit, lollies and kindness. They help keep us going when all we want to do is throw-in the towel and call it a day.

And not surprisingly, it’s around the 21 km mark that I decide the fun has stopped and it’s becoming a lot like hard work. But that’s OK. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Nothing worthwhile ever is.

Although the race is billed as roughly 29 km I know that with all our side-stepping and slip-sliding it’s at least an extra km. And my GPS watch confirms this when I stop it at 30.1 km.

The nature of the race means the finish times are similar to those of a marathon. And, as always, finishing is a blessed relief.

Collapsing with exhaustion at the end my legs cramp up from the sheer exertion. An ice-cold dip in the ocean would be a great idea right now but I have neither the energy nor the ability to get myself back down to the beach. Instead, I’m looking forward to the steaming, hot bath when I eventually get home.

And although I don’t feel like it right now, I do envisage doing it again. But I may wait a couple of years so I can fully recover.

Kim | marathon runner

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