The morning of the race presented a cool but not cold overcast day. We arrived at the start area about an hour early given the very limited parking around the start area. As it was the parking was already almost full.
Given our early arrival we wandered around the start area and window shopped to pass the time. It seemed every shop in Belgrave was selling coffee and/or offering breakfast whether being a coffee shop or not. With about 15 min to the start we changed out of our warm clothing dropping our bags with dry clothing off at the vans that would take our gear to the finish in Emerald.
The start was seeded in 4 waves after the elite runners based upon your stated 10km time when you entered. Not that it was policed and as a result, at the start everybody surged together and you crossed the start as a mixed blob.
The organizers plan it this way as the start line is on a narrow section of road on a bridge over the railway tracks so the runners assemble almost facing the start banner and run a down hill "U" to reach the start. This is also why the race is limited to 3,500 runners. As with most races these days the timing chip on your race bib ensures your time doesn't start until you have crossed the start line.
To add a bit of theatre the train driver has to start with the elite runners running the 250m to the train in the opposite direction. Then once in Emerald he has to leave the train and run about the same distance to the finish line. When interviewed before the start the MC gave him a bit of stick about him waring race bib No.1 when he has the least of anyone to do, again adding theatre and laughs to the occasion.
Then before we knew it, at exactly 9.30am the 3,511 runners were away, first at a walk then a jog then ..... then the first climb was upon us and almost immediately many people started to struggle. It was about now that I had Eric on high rotation in my head saying "Hill's Are My Friend, Hill's Are My Friend" This climb was steep and steady for about 3km before levelling off and descending in an undulating pattern of little dips and rises. On cresting the first rise I was feeling ok as I'd been conservative because as I had not run this before I did not know what lay ahead.
After about a Km of undulating decent we turned off onto a dirt road and started to climb again. The first Km of this climb was very seep, steeper that the first major climb with a small decent in the middle then up again like the first climb. This climb was about 4 Km before levelling off and then a very steep decent. As I neared the top of the climb though breathing hard and having legs that were feeling the hills I felt strong and confident I was going to finish strongly.
I ran the steep decent as quickly as I was able, a few runners slipped and fell on their backsides due to the gradient but I steadied myself by swinging my arms like crazy, I must of looked a sight.
Straight after the decent was a short sharp rise that tested your legs then the course undulated up and down for a Km or so before the final hill of the day that was about a Km long. This section was by far the loosest section of the course which made getting a footing and climbing even harder. By now I was feeling fatigued in the legs but my breathing and HR were still good with my HR fluctuating between 145 and 150 BPM.
The undulating decent into the finish line was about 2 1/2 Km on a track just wide enough for 2 runners side by side making passing difficult to say the least. At the bottom levelling out and finishing with a short gradual 400m rise to the line. I ran this section as hard as I could passing countless runners in the process, I felt fantastic, I felt I was flying, the fatigue in my legs vanished as I pushed, really pushed. But as I pushed I concentrated on my form trying not to slip, trip or get pushed by other runners as some had done. I crossed the finish line covering the 13.5Km in 89 minutes and though in the back half of the field I am rapt at my time and the way I finished. We are coming back again next year to run and I know I'll better this time as I will know the course.
Upon finished and meeting up with Jeff (he ran it in 66.45) I grabbed a drink a banana walking to pick up my bag and I couldn't of been happier. As a return train ride on Puffing Billy is included we made our way to the train station after walking the exhibits within the finishing area.
When you finish you don't receive a medallion or ribbon or anything, all you receive is your time and that warm glow inside, the glow of knowing you have achieved something with 3,500 of your new best friends.
In the 48hrs since finishing, other than a bit of tightness in my quads on the night of the race, I've had no stiffness or soreness at all. So thanks to Eric I must have ran with reasonable form and control. Thank you so much Eric for all that you have given me, though I know I still have a long, long way to go.
Congratulations Robert !
This race looks amazing ! It's great to see that you are already thinking about next year !
Great race report, Robert! Congratulations! Very inspiring.