I was lucky to be able to have a go at this marathon as I had a stinking cold during the week. When it came to 5am on race day I felt ok and I decided to give it a whirl. If I could do it, it would be the first time I had done marathons on three consecutive weekends ..which appealed to me as a little goal. If I attempted it and made myself ill – I would be in for spousal reproach and the possible removal of running privileges/wine money.
I tiptoed out of the house so as not to wake the family/have said spouse bar my exit and drove to a coffee shop. Yes I felt fine. I approached a caffeine giver person and ordered a latte but to my surprise I produced a strange croak interspersed with bits of silence and he produced a cupped right ear. As I hadn’t spoken to anyone yet that day I had had no idea I couldn’t speak. After some harrumphing I could communicate just fine but I stood there sanity checking myself …am I infact terribly ill? ….and decided all was well. It is just one of those things where the actual cold has gone (the main symptom of which was sore throat) and you are left pain free but sound impressively sick.
I drove for an hour and a half and found the race, the registration and finish booths all looked very jolly and welcoming nestling in the hillside and I was glad I had come. It is a friendly group and I knew it would be fine to start and just drop out if I had to. I bumped into Rebecca Yi who also ran the Cinderella marathon last week. We had a fairly joyless exchange where I complained about being sick and having to possibly drop out/dead and she explained that this course was pretty horrible, very exposed and nothing like as nice as last weeks’ one. She had done it several times before and was only doing it now to build up her mileage as a training run. I wondered afresh if I was about to have a horrid time and whether or not I should run at all. I strolled lethargically up to the start line wondering ….am I dizzy? Maybe I am terribly ill? ….but when I got there I was lifted out of myself by being entertained by a tall Indian man who was doing his first 50K, he was full of excitement and ‘here goes nothing’. Time to have fun and get sense of perspective. Off we went.
As soon as we started running I had a sense of relief. Having a cold is probably more of a handicap for most other runners than it is for me as my nose doesn’t function normally at the best of times. And all was fine. I started at a relaxed pace and was continuing the piteous, self obsessed wallowing in my own pernicious health when something really very nasty happened. We were winding up a steep, narrow single track when the man ahead of me spat with vigor and somehow a good deal of it landed on my face with droplets showering my open mouth. I don’t know how we managed this, whether he spat back over his shoulder or it ricocheted off something but it was a startling experience that brought me out of myself. I said: ‘arghh you got me!’ and started scraping my tongue down with my hanky and squirting water at myself to rinse it off. It was disgusting but hilarious, why do these things always happen to me?. I believe there was a little horrified laughter from the line of runners behind me. He mumbled an apology and I worried he might think I was angry or something, so when he spat again a few minutes later and did so in an awkward way aiming straight down at his feet I attempted to display good humour and shouted: ‘missed!’. However, he didn’t respond and soon ushered me in front of him.
As it turned out Rebecca had done me the most enormous favour. The actual terrain was a joy compared to the twisted horrors of my imagination. I ran with boundless pessimism, fearing each nice foresty bit would not last long and resigning myself to the start of some hideous never-ending trawl frying in exposed sun each time we emerged from cover. We ran by Horseshoe lake, bounced around a forest, streamed across a grassy hillside on flat trail, bounced around more deep forest climbing to reach a scenic ridge fireroad. This really had not been winding uphill for too terribly long before we came across the encouraging sight of the lead men returning. This is always a wonderful sign that the turnaround must be coming up. You just have to factor in quite how much ahead of you they might be ..and they were pretty darn nippy. And then there it was – the aid station and turn around. I couldn’t believe my luck. My negativity and pessimism drained away and I thought …I am pretty sure I can do this. I knew the elevation was about 3, 600 ft and as such 2,000 ft or so less than many trail marathons including the one last week but still, it seemed too good to be true. Often I prefer races that don’t repeat at all but in my current state this was wonderful. I had seen everything I had to cope with and nothing was insurmountable or boring or grim. I love it when a course has clear stages and it is a little like working through levels in a computer game. It was wonderful.
Ironically, if I had not been expecting some dreadful haul through exposed terrain at some time I might have found the grass and fireroad sections exposed and tough. Certainly they were hotter the second time around later in the day and many runners including myself ran out of water long before we reached the turnaround.
It was good to see Rebecca when we passed each other, she always looks very fresh and relaxed. It was fun to see her move up to second lady position and hold on to it. Our times were much faster than in the previous two
years, possibly they had been running in extreme temperature before (which would make those exposed sections more arduous). There was also a small change in course too as the race was
not allowed to take its normal route by the lake at the beginning – just from my feel and from my Garmin mileage I did wonder if the course was actually a little short – though Coastal Trails is always very keen to specify how accurately they measure their courses. Anyway, at least I can be absolutely sure on this course that I didn’t mess up and I ran the same as everyone else. Jason Wolfe won the men’s race in 3:30:30 (he looked amazing speeding along…his legs appeared to be carved out of wood) and I was first lady at 3:50:05.
It wasn’t a great race for meeting people as I ran alone for much of it and had to leave as soon as I finished (rushing home for my adopted Opa’s 90th birthday party!). Beyond the spitting incident the most memorable little exchange I had was with a guy who asked me if I had a band aid. It was rather frustrating as – being a mother of three – it is difficult to catch me not in possession of a band aid. I went into girl guide mode and offered to fashion one from a wet wipe and my hair band but he preferred his blister as it was.
Before I left chatted with a lady whose son Micah Brown had finished in second place between myself and Jason in 3.46:58. He was just 18 and this was his first trail marathon. She was very proud of him and I love that she had not just come along to support him – she had done the 5 mile race herself too.
Off I went to Opa’s party wondering what Opa was up to when he was 18, and what Jason Wolfe would be up to when he was 90.
Thank you Coastal Trails