A couple of months ago, I returned to my car after running at the Hunter Valley Winery running festival. There, under my windscreen wiper, was a flyer. This is a common occurrence at running events. Usually they get tossed away unnoticed, but this one seemed interesting. It was for an event I hadn’t heard of, the Dubbo Stampede, around the Dubbo Zoo. It would also be the inaugural running of the marathon event. As I have said in the past, I’m a bit of a sucker for an ‘inaugural’ anything, so I signed up.
I was certain that by the time race day came, I would have roped in a couple of friends to come with me. But that didn’t happen, as the race fell on Father’s Day. So on Saturday 6th September, the day before race day, I made the 5 hour drive by myself out to Dubbo. Despite a beautiful sunset, I was feeling less than motivated. I ate dinner out of the microwave, alone in a cheap motel room. I set a 5am alarm, but contemplated not even getting up for it. I think I left my run mojo back in Mudgee.
The next morning, I was feeling a little more motivated. I managed to make it to the start line. Even though I was parked close by, I decided to check a bag into bag check, so I could leave my jumper on until the last minute. It was a little chilly.
The Dubbo Stampede was made up of 4 races: the Dingo Dash (5km) the Cheetah Chase (10km) the Zebra Zoom (Half Marathon) and the Rhino Ramble (Marathon). Actually, I’m not sure if it was a ramble or a rampage. On the website it said ramble, but on my finisher’s medal it said rampage. To me, it definitely felt more like a ramble. The first 3 place getters in every race got a stuffed animal. I really wanted a rhino.
There were a few familiar faces on the start line. Everyone was standing back, so I stepped forward onto the line, in between Jane Fardell and Shayne Falkenmire. It would be the only time I was close to them all day. As soon as the gun went off, they streaked ahead.
Within 2 km I had settled into a nice rhythm, running and chatting with 2 other marathoners. As we made our way to the first turnaround, I saw that Jane and Shayne were already a fair way ahead, but I was the 3rd girl. There were 2 others not too far behind.
I continued on at this enjoyable pace for the next 10km or so, having a chat to the 2 runners near me. I was aware that there was another group of 3 runners slowly closing the gap on us, 1 guy and 2 girls. A couple of km later, they caught up. One of the girls surged through, and I increased pace to keep up with her. We knocked out a 4:30 kilometre, and then settled back down into a nice rhythm again. By now, she was back running with the 2 guys I had been running and chatting with, and I was just ahead, on my own.
Originally (when I signed up for the race), the marathon was supposed to make its way through the Zoo. The course had been changed to a 3-lap course outside the zoo, so there would be no animal sightseeing for us.
As the first lap was completed, I took my bottle of Gatorade from the table, grabbed a wristband and followed the arrows around the corner. WHOOPS, that was the way towards the finish line, not to the second lap. The race Marshall called me back and set me on the right track, but it gave the girl behind me the opportunity to slip into third place.
I chased, not wanting to go too fast and burn out. I caught up, but didn’t try to get back in front. I spent the next 5km trailing her by a couple of metres. We went through halfway together in around 1 hour 40 minutes. The next place girl, who was wearing a white visor, was in sight behind us too.
Soon, we hit the back of the half marathon, and things started to get confusing. I couldn’t tell who I was running against anymore. I passed a couple of night Striders and gave them a cheer. My Poptop of Gatorade was depleted, so I tossed it away. At the next water station, several half marathoners had stopped for a drink, so I couldn’t get near the table. I contemplated stopping, until I noticed the girl I had been chasing stopping for water, so I charged on, not looking back. Third place was mine again!
I completed the second lap, and grabbed my second bottle. Last lap. “Last and fast”, I told myself. (Yeah right!) The half marathoners were all turning into the Zoo, and the course was lonely once more. I could see no runners ahead of me, and a few behind.
Around 5km later, the course makes a little hairpin turn. As I passed the witches hat, I noted the time on my watch. 15 seconds later , I passed the girl behind me, heading towards the hat. This meant that with about 7km to go, I had a 30 second gap on the next placed girl. No time to relax and take it easy. I had to keep running strong. I really wanted that rhino.
I proceeded to check over my shoulder at every possible opportunity, trying to make sure that she wasn’t catching me. I think I was widening the gap. I had to force myself to stop, as it was slowing me down.
“Rhinoceros…. Rhinoceros…. Rhinoceros….” I kept telling myself. You’re going to win a Rhinosceros! This was to distract me from the fatigue I was feeling. My pace had slowed by about 20 seconds per kilometre, but the end was in sight! I completed my third lap and turned into the zoo.
With the finish line in sight, the race marshalls directed me away again on a lap around the carpark, to make up an extra few hundred metres. I now had no idea where I was going or how far I had left to go. I ran up a dirt path, and eventually caught sight of the finish line again. I heard Dave Robbo calling my name out as I crossed the line…. Kirby Clarke… 4th place in the marathon!
“Fourth?” No, there must be some mistake…. “I came THIRD!” I thought to myself. He probably just got confused with the half marathoners finishing.
As I walked over to get water, I spotted the girl who had slipped into third place when I took the wrong turn, who I had then overtaken at the water station. I thought “Oh no, she must have struggled and not completed the third lap”. I went over to ask her how she went. She said that she had finished with a 3:19. WHAAAAAAAT? Not only had she somehow got back in front of me without me noticing, she had then proceeded to put 7 minutes into me in the second half of the race, as we went through halfway together. So my explanation is marathon brain, and that I must have got confused somewhere among all the half marathoners running everywhere.
Disappointing. There would be no rhino for me today. Oh well. I was pleased with my time, 3:26, only 2 weeks after winning Mudgee. And even if I knew she was still ahead of me, there is no way that I would have been able to pull out a 3:19. I was happy with my performance, just a little disappointed that it didn’t win me a Rhino.
I guess there’s always next year.