I’ve done this event for the last 2 years now… this year would be #3!
The 7th June this year was the 34th running of the event. A lot has changed in the last 33 years. The inaugural event saw 11 runners make the journey from the Kempsey swimming pool all the way out to Trial Bay gaol, near South West Rocks. Log before the days of Garmins, Gu’s and GPS, runners used to hit the wall – literally hit the wall of the gaol, which marked the end of the run, 42.2km from the start, or as close as you got in those days without modern running luxuries.
These days, the event, run by the local triathlon club, offers a full race program including the marathon, half marathon, 10km and 5km events. The course is an out and back course starting and finishing in the caravan park next to Trial Bay gaol.
For the first time in 3 years, I had registered in advance, and not on the day of the race. Mum, Dad, Rich and Oscar came along for the ride, and we all stayed at Nan’s house in Kempsey. Aunty Rob cooked us up a BBQ feast the night before the race, and we went to bed bright and early, ready for the next day.
Dad, Rich and I headed out to Trial Bay at 5.30am. The others would come out later. Rich was running the half marathon, which would start at 7:30. Matt Browning had entered him the day before, and would meet him at the start line before the race to give it to him. He hadn’t arrived by the time my race started.
With a minute to go, I made my way into the start chute. I heard someone say hello to me. I turned to see Maggie, the runner who was leading the Mudgee marathon last year until I passed her with a few kilometres to go. She mentioned that she had also done the North Face 100 3 weeks ago, and loved it!
At 7am on the dot we were off. The field size was around 70. As I ran out of the chute, I tried to keep an eye on the other girls around me. I wasn’t expecting to do well, (I was wearing my ‘slow’ training shoes after all…) but the last 2 years I have won my age group, and a 4th place overall in the girls’ would guarantee that again.
We ran out of the caravan park and down the hill… There was Maggie and one other girl in front of me. Within a kilometre, I was running next to Maggie, and we had overtaken the other girl.
At around the 3 kilometre mark, I saw John Doyle and a couple of others walking towards the start line. They yelled out ‘Go Kirby!’. I remember thinking that John must have been doing the 10k, because with 3k to the start line and about 16 minutes to get there, he was going to miss the start of the Half Marathon. It turns out he was doing the half… and Matt Browning was one of the others with him… and he had Rich’s number ant timing chip! After the race, I heard how that had run 4:30’s to get to the start line in time, arriving with barely a minute to spare, leaving Rich a nervous wreck trying to tie his timing chip to his shoe 10 seconds before the gun went off….
The marathon course wound it’s way up and down through the shady beach paths and into town. Maggie was still in my sight, but I was happy to let her get away. I was already averaging around 4:30 per kilometre, and was not prepared to go any faster – I had not turned up to run hard! (and with any luck, she would go out hard and fade like she did in Mudgee, and I would catch her in the last 5k…) I was actually more worried about the 2 girls behind me catching and passing me, and had found rhythm running comfortably behind 2 guys I was chatting with occasionally.
As I ran through town, I heard people on a balcony up above cheering for me. I turned and crossed the road, and headed out of town. It was 7:30, and the half marathon was starting. Rich was in 3rd place as the runners took off away from the caravan park and up the hill…
About 4km later, I crossed the Jerseyville bridge, and ran past the half marathon turnaround. Now it was time for the long and boring part of the course… 10km straight and flat out to the Hat Head turnoff at Kinchela, and 10km back.
Water stations were few and far between, with this part of the course having a stretch of 6km between water stops. I had a gel when I had the opportunity of water to wash it down, not when I needed or felt like one!
On this part of the course, 1 lane was closed to traffic for the runners, and the other lane was open to traffic in alternating directions. Mum, Nan, Aunty Rob, Uncle Craig and Oscar drove past me heading out to the start/finish line yelling my name and cheering as they drove by. The guys I was running near were starting to wonder how I knew so many people out here cheering for me!
We were approaching the turnaround. The lead male ran by in the opposite direction, with a big lead over second place. Soon, Maggie ran by. She was the first female. It was another minute or so until I made it to the turnaround. So at halfway, she had around a 2 minute lead on me. Behind me, I eventually saw the next 2 girls, running together about 5 minutes back.
I headed back towards town. It was a long and lonely road. The day was starting to heat up, and there was no shade.
The half marathon would have been run and won now. I wondered how Richard went.
Finally, I made it back to Jerseyville. There was about 10km to go. It was getting hot. I was chasing the shade on the edge of the road. I had another gel at the next water station, but it was only my 2nd for the race. Definitely not enough for how hard I was running. I hoped that I was not about to crash and burn…
I made my way up the hill into town that felt a lot steeper on the way back up then it did on the way out. There was no other runners in sight, in front of me or behind me. I kept thinking I was about to get mowed down by the next 2 girls behind me, but I couldn’t see anyone coming in the distance. I had no idea what pace I was running or what time I was on track for. Last year I had run 3:27 on this course, and that was my goal. I thought I was on track, but I had no idea what pace I needed to average to get that time.
I made it to the beach, with about 6km to go, from here the course switched from road to footpath, and wound its way up and down through the trees again. I was glad for the shade. I thought I was on track to go under 3:27, but ‘marathon brain’ caused by not enough sugar made it hard to me to think straight and calculate the numbers.
I passed a couple of half marathon runners. At the 38km mark, my watch read 2:59:47. 4.2km to go…
I roughly calculated that If I could maintain sub-5 minute k’s for the last 4 kilometres, I’d be looking at 2o more minutes of running. Add on another minute for the .2 at the end, and I was a chance of breaking my all-time PB of 3:21:20 set in Boston last year! But the last kilometre was uphill… I would lose a lot of time there! Oh well, an Aussie PB was just as good. Considering I had not turned up to ‘race’ and would have been happy with a time of 3:27, I was feeling pretty good.
Kilometre 39 took 5:06…
Kilometre 40 took 5:05…
I was fading… but the end was close! I ran as hard as I could up that last hill, trying not to lose anymore time. Somehow, kilometre 41, mostly uphill, was faster than the last few. As I made it to the top of the hill, I turned the corner, and could hear the finish line before I could see it. I ran past my family, high-5’ing as many of them as I could on the way past. I thought I was still on track for a PB, so I ran as fast as I could to the line! I crossed in 3:20:09, a marathon PB by 1 minute 11 seconds!
Rich found me on the finish line, and told me he had won the half marathon! His time was 79 minutes. I was so happy for him. Maggie had won the marathon in 3:15, and this made me happy too! No matter how hard I ran, I would not have been anywhere near that, so I was very content with second place, and a new PB!
After the race, I got a massage for gold coin donation, and chatted to friends including Rick, who tried to convince me to do the Glow Worm marathon the following weekend.
We stayed around for the presentation, Where we won matching pink and blue trophies. Rich’s trophy might have been bigger, but my 2nd place envelope had $50 more in it than his winner’s envelope. Rich reckons that the extra 21km was not worth $50, so he thinks he got the better deal. But for me, it was never about the money. It was about another race, another marathon, another PB. That’s worth more than the money any day.