The Narrabeen Allnighter is a 12 hour race held in early January each year that you can complete either solo or as a team. It has been running for several years, but this year, for the first time, they decided to add a midnight marathon to the program.
Seemed like a good idea at the time…
At 9pm on the 2nd January, I packed all the gear that I thought I would require for the night, and jumped into the car.
The marathon was to be run on a 5k loop course, so I planned to pick up a bottle on every lap if I needed it. Although it was the middle of the night, it was also the middle of summer, so it was quite hot and muggy. While I could safely leave the sunscreen at home for this race, hydration was still going to be important.
I arrived about an hour before the race started. The 12 hour runners had already been going for a few hours, and the park was full of tents for people who were running, or supporting. and immediately ran into Justin and Renae Brock. Renae was running the marathon, and Justin was there to support her. He was setting up a table on the course, and offered to set up my drinks and nutrition too.
Right on midnight, the race started and the runners took off into the darkness. I had no idea where I was going, and neither, it seemed, did anybody else.
We had to do a short lap first, to account for the extra 2.5km, then we would do 8 laps of the 5km loop course. There was a group of about 7 of us, including Renae and I, who stuck together for the first half lap and the first full lap, so that we all knew where we were going.
The course was quite dark, and really had to see. It was a mixture of pavement, grass, path and trail, but not technical at all, and flat. Head lamps were not essential, but I had one, and was glad I did.
Renae and I stayed together for the first few laps, until she stopped to change her shoes.
At this point, I thought I was the first girl, and Renae was second, but it was really hard to tell because we were doing laps, so it was hard to know who was in front of you and who was behind you, and to add to the confusion, the 12 hour runners were on the same course too, and I did not know who was doing what, so all you could so was just keep running and not worry too much about anyone else.
A few hours in, I had lost all sense of time, it was probably about 2am, and I had no idea how long I had been running for. I was not really tired, because it was do dark you could not really run too fast as you could not see where you were going, so I was maintaining quite a comfortable pace. I was also well caffeinated.
Running in the middle of the night is a very strange thing.
I surprised myself by how much I was drinking too, picking up a new bottle on each lap.
I kept myself sane (or maybe drove myself crazy) by repeating the number of the lap that I was on over and over in my head….
Second last lap….. second last lap….. next one is the last one…..
Last lap!….. Thank god it is the last lap!
When I crossed the finish line, there was no cheers or acknowledgement. Lots of runners running multiple laps made it really hard for the spectators to know who was where. But a quick glance at the TV screen next to the finish line confirmed that I had crossed the mat 9 times, and was the first female marathoner (and second overall) to do so. Renae was not far behind, and came in 2nd female, 4th overall.
By this stage It was nearly 4am. Since I had won, I decided to stay for the presentation, which was scheduled for 5.30am.
I showered in the rowing club then sat outside, cheering on the other runners.
5:30am came and went. The sun was coming up.
I was slightly annoyed, as I had a 2 hour drive ahead of me. I had decided it was not worth getting a hotel, and I would probably be so wired and caffeinated after the run that the drive back to Newcastle would not be a problem.
Had I known the presentation would not take place until 6:30 I may not have stayed, but having waited so long, there was no point leaving now.
By the time it was over, the sun was well and truly up, and I began my journey home.