15km Kokoda trail challenge recap by Janet Murphy

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‘Do you want to do this run with me?’

‘What is it’?
‘15k trail run’
‘I’ve never done a trail run before, but sure, why not’.

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And this is how I came to be lining up on a cold, windy Sunday morning on the side of a mountain range as part of the Kokoda Challenge on 4th May 2014. Luckily, I was in good company with my teammate Monique and fellow RMA’s Danielle, Janelle & Elspeth in another team. I was also very proud of my 11-year-old daughter who had formed a school team with friends and was running as well.

If I digress a bit, I feel that this event was one of the reasons our Toowoomba and surrounds RMA group has bonded so well (and has grown considerably larger since). With most of us having little experience in trail running, we organised a couple of ‘training runs’, usually followed by our regular Park Run jaunt. The first of these is what I consider our ‘first date’ and made me realise how diverse and yet how connected running can be. It was this ‘first date’ that I met Jaime Fing (and still making me laugh with her quick witted commentary) and Janelle who I already knew as being the mum of my daughter’s school friend…but never knew she ran as well! I feel so lucky to be making so many new friends through our shared love (and sometimes hate) of running!

Anyway…. after a glorious weekend running the ½ Marathon at Noosa, the following Sunday in Toowoomba had suddenly turned cold!!. At 5.30am when we arrived to check in, I believe the temp was around 2 degrees and wind chill factor even colder. After huddling around listening to officialdom and a rendition of the ‘Last Post’, the gun sounded at 7am and we were off. We had a 5-hour time limit to complete the 15 km course, no problems we thought! Our race plan was based on making sure Monique didn’t injure herself further (prior to her massive 50k Ultra event coming up) and being kind to her recovering ankle and shins from earlier injuries. We set off a nice steady pace, feeling matchy matchy in our LJ singlets (even though they were still buried under a few layers at that point). The course was basically a figure 8 made up of a 6k loop and a 9k loop and a combination of undulating grassy fire trails, narrow rocky uphill tracks, steep gravelly paths and some creek crossings. After some recent rain, the track was moist, muddy in some places but I felt made the gravelly tracks easier to traverse.

The cold temperature was actually a blessing in disguise, not far into the run we were protected from the wind and able to shed a couple of layers. The sun was shining, the air was clear, everyone seemed happy…. it was a great day.

Monique and I kept our pace, running where we could and taking a breather on some of the steeper sections by having a walk. Before too long, we had finished the first loop and onto our second loop. Feeling great, we checked in at bottom of the mountain at the 3rd and final checkpoint to be told that we were the 5th team checked in so far. Really!!! We were surprised so with some renewed vigour we set off on the final ascent (probably the hardest section of the whole run). On one of the few sections that there was an opportunity to cross other runners, we came across Danielle, Janelle, Elspeth (and their ring in, Jason) and there was high fives all round.

We conquered ‘Heartbreak Hill’ a 500m up hill climb, had a brilliant photo taken of us at the top by the well positioned official photographer and from there continued the last couple of k’s to the finish line. We finished strongly, not sure of our position but knowing we had overtaken some runners in the last stage. We crossed the line to some friendly applause and the great news that we were the 3rd team to finish and even better the 1st 2-female team. And that deserved a medal!!

I love having the opportunity to try something different and sometimes it just takes the question…will you do this? I encourage everybody to take those opportunities and have a go, you’ll never know…. you may even get a medal to add to the collection!! I thought I had had my trail run experience…but no…. I’ve just signed up again to run the 30k Brisbane Kokoda Challenge on 1st June with RMA’er Debbie Thorley…just because she asked!

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