I met some wonderful ladies at this event and the support beforehand was also incredible (and nothing short of what many of you have experienced through this group I am sure!).
Megan Wood did an amazing job of coordinating all of us beforehand, organising a tent for the day, a location for us to meet for dinner the night before, and an esky for us to store our post-race refreshments in on the day. She was incredibly welcoming and did a lot to make the experience what it was.
The dinner the night beforehand was a great chance to finally meet the people we had been chatting to online for the weeks leading up to the race. It was very funny hearing everyone meet Maree and then automatically add on her surname ‘Rainbird’ as they put the name and the face together! As you can imagine, much of the talk centred around which distances were being run, which events and distances we had previously run and of course reassuring each other that our race strategies, time expectations and nerves were all sensible, achievable and normal!
On race morning there was some very early morning facebook chatter (Tracy took out the prize there – 4:24am was the earliest post on race morning I believe followed closely by Hazel!) and then it was time to head to the showgrounds for our 6:30am race start. It was already 18 degrees at 6:00am in the morning and the previous day when we arrived had been a scorcher. You could still feel heat coming up off the ground even early morning.
It was at the last minute toilet stop that I met Kelly-Ann Varey (who was 1st female placegetter in the marathon – WOW!). She was extremely positive and so friendly and as we were chatting several other women in the line identified themselves as a Running Mums also. The bond being part of this group creates is nothing short of amazing!
And the next thing you know, we are lined up at the start line and the race director is giving the usual instructions. He could have been talking in Mandarin Chinese for all the attention I paid, but I am sure what he said was very informative and/or inspiring.
There was a registered field of approx 207 people running on the day, so it was a manageable amount of runners and not congested at all when we started off in the dark. Before too long we could see the sun coming up over the horizon and could start to feel the associated heat that came with it. I struggled to find my rhythm from the get go, and just assumed as with most of my long runs it would take me until about the 7-8km to find it. Unfortunately I never did (I suspect this is where having my head ‘in the game’ mentally would have been a good thing!) but I was holding the pace I wanted so tried not to worry too much about anything else. Erin was pacing alongside me as agreed (this was a training run for 6FT for her) until about the 8km mark and then had to make a toilet stop, so I continued on alone.
It all gets a bit fuzzy from here to be quite honest. I remember seeing Kelly-Ann and thinking to myself that she was the lead female. I also remember seeing some of the 5:30am starters pass by and then the half marathoners also start to whizz by. There was lots of on-course encouragement from all runners (not just the other running mums) but very little in terms of spectators and I struggled to place where I was on the course for the first half – it was very disorientating!
At around the 18km mark I was still managing to hold pace and we had circled back around to where the RMA tent was (near the start/finish line). Those who were running the 10kms, 5kms and 2kms (kiddies) were there to cheer us on and it gave a much needed boost but by this stage my ITB was starting to play up and I was starting to get a bit worried.
After running up and over two bridges I knew I was in trouble with my ITB (despite it being taped) and at the 20km mark I stopped to try and walk some of the tightness out and this is where Erin caught up with me again. My pace from this point (which had been a consistent 5:55 to 6:00 mins per km) started to drop off and I really started to struggle. At the 23km mark I took my first lot of painkillers and by this stage the heat was also really starting to ramp up (it would have been about 8:45am and already low to mid-20’s) so it was a double whammy! I can’t say enough about the support Erin provided me during this second half. She distracted me with bits of information about her training or previous races, broke the remaining half down into manageable ‘mental’ sections for me and when I started to walk part of every km, she would set me a landmark to get me moving again. She will disagree, but I am not sure I could have made it the whole way without her!
Michelle and Erin running along
Like other participants have reported, at every drink station (which were frequent and well stocked to the race organiser’s credit) we tipped water over our heads to keep ourselves cool and then took a drink of electrolyte to keep ourselves hydrated. There was a gorgeous local in the residential section of the course who stood on his front lawn from 6:00am right through to when we passed by the last time (and there were others after us) and sprayed us with is garden hose. I am fairly certain on the last loop past him (we went past him 4 times in total) I told him I loved him and would have happily agreed to anything he asked of me to get a spray of that water!
When we hit 37kms we were back within sight of the RMA tent and the finish line again (which was quite cruel now I think about it) and we could hear the RMA girls well before we could see them! They shouted encouragement at the top of their lungs and it was quite emotional to pass by (I am getting teary even thinking about it again). Then I saw my mum & dad who had travelled up from Melbourne to see me and I completely lost it. No matter how old you are, it never stops being important to have your parents support and believe in you.
By this stage I was doing more walking than running but Erin stuck by my side and wouldn’t leave me (although I told her to several times). I had already passed the 4:30 mark of the marathon which was the time I was originally hoping to come in under but at that point I just wanted to actually finish more than anything. We profusely thanked the volunteers at the last drink station and it was just after this point (at around the 41km mark) that I saw my husband standing on the side of the path waiting for me. It was a huge and very emotional surprise and he got a very sweaty, teary hug before he ran alongside me the remainder of the way (with Erin staying very discreetly in the background).
That last 200 metres was incredible. I was going to finish a marathon and be a marathoner. All my training had paid off and the emotional turmoil of the previous week was forgotten and it was just pure adrenaline that got me across the line. My kids were there holding signs they had stayed up the night before to help complete, my parents were there and the most amazing group of women had stayed behind to cheer me on after running their races (Melissa, Zoe , Megan and others). Even Kelly-Ann had stayed to see us cross the line (and show us her awesome trophy) before heading off to her own celebrations.
Kelly Ann taking out 1st female in the marathon!
I can honestly say I am never going to run a marathon in summer ever again, because the heat at this event was very nearly my undoing (over 30 degrees by the time we finished) but I am going to run another marathon – in fact I already have my next one booked.
Thanks to the RMA team and to all the wonderful, inspiring and incredible RMA mums I met over the weekend and who provided messages and offers of support in the lead up to the event – a massive thank you. I could have done it without you (well, maybe not without Erin), but it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as fun, enjoyable or memorable!