24 Hour World Championships Australian Team, L-R Bernadette Benson, Kevin Muller, Rob Boyce (Team Manager), Mich Thwaites, Barry Loveday, Ewan Horsburgh, Matt Eckford, Jodie Oborne, Kerrie Bremner, John Pearson (Captain), Emma Vaughn, Deb Nicholl.
In the days leading up to the event I gave some consideration to the distance I would aim for. I had only run one 24 hour event achieving 212.422km but I was pretty positive I could do better and at least reach 220km but just how much over that total I was unsure. It wasn’t until the day before when I had a chance to view the course that I settled on an ‘A’ goal of 230km. I had worked out a 12 hour distance goal of 125km and the pace I should try to maintain for the 1st 12 hours and then I just had to get through the next 12 hours.
Trackside, Jodie with daughter Kira with the athletic track all runners will run around on each 2000m lap in the background. The white crew tents are on the far side of the track. Australia is right in the middle. Just before the opening ceremony.
I was pretty relaxed in the lead up to the event. I enjoyed the company of my team mates and took in the rituals associated with a World Championships. It was great to mix with teams from different countries in their uniforms at communal meal times. The last minute shopping for race day supplies is always an interesting experience in a foreign country but I was able to find 250ml ‘baby’ bottles of water (1 euro for 4), banana’s and even pre-cooked potatoes which I like to have during the race.
L-R Emma Vaughan, Jodie Oborne and Deb Nicholl in The Australian Crew Tent the day before the race.
Race Day. We arrived at the race precinct Paco Ruffini in Turin around 9am, about an hour before our event was due to start. We were ready and everything we might possibly need was arranged by the amazing Australian Crew who had caught the bus to the race precinct ahead of us.
As a team we made our way to the race start corral, we thought we were just getting our timing chips checked but we were simply checked off and herded into the starting corral which we weren’t supposed to leave and we had 30 minutes until the race started. We milled about with the other athletes and were finally off and running.
From the start I had a plan to walk approximately 100-150m ever lap or 2000m. This I did religiously, as I approached the crew tent in the middle of the back 100m straight of the track inside the stadium I would grab my nutrition usually a gel and some water or some energy drink and then walk (fast) to the top of the bend in the track where there was a box for Aussie bottles to be dropped and reused. Then I would break into a run again, negotiating the short sharp hill out of the stadium which most people walked for another lap of the park. I refuelled every second lap, according to my plan but walked every lap. In my short walk breaks I was often walking faster than those jogging slowly. If people passed me I soon caught them up when I resumed running. A few people commented that I was fast walker. One guy complemented me on my calves (this happens a lot to me, I consider myself very fortunate to have been born with powerful calves).
Team work Jodie Oborne and Kerrie Bremner in the final hours
At 12 hours I had achieved my intermediate target of 125km. Many commented that I was smashing it, looking strong but I knew I still had to get through the night and this is where I had struggled a little last time. I did feel good though, I sang a bit, skipped occasionally and tried a dance and repeated a mantra ‘this is easy, keep it easy’ in my head. At this point I just focussed on getting through the next hour or two at a time. I made it to 100 miles in about 16 hours, good. Then the target was 200km under 21 hours. People were still commenting that I looked good that I was smashing it but again I knew there was still a long way to go. I was still religiously following my walk/run strategy. Slowing to a fast walk as I passed the crew giving them a thumbs up as I passed to indicate that I was doing great and didn’t need anything and speed walking, arms swinging down the track to the bend and then slipping back into running for the rest of the lap.
Jodie, running through the night, collecting sustenance from crew Pitsamai Boyce.
It was around 4am that I started to fade and felt really tired. I had taken in some caffeine but it hadn’t taken effect yet. I just wanted to sleep now. I had walked almost the whole lap half asleep swaying a little, one of the officials on the course asked me if I was okay. I had been in about 4th place but I could tell I was slipping as people started to pass me instead of the other way around. I called into the crew tent and sat down in the chair. I put on some long pants had some coffee and tried to freshen up and got back out there. Actually the Aussie crew pushed me back out there. The idea of being horizontal for just a few minutes really appealed to me at that time. I had a better lap running again and picking up places. However a couple of hours later again the sleep demon came back. Again I loaded up on caffeine and Kerrie who had stepped off the track her knee a victim of that insane little hill in and out of the stadium got ready to join me and pull me through the last hour or so.
Kerrie (206) and Jodie (208) running out the final hour of the 24 hour event. Paco Ruffini, Turin, Italy.
I was sitting in 8th place or so and we had some people to catch. We found them and chased them down, mostly running sometimes walking but pushing through to the end. I was happy with 225km and then 228km but Kerrie kept talking me into the magic 230km. We spoke of all the people back home glued to their computers watching my progress and cheering me on from afar. Seeing Barry and Matt both walking with a comical lean pushing through the pain lifted my spirits. As did spotting the other boys out there striving for a team Silver. The team spirit was strong. Finally I enter the stadium for the last time. I know I am going to make 230km I just need one more lap of the track but Kerrie tells me we need to be sure and have to climb out of the stadium up that hill one more damn time. Just keep going, maintain your form Kerrie says, you look better than anyone else out there and I am still running, we pass the crew one last time I think I smiled. We climb that hill and pass the 350m mark on the ground which means I have clocked up 230km but we run on. A gun goes off and we stop but we didn’t realise this was the 1 minute to go gun, fortunately someone tells us there is still a minute to go and I sprint off, Kerrie in tow. I see the smoke from the final gun and we stop, put down our cones and hug. The sun is shining my husband Tim and the kids, Kira and Cale come and find me. They have been around off and on over the last 24 hours cheering on all the Aussies and giving me updates on my position.
Finished with 230.244km and I just want to be horizontal. We were waiting for someone to ensure our cones weren’t accidently moved. Kerrie Bremner (206) and Jodie Oborne (208)
I then make my way back to the crew tent and I am beaming. I am incredibly grateful to Pitsamai Boyce who looked after me and the rest of the support crew and of course Kerrie Bremner.
I still find it hard to believe that I ran 230.224km and placed 6th in the World Championships. On reflection I shouldn’t be surprised my achievement is the result of months of training and a perfectly executed race plan. I am extremely grateful for the support of my family who were able to travel to Italy with me on this occasion. I have been overwhelmed by the level of support I have had from the Running Mums Australia community as your Ambassador I hope I continue to inspire you to chase your dreams and never give up. I love the ultra running community which is so supportive and inclusive and as a member of the Australian Ultra Running Association will continue to do Australian Proud giving the utmost respect to the Aussie Spirit at international events.
Official results can be found at the following link http://www.iau-ultramarathon.org/images/file/IAU24hWC2015_final.pdf