My Journey to 100 miles by Nhung Wawatai

Can’t believe a last minute decision to enter the Track Ultra WA 24hr race would turn into my biggest achievements to date!!! So turns out I’m kinda made for running around a 400m track for 24hrs!

I had no big plans other than maybe get 100km under my belt as my longest run is 65km in April and try to stay awake for as long as possible. I Started running last Jan just to lose weight and get healthy after 20+yrs of being a slob. I Did my first marathon in Aug last year and from there I’ve now clocked up 5marathons and now 5 ultra marathons.

In the last 2months I ran the Perth marathon, Gold Coast marathon & Goldfields Pipeline marathon but by now my body was completely worn out and there was no way I wanted to run for 24hrs, but my friend Harmony sure is persistent telling me throughout the weeks that I’m doing it & messaging to tell me there’s only one spot left to enter. Of course I don’t like to miss out on anything, so my little fingers were frantically entering before I realised what was happening!.

The kids had all been sick leading up to race day. I woke up on race day with a blocked nose, sore throat and high temp. So definitely wasn’t planning on any milestones.

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I started running and eating throaty lollies and took panadol for the first 3hrs. That helped cleared the nose and soothed my throat. I wasn’t keeping track with where I was on the ladder but at the 7th hour some supporters on the sidelines told me that I was in 2nd place and 3km behind the lead. Instantly my competitive nature kicked in and there was no stopping these tiny feet.

I noticed the leading lady was having something to eat and that was it, I sped up. If I was to catch up I’d have to do 13 laps and who knows how long she was resting for. Off to work round and round I ran. By the 9th hour the same supporters (by now they’re my fans) yelled out, “you’re in the lead by 2km”. Something clicked inside me and I thought, thats it, I wasn’t going to let anyone pass me as I worked hard to pass the lead and I truly believed I could win this race.

It sounds pretty premature to think so at the time as so much can change in the next 15hours, but I knew deep inside that I’m tough and I can just keep running and running even if it’s slow. I couldn’t walk as I’m extremely slow and I got giant blisters under my little toe and the side of my big toe and walking was hurting it more.harmony4
Knowing I was in the lead gave me my second wind and I put on some music and enjoyed it so much that I was even singing around the track, not caring if my singing was bad. It helped so much that I got ahead by 5km!.

At the 14th hour I reached my 100km milestone and my tummy started to play up. I probably went to the toilet at least 4 times in an hour, this went on for 3hrs. I was annoyed with all the toilet stops and losing time, meanwhile the 2nd placer Jacqui had caught up and only 2km behind. So more work I have to do.  I was feeling drained and so sleepy. Eyes closing…. as soon I sat on the loo I was falling asleep and while running too and an experienced runner told me to wear a torch and make sure some light is shining at my eyes as well to help me stay awake. There’s some logic to it but my brain was in no mood to retain new info but it certainly worked.

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It was getting pretty cold from about 2am so I changed my clothes and I made sure my chest and neck were covered, less chance of getting sicker. I was blessed to have such an awesome friend Shaun who took control of all my eating drinking plans. Every time he saw me he would tell me what I’ll be drinking or eating next so I didn’t have to think about it, made life so much easier. Running was hard enough.

At 15hr I was 3km ahead, and 16hr 4km, 17hr 5km, 18hr 6km, 19-20hr I managed to keep a 6km lead and it was getting so much tougher to do. My quads, calves, back and neck are all in a world of pain. Cramping so bad that I felt like quitting couldn’t bare the thought of running another 4hours on my feet. I Started walking and that lasted about 200m couldn’t stand how slow I was and didn’t want to waste time so slapped my legs to wake them up, bear the excruciating pain and started running again. All the time thinking what the heck was I thinking signing up for this 24hr race & I just want to curl up in a nice warm bed and sleep for a week.
At 22hrs my friend Shaun the crewman/director/supporter did the sneaky on me and told me that Jacqui in 2nd place had caught up to me in the last 1.5hrs and I’m only leading by 3km and that she could catch me with two hours left to go if I don’t pick up my speed. I freaked out, I didn’t do 22hrs of the hardest most painful toughest run in my life to have someone else take it from me. Mind over matter, somehow managed to pick up my speed. I Stretched out my stride and by 23hrs I was leading by 7km, and clocked up 155.6km. I was never caught up to at all, his evil plan was for me to make the 100miler (162.8km) milestone.

I didn’t believe I could do it and would have been super happy to stop at 160km if possible.

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I had to run 7.2km just under an hour to make the 100miler. By now my body is saying NO MORE, siezing up and hurting so bad that I thought being in labour for 24hrs was like a holiday compared to how I’m feeling. Harmony arrived and seeing how close I was she was going to make sure I’d make it, encouraging me and running the last few kms with me.

I wanted to stop at 160km but she kept saying I could do it, but all I was thinking is “no I can’t, I just can’t run another 9 laps at 6.30min pace”. Jaqui-2nd and Shirley-3rd had stopped and I’m the only one running. All the competitors and supporters on the side were cheering and counting down each lap as I run past them.

Shaun keep yelling at me to move when I stopped and start walking and like some miracle I picked it up and keep running. Shaun told me I have 3 mins per lap and that I’ve got it in the bag. I started to believe that I could do it with 3 laps to go. Even picking up my speed as I ran past the timing mat and hitting that MASSIVE MILESTONE 100miler – 162.8km with 1 and a half minutes to go.

The crowd went wild, just like in the movies! Here I thought I couldn’t run another second at 159km and yet I pushed so hard to reach 100 miles and a little bit more to make 163.093km. I Took out 1st Female, achieved my 1st 100km and 100miler all on the same day! How awesome is that?!

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I’ve learnt so much about myself at this race. I think 24h is my limit!  I’m in a world of pain today. From the tip of my head to my toes. I can’t walk without my legs collapsing on me. But you know what, it is so worth every bit of pain I put myself through. I still can’t believe I actually won a race and the longest race ever. Woohoooo!

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