On a brisk morning I started my first ever “fun” run. I had never entered into an event run before. I always had something else on, local sporting game, away for the weekend, or just couldn’t be bothered. At the start of 2013 I did say to myself “I want to complete a half marathon” but as the year went on I forgot about that dream and priorities fell elsewhere.
I was excited in the days leading up to the Surf Coast Century. I had been on a few runs, starting at 10km and building to 14km. Once I reached the 14km mark, and did that in good time, I thought to myself “I can do 21kms”.
On the eve of the run I jumped in my car and headed off to Anglesea. I arrived a bit later than planned but everyone was still up getting packed. Watching Azza and Michelle pack their bags, organise drinks and food plus transition tubs with all their gear it reminded me of “Tour de France”.
Azza had mapped out what time he would be arriving at checkpoints/transition areas and how much and when to drink (and eat) based on his sweating rate. Seeing this, it hit me how big this task was going to be and the months and months of planning that had gone into this Challenge.
After a bit of carb loading everybody headed to bed as I stayed up to watch the Hawks knock off Geelong. In the morning I woke to a big round face and a huge smile right next to mine. Azza was up and raring to go! I on the other hand was tired, slow and pretty groggy waking up at 4am.
We were basically the first competitors to rock up at the starting area. It was freezing cold, windy, dark and a little bit miserable. 5mins later all those taking on this mammoth of a “fun” run turned up and the atmosphere changed completely, all of a sudden I had that feeling from a couple of days ago, that excitement and electricity!
All competitors made their way down to the beach and on to the wet sand. A gateway marked with ‘Start and Finish” was there and everybody gathered just in front of it. A short count down and ringing from a cow’s bell started the race, Azza and I made our way under the Start/Finish arch and the supporters formed a line and cheered us off. It was slow at the start as we tried to find our running rhythm. I watched the elite and team runners take off at a cracking pace, a little bit of me wanted to run off with them.
When I first placed my hand up to do this challenge with Azza I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I thought we were a relay team, Azza included. When I found out I was running with him I thought to myself “oh no”. The problem was I can’t control my pace, with me it is either flog yourself or don’t run and here I was with my goal to support Azza in Leg 1 by running at a steady pace. If the pace was too slow then that would throw out all his planning, too fast and Azza would be burnt out later in the race. My plan, stay just behind his right shoulder.
We found our running rhythm, 6.5/7min kms. This running was something completely new to me and I had to make a conscious effort not to go any quicker. We started picking off people who were obviously too excited at the start and took off to quick on the first tiny hill. Azza and I made our way back down to the sand past the cheering supporters again and headed for Torquay.
It was a great morning, the cliffs gave protection from the wind, the wet sand was firm under our feet and the sun slowly rose and started to hit us. At this point I thought I was going to breeze through these 21kms!
Azza and I chatted for ages, about everything and anything; the run itself and the people doing the full 100km, past challenges he had completed, moving houses, work and of course Hockey. After 45mins I thought to myself shit he better stop talking and save some energy.
We reached the harder parts of Leg 1; soft sand, rocks and reefs. We slog it out on the soft sand moving up and down the beach trying to find the best sand to run on and avoiding other runner’s footprints. When it came to the rocks and reefs Azza was king. He led the way while I trailed behind, once we hit the sand I would then catch up to Azza.
His local knowledge of the area gave us the edge and we started to overtake slower runners and also set a trend for the competitors behind us to follow. I thought to myself if only Azza could run the 100km on the rocks he would complete it easy.
Towards the end with about 2kms to go I was in pain, my joints; ankles, knees and hips were screaming at me to stop, I never considered that outcome. We reached the last point and as we approached it we found a lady standing on a rock with water lapping over it with both arms pointing in different directions around a huge boulder saying “which way?”.
I looked at her and then at Azza, he decided the long way, he jumped into the rising tide and started to drag his legs through the water towards the 21km mark. I tried to follow right behind him however was cut off by the lady who had been stranded there. Once she had taken her time, I too entered the water submerging my legs from the knees down, it was immediate relief from the pain, so much that I didn’t what to get out. As I ran through the water and around the point I saw Azza already on the beach 100m in front making his way to the transition area. I stepped onto the sand and took off to catch up, I had made it to him with about 500m to go.
Azza, to run up that ramp and onto the foreshore to complete the first leg with you was an immense honour and a great experience. I loved seeing the photos on facebook throughout the day as you slowly but surely picked off each Km one by one. To hear that you had become a Surf Coast Centurion placed a huge smile on my face, I always knew you could and would finish this Challenge.
Seeing first hand and hearing about the amount of planning, training and commitment that has gone on for this Challenge has convinced me that I could never do what you have done. You have inspired many people through your accomplishments and I hope others take the opportunity to be a part of one. I look forward to hearing about the next challenge and who knows, I may be running, riding or paddling by your side again in 2014.