Wow- what a race, what a course!
I would be the first to admit that I didn’t give this course/race the respect it deserved. My race plans for the summer were non existent (and as I posted earlier that has well and truly changed) and I told Adrian this way back in October when he first told me about his Mountain Marathon. Even back then it sounded pretty epic and got me thinking. He kept at me and as my race plans developed I went from no races, to thinking it was going to be too close to the Hong Kong 100k. Then just over 2 weeks ago Adrian wrote me again, with the offer of an entry. This combined with all the amazing course photos he was posting on the ActiveQT FB page was enough for me to fold like a pocket knife and give in- I was signed up and very excited. There was of course the brutal 45km, 6hr, 2500m RTM Taranaki run 6 days earlier in my legs and a nasty head cold/flu I had picked up mid week (and I haven’t had a good nights sleep in 6 weeks). But this I told myself would be a great last training run before HK.
We got into QTown around 6pm after a longer than usual trip with Isabella- she did awesome, but every time she needs a feed we lose about 1hr, 6hrs driving turned into 9. A quick look at the start list confirmed Adrian had attracted a solid field. I felt like I should have the better of most the names I recognised on the list over this distance/terrain, IF I was having a good day. There was a hand full that could eat me alive if I was having an off day or if I fell apart mid race (something I have been known to do once or twice….). One person on the start list I knew would be hard to beat was Brit Martin Cox. Martin is a class act, a very accomplished mountain runner and was in my eyes the race favourite.
Not surprisingly Martin took the lead from the start and I slotted in behind. We quickly lost the markers- the course is rough- and little Matt, not so fresh from Mt Taranaki, found himself in the unfamiliar position of first. Martin quickly regained the lead, before getting off track again. I took the lead for a short time, then Martin lead into the water races, before pulling over for a pit stop. This section was super fun, rough, tricky and technical- I was loving it and pushed it a little to see if I could stretch Martin a little. I lead into the first check point at 7km and after a short climb cranked into some more great single track. I was enjoying it, but looking back pushed way way too hard here. It was pointless in the big picture, but at the time I was loving it. Martin, about 1min back at 7km, past me on the climb up to Murphy’s saddle and by 12km was 1 min ahead. From here Martin’s lead just blew out and I was looking behind me more and more as I faded in the heat, on the steep climbs and steep down hills. I did manage to enjoy the suffering, while trying to keep it to a minimal, knowing I have a 100km race in 2 weeks time. But I wasn’t gonna roll over and give up 2nd place neither- like I said there was a solid group behind me and I knew they would be chasing hard. There was some amazing ridge running sections from 25-30km and most of this was on sheep tracks- real cross country/fell type running- very cool. The last 10km or so was up Moke Creek, with about 25+ crossings of the creek. It was a nice way to cool off.
I managed to hold on to 2nd place, albeit 20+mins behind Martin, who ran a very solid 4hr32min. That was my first “marathon” ever. I have raced shorter mt races and ultras, but that was the first marathon- so I have a 4hr50min marathon PB- sweet!
I have to say Adrian Bailey and his team at ActiveQT have smacked a home run on the first ball with this amazing event. The MOUNTAIN marathon course was very very cool. It is not for the faint hearted, or anyone that does not enjoy very rough, technical off road running, or steep ups and downs. I think its growth may be limited for these reasons, but that’s OK, cause Adrian has 5, 10 and 21km options also. Team this up with a great location, amazing scenery and a very well run event and this will become a very popular event!
I have a week before I fly out to Hong Kong and meet up with fellow Salomon Running team members Ryan and Jen. I will then have a few days in Hong Kong exploring the course before I hook into what promises to be a real dog fight at the front of the pack. Sounds like I will have my hands full battling for a top 10 spot. Hopefully I will write a little something something about the HK100 before it all goes down. It should be quite the experience!
A huge thanks to Adrian and ActiveQT for the awesome weekend and congratulations on putting together such a cool event. Also congrats to Martin for handing me my ass and all those that ran the marathon- that is one very tough race!
And thanks to my girls for making the long trip with me, our first family trip away- it was great!