Great Ocean Road Marathon
May 19, 2019
Victoria’s iconic Great Ocean Road is home to the annual Great Ocean Road Running Festival.
Panoramic views of the Southern Ocean and this world-famous road, hacked from the mountains in the 1930s, attracts more than 8,000 national and international participants to one of seven festival events, including the 44-kilometre Marathon.
It’s 5am on race morning as I rise from the hotel bed in the seaside town of Apollo Bay on Victoria magnificent southwest coast.
I’ve woken several times during the night, and I’m unsure if it’s pure excitement for the days race, or perhaps it’s over-indulgence in the Italian pasta the night before?
The morning routine plays out as intended, saving any unnecessary anxiety for the occasion. After my kind partner acts as an early morning taxi driver to an awaiting bus, I’m underway – backtracking more than 40-kilometres from Apollo Bay to the start line of Lorne, with a perfect dawn on the horizon.
Busy with runners, the coastal town of Lorne has a vibe of excitement as we disembark and begin preparations ahead of the impending start.
Moving through the large crowd of runners, you see mixed emotions … from some who seem anxious, to others in motivational huddles … as the countdown to race time continues with the theme song from the Sylvester Stallone movie Rocky in the background.
Quick shake of the ankles, deep breath, siren, and we’re off.
The usual congestion opens up quickly as we run up the initial incline, the first of many.
I’m feeling good, my body is moving well – so I check in on pace – 4:15. Maybe I’m running too quickly, maybe I should pull back, maybe I should stick to the plan and listen to my body… so common sense prevails, and I push on.
Consistently continues, and 22 clicks in I’m getting “high fives” from excited kids.
Now I’m in new territory. I’ve not pushed this pace, this distance, with these hills –including some very steep inclines and demanding slopes.
The Great Ocean Road winds spectacularly along the coast, overshadowed by towering tree-covered hills. The marathon spirals through majestic bluffs, inlets and through seaside villages including Wye River and Kennett River.
Thirty clicks in – just add hydration, and push on. Well only for the next four kilometres anyway!
I notice I’m getting twinges in my hamstring. Oh well, to be expected – but the hills are a little harder, and running downhill the body’s a little stiffer. But I’m into the last quarter, where it matters, I’m on the home stretch, so I tell myself.
Only problem, the kilometres clicked over just a little slower, the muscles I’d invested in grew tired, and any flow I had vanished. It had turned into a slog.
A quiet countdown continued, and pain set into my previous free-flowing form.
Short of a “disaster” – I imagined I was already over the line, re-joining my patient loved ones waiting on the other side… and so the slog continued.
With two kilometres to go, a runner came aside my stride. “Not far to go now mate,” I gasped. “Man, I’m in so much pain,” he replied as we fell into step.
Something of a joke was shared – if this was a “normal” marathon we’d be done by now, as 42-kilometres has passed.
Participants walking their events were continually encouraging, for which I was grateful for each and every time they cheered me on.
Approaching Apollo Bay, the atmosphere became charged with the cheers of a large crowd, followed by a very welcome sight – the finish line!
I crossed the finish line with a sigh of accomplishment, fatigue and relief.
I’d left my best efforts out on the road and couldn’t be happier with my effort. I was proud to have represented my sponsors for the Diabetes Australia campaign, something well worth celebrating.
After navigating the race detour towards home, our last section of the Great Ocean Road saw the kids yelling out of the car window, encouraging the remaining participants in their efforts to the finish line.
To my family – Heidi, Will, Fin, Kai and Arlo, thank you for your unconditional love and support, and for cheering me on.
Official Race Time 3:27:54
Came in number 50 from more than 1,000 runners.