No. 31 Narrabeen Allnighter – Last Marathon 2016 Version
When last is potentially first. Almost last in the marathon but possibly the first person in Australia if not the world to finish a marathon in 2017 at 12:10 am.
The Narrabeen Allnighter has been in place since about 2009 when it replaced the 24-hour track race at Gosford, Adcock Park. The race is held on the first weekend of January and this year it happened to fall on New Years Eve. To this end the race format changed to allow a last marathon for 2016 and a first Marathon of 2017 as well as the 12 hour individual and team race.
In 2015 I did the inaugural midnight marathon and though finding it hard it was a good hit out. The last marathon for 2016 was a great option for me as I am a night runner.
Preparation and race afternoon
In December I managed 123 km of essentially 6 km runs of which the majority was barefoot beach running at Avoca Beach, 310km of 20 km rides and 6 by 1 km swims. For the past month or two have been running with no watch though I know the kms I have been covering because I run and ride the same courses.
I also decided to try and run the race burning fat rather than topping up with gels. I find the gels have my energy levels artificially raised and I have to keep taking gels to keep the energy up. So the goal was to turn the fat burners on early and top if I got the wobbles.
Having Saturday to prepare was a real bonus. I got my running gear out on Friday night and enjoyed having Saturday to physically and mentally prepared. I had a normal breakfast and followed it up with a pasta lunch, watched a movie, had a sleep and a final sandwich at 3:00pm. I also had a few bottles of water and one Gatorade during the day.
The race is at a reserve on the eastern edge of Narrabeen lake. I arrived after 5:00pm, they had just opened the registration area and took a series of photos of the race set up to post on Facebook. At this stage I could not work out where the timing mats were to be located so I just dumped my bags near a tree and parked my car out in the street. Gone are the days of having nervous energy prior to a race. I spoke to a few long standing friends, met face to face for the first time with many Facebook running friends
Before long we were into the race briefing and the race started.
It was enjoyable running the first couple of km with Rachel who was in a relay with Ian. After this I was essentially on my own for the next 5 hours except for my second last lap where I managed to run with Glen for most of his last lap. You are never alone because you have a race bib with your own name on it so when you run towards runners we all encourage each other along using our names.
The course was 8 lap 5.?? To make up 42 km along a bush walking trail with a few hundred metres of concrete cycle path at the turn around. Having started at 6 pm there was a chance I could get to 21 km without having to use a torch headlight which I managed to do, though I did take the light with me for the 4th lap. Although the course is described as flat there are a few climbs and after a few laps some runners describe one of them as heart break hill.
Some other things I remember about the run. Of note in my case is how tough the course is on the balls of your feet. I actually changed to trail shoes for the last three laps as they have a tougher should and this helped the balls of my feet.
Two female runners passed me chatting away and soon after passing me I heard a heavy fall. By the time I got there Mel was picking her up Annabel who just looked at her wrist and said and said it was broken – which from what I could see was quite obvious. I was amazed at her calmness, presence of mind to course for an ambulance and then her breaking into a fast walk with Mel to a location on the course, South Creek reserve, where an ambulance could pick her up.
The fat burning approach did work with me having a Cadel Evans bar at 21 km and that was it – no gels two Gatorades at the start finish turn around and a few drinks and fruitcake at the start finish each lap. I am very pleased with this outcome.
This is the first marathon in a long time in which I ran all the way except for a quick walk though the aid stations. The run was slow but running even in a Cliff Young shuffle, where my feet were barely off the ground, felt better than walking. The shuffle, however, was annoying me, and on the second last lap I tried to lift my feet a bit more. I noticed that as the faster runners passed me I could see my cadence was almost the same but they were obviously pulling away. So the points of difference were them holding the cadence and a longer stride length. So in this second last lap I lifted my feet a bit more and slightly increased my stride length. I sensed I was moving faster and after a while I passed a walking Glenn on his last lap.
A few hundred metres later I could hear Glenn had started running and I called out to him if he was catching me and he said no we were roughly at the same pace holding a 20m gap. After the turnaround we ran together with him finishing his marathon and myself with one more lap to go. Running with someone else does help you keep running together rather than walking.
The finish areas had a TV screen indicating distance covered and lap times. I was not monitoring laps too closely but I did remember a few of the lap times. The first with Rachel was 37 minutes and the third last was the slowest at 5 minutes – hence stretching out a bit more in the second last lap.
I like the race because its organisation is on the side of being casual. It is suitably risked managed and yet it has the feel of the runs in the 1980s which were less formal and just providing runners with a chance of just running in a casual sort of way – well as much as you can in this era. Seb was great at the turnaround aid station as was the daughter of two team runners – meanwhile Ron was steering the ship back at the start finish area with Colin ably managing the timing.
With just over a km to go I heard fireworks and I knew, which I already knew when I started the last lap, that I was not going going to finish in under 6 hours. This was confirmed as runners coming towards me started wish me happy new year. Soon after an avalanche of lights were coming towards me of the runners who started the first marathon of 2017 which included a few runners who were doing two marathons including Karin who always encouraged me as we crossed paths.
I was pleased and relived to finish the race 10 minutes into the new year.
Once finished the best I could muster was to sit on a bench next to Colin who was doing the timing. It took me a while to connect in with the conversation as I was still distant or in my own mental space from my running and I was observing the lap times of runners who were still on the course. After chatting for a while I went to the aid station for some food and talked to Rachel while she was waiting for Ian to finish his lap before she took over for her lap. Ian arrived and we chatted for a bit before he had a rest after which I sat on the ground for a while sorting my gear and before long I was on my way home.
Thanks to the organisers and the volunteers. Great to catch up with running friends and to meet new ones. Personally I am please with 31 marathons in 31 years and that I ran the whole race except for walking through aid stations. The balls of my feet are sore which I think is due to the nature of the course. My heart lung capacity was perfectly ok for the run it is just that my body can no longer do what my mind wants it to do.
I am grateful that I can still get out there and run – until next time.