I recently took part in the Two Bays Trail Ultra Marathon, a 56km running event held on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria.
Trail running throws up a multitude of challenges generally not encountered during most standard road races: the grade is likely to be much more extreme and the terrain more difficult; aid stations are often long distances apart; and encountering local wildlife can pose serious risks (the events organisers strongly encouraged participants to run with and be familiar on how to apply compression bandages in case of a snake bite).
Yet, although challenging, trail runners are often rewarded with opportunities to run in amazing places, with incredible scenery and beautiful views. Two Bays Trail was no exception and thankfully, besides a few kangaroos, no other wildlife was encountered.
I love the start of a running event. The 5 minutes just before the gun goes off has an amazing feel. The nerves have usually subsided and the buzz of all the competitors is electric. The feeling on this morning was no different and even though I had no idea on what laid ahead, I couldn’t wait to get started.
The run was extremely enjoyable for the first 20kms but things quickly changed when we reached a hill that, quite steeply, rises to an elevation just over 1,000 feet. This was a real slog and I really started to feel the pinch. The views from the top though were well worth it and taking a moment to stop and take it all in helped reenergise.
What goes up, must come down and I was keen to make up some time on the descent and the 28km turnaround point.
The most difficult part of the run occurred from 42 – 48 km. Mentally, every little hill started to look and feel like a mountain, the sun was scorching and physically I had started to cramp and my calves had become extremely tight. I also had begun to feel quite nauseous.
A brilliant aspect of these type of endurance events is the comraderie you experience as everyone is in the same situation and experiencing similar types of challenges. Encountering other runners on the trail provides the opportunity to have a chat give some encouragement and share a laugh (if possible).
It was party time at the 50km and final aid station. The music was blasting and ice was available, putting a handful down your back or under your hat provided amazing relief from the heat.
On a sugar buzz from the aid station, the final 6kms, whilst incredibly painful, were perhaps the most enjoyable. We had developed a small running group of about 5 runners, all helping each other through the final stages, encouraging each other to keep going when our bodies were screaming at us to stop. The last couple hundred of metres as you approached the finish line is brilliant. The crowd support and noise, for a fleeting moment, helps you forget exactly how you are feeling and really does carry you across the line.
The whole event was an amazing experience and nothing like I had taken part in before. What makes these types of events even more incredible is unlike major city, big marathons, the whole event is organised and run by a group of volunteers who do it for no other reason but for the love of the sport. Without this dedicated group of people, events like this one would not be possible.