This was the penultimate day of the 2016 Big Red Run and the final timed run. There’s always a nervous energy unsettling the camp when we climb out of our cozy sleeping bags before sunrise and prepare for the 6am start time. It was also a camp move day so all kit not being carried for the day is packed up and bags put outside ready to be transported to the new camp location. Participants chat nervously about the 84km to be covered over the day whilst eating whatever breakfast they can manage and warming themselves in front of the fire. Bottles are filled with water and whatever concoction it’s decided will fuel each tired body for the race ahead. The GPS trackers are distributed to reach runner and attached to their backpack to allow the race coordinators to follow each participant invade anyone needs any help. With headtorches on to see the dark and muddy ground and reflective vests worn so that we can be seen, we all stood at the start line ready to go.
I was unusually nervous at the start line. I was very comfortable that everything i usually think about was as covered as it could be. ..nutrition, shoes and water plan but i found myself in a very unexpected position of worrying about my place in the race. I had managed to get myself into 2nd place overall and leading the mens race but the margins were slim and i had 2 very experienced racers with me. Elisabet was ahead of me by about 25 mins and Andy behind me by 22 mins. I’ve never really raced like this and i want sure how the day would pan out but i knew i didn’t want to give my spot up. I didn’t think i could catch Elisabet because shed been strong all week particularly in the second half of races but it was Andy i was concerned about. I knew he hadn’t had a good build up to the race in terms of training but he still had very strong spells in earlier days and he had nothing to lose by giving it a go.
The four of us started strongly. Andy, Elisabet, Bradden and myself leading away from the camp through the due covered greenery and towards the dunes. After about 3.5km we reached the top of a dune and ran along its crest for about 10km in the dark with the beautiful sun rising to our left. It was clear this early on in the race that Andys tactic was going to be go fast from the start. As we approached the end of this dune Andy had already started to pull away and i had to decide what to do. Go with him or let him go. He was running much faster than i wanted to at this stage but i didn’t want to let him get out of sight or the day would turn into a guessing game. Elisabet and i kept Andy in sight and Elisabet sped up and closed the gap on him. This pattern continued all morning and the 3 of us passed through the first 30km faster than we’d run the previous days 30km race. Bradden hag more sense and held back. Andy had pulled away from us again at this point ams add Elisabet and i rounded a corner on another dune, we found Andy sitting on the ground dressing a hot spot on his foot. ..the start of a blister. We looked at each other slightly relieved that we’d found him for the time being and pushed on. Elisabet broke away at this point and managed to extend a 7 min gap by the marathon checkpoint where the little red run would finish that day. Andy caught up with me again and we ran the remaining section to that checkpoint together finishing the first marathon in 4hrs 14mins.
We were both quick through that checkpoint (CP3) but Andy choose to walk out and up the hill along the road whereas i ran. I didn’t see him again for the whole race and spent the next 40km or so alone. It was the hardest marathon I’ve had to run because we’d gone so quickly to start and i was feeling the fatigue in my legs. The temperature was rising and the dunes were relentless. It seemed like a long way to checkpoint 4 but then only 9km or so to the biggest checkpoint on the course, CP5. I knew that Paul, a former 2 times BRR runner and volunteer this year and Dr Adam would both be there and they are always very supportive so great to see out on the course…i also remembered from last year that they had coke. I was desperate for an icy cold glass of coke and when i got there and asked for it doc responded that they didn’t have any. ..but i could have some warm coke. The simplest things were funny at this point! The checkpoint was at the 60km point and i was really hurting but wad starting to feel that maybe I’d held on to the 1st position. The combination of this and the fatigue wad getting emotional and i had to pull myself together and push on so that i didn’t get caught.
The next couple of legs dragged on for me across the heat and the hardness of the giber plains or stoney flats and a long stretch of sand dunes to get to the last checkpoint. I remembered getting here last year just add the sun was setting and felt happy that i was going to see the finish line in the sun this year. The final kilometres to the finish camp and nothing to look at. I was really tired and just wanted to finish. When the dreaded pink flags finally turned to the left and I could see the camp across the road i was ecstatic. I knew Elisabet had finished but that didn’t change my race. The main thing was that I’d held on.
The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. I know Rey brought me a chair to sit at the finish line and Matt was there to retrieve my hat that i threw over the finish on the way in. There were lots of photos taken and then Andy came in about 13mins after me so i remember thinking it’s lucky i kept running. I caught up with Elisabet in the massage tent while i had a rub down. Niandi caught up with Elisabet and I layer in the day and we all went off to her tent where she interviewed us both for Ian to use on his website, www.iancorless.org. our wad a fun and very relaxed interview but while I was in there, my very good friend Rowena crossed the line. She’d had a fantastic race knocking hours off her times from last year.
So the three of us had managed to last the rest of the day finishing in the positions we’d held practically all week. Elisabet had had another strong second half opening an additional 40min time gap on me with an 8hr30 finish. I came in in 9hr 9 and Andy in 9.21. The rest of the field followed with some great results and very happy people.