Surf coast trail half marathon – race recap

If you had asked me last night whether I would be writing a race recap about this, I wouldn’t have known what to tell you. I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to run it until I actually found myself at the start line and, even then, I doubted my ability to finish it. Surf coast trail half is my 4th half marathon so I knew I was capable of the distance but the terrain was a complete unknown and more than a bit daunting – 4km of beach running and a variety of ‘inclines’. I love a good trail and this was sure to be one but I hadn’t run a trail event of this length and really wasn’t sure what I was capable of.

We arrived at the start with plenty of time, thanks to our fabulous friend Grant who was acting as our driver and support crew for the day. It was a very crisp morning and a lot of the talk was about whether or not to run with or ditch various layers of clothing. Having bought myself a hydration pack yesterday, I opted to run with one longer top, knowing I could stow it away if I needed to.


Hanging out at the start line

After the mandatory 2 toilet stops, we made our way down onto the beach for the briefing, keeping out of the way of the marathoners coming through. This briefing consisted mainly of ‘That’s the ocean. Keep it on your left’ – definitely advice to follow! Soon enough, it was time to start and we all headed off along the rather soft sand, running down towards the water looking for elusive ‘hard sand’. We really didn’t find any and ended up laughing hysterically while jog/walking as we had to keep running back up the beach every time a wave came near.

If we had thought the beach was a challenge, the steps we needed to climb to get off it and the hill that followed were so much worse. It was the hill that kept on giving….and giving….and giving. I was again starting to doubt my ability to do this. Thankfully it did flatten out eventually and we were rewarded with frequent amazing views that reminded us why we were doing it.

The wonderful thing about this course is how you are treated not only to stunning ocean views at regular intervals but also the variety of running through bush a little inland and we were treated to some of this approaching Anglesea. We also had a bit more beach running to face as we descended down to run across the river mouth and back up the river to the first aid station. As aid stations go, this was fabulous with pumping music to motivate, water and Tailwind hydration as well as a selection of food. On top of that, friendly and encouraging volunteers to look after us and keep us moving.


The glorious trail – such a great variety of surfaces and scenery

Back on the trail, I was feeling a little more positive although still quite overwhelmed by the distance and terrain still to be covered. However, as always, running with Jill was fabulous and distracted me perfectly so the kilometres ticked by quite quickly. On this part of the trail, there were some gorgeous little paths which looked almost like fairy grottos and enough twists and turns to keep us interested. It’s funny looking on the map – we were so close to civilisation but really had no idea and felt like we were out in the middle of nowhere. If I wasn’t running with someone, it could have been quite lonely as there weren’t many other runners near us.

We zipped around the carpark at Point Roadknight and then started to have more glimpses of the lighthouse at Airey’s which was getting closer all the time. Along a bit further and we were met again by our support crew, Grant, who wanted to see us run down on the beach. This was the part I’d been dreading but, through our usual brand of general shenanigans, it ended up being a heap of fun with jump shots, selfies galore and more wave dodging. However I still felt every bit of the 3.3km of beach – a long way to run, even with relatively hard sand. We were very grateful for the aid station at the end of it and paused for refreshment.


Urquhart’s Beach – 3.3km of running goodness



Couldn’t possibly miss a chance for a selfie (or 10!)

Back on the trail again and it was now starting to feel like the end was in sight but also felt hard – everything by now was hurting, including bits that didn’t normally (like the inside of my big toes – what’s with that?!?!). The frequent glimpses of the lighthouse were much needed and we very much had the ‘getting it done’ attitude. Thankfully, there was some downhill towards the lighthouse which allowed us to get into a bit of a running groove. We also had another small beach detour and another hill to follow it although neither were terrible.


Airey’s lighthouse not looking too far away…

Finally, we were approaching the lighthouse then on the last stretch, in sight of Fairhaven Surf Club, but knowing there was one last hill to climb. Climb it we did – it wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t fast but it was done. We were directed by the fabulous volunteers down onto the beach for the final stretch then, after dodging the waves lapping at the base, had to climb stairs to reach the finish line at the top.

All done, we took our finish line shots and wandered around a little aimlessly, as you tend to after a long run. After pulling ourselves together, we headed for Airey’s pub for our free beer – just the tonic needed to start our rehydration!

So, was it awesome? Yes, absolutely. The scenery was the best I’ve seen in an event, the volunteers were outstanding and the trail was as varied as you could possibly want. Add to that our brilliant support crew and you couldn’t ask for more in an event. Will I do it again? No. Never. I’m really, really happy I did it and I’ll be equally happy to keep this as a ‘once in a lifetime’ sort of event. Probably 🙂


#hokaoneoneseries = time to hit the trails

I’ve had ‘try out a trail event’ on my list of goals for the last 2 years and finally made it to my first trail event today. The Hoka trail series kicked off this morning at Melbourne’s Studley Park, somewhere I had already fallen in love with via the parkrun launch I attended there.

I headed up to Melbourne with a carload of friends who were covering all of the distances on offer (5km, 10km, 15km). My chosen distance was 5km – I figured I was stretching enough out of my comfort zone with the terrain and didn’t want to push it too much. I was surprised and so pleased to bump into some other friends there – always better to run with friendly faces around.

We saw one friend off on the 15km and then hung out for our 5km start. (The 10km start was 40 minutes after this so it was a long wait for our other friend, unfortunately). Soon enough, it was time for our warm up then time to go. The course starts out on the road which is wide enough for people to get into their rhythm and find where they fit. After about 1km, you head onto the path and down towards the river on a trail of mostly gravel (with a few mud spots), along the side of the freeway. I was glad to leave the road behind and get amongst the trees – such a gorgeous part of the world. I frequently wanted to stop and take a few photos but was enjoying the run too much and didn’t want to break my zen-like state.

Getting down to the river, I remembered that what goes down, must go back up again and we headed up then down one of the ‘undulations’. Going back down was a bit slippery and I was stuck behind quite a tentative runner, picking their way amongst the mud but I didn’t mind slowing down and taking it all in. More gorgeous glimpses of the river then time to head back up the hill towards the bridge. We ran past the 10km runners milling at their start and I saw my friend then ran across the wibbly, wobbly bridge (which really is much easier to run across than walk!). We then turned left for the last loop – a run through bushland where you feel a million miles away from the city and civilisation. This was my absolute favourite part – a quiet and serene gravel trail through the bush on the out section before heading back on a single track of pure muddy awesomeness, constantly threatening to slip you into the Yarra. Add to that the complication of having fast 15km runners wanting to pass and it definitely makes for some fun times!

Almost too soon, it was over and we headed under the bridge and along to the finish line. Having my name announced as I crossed the finish was pretty cool and I’m sure I had the biggest grin on my face – simply can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday morning.

My friend and I then hung out in the drizzle for the rest of our crew, cheering them each over the line and rewarding ourselves with a couple of coffee stops in between. It wasn’t a chore to hang out for them as the event village had a good vibe, even in the typical Melbourne Winter weather.

Verdict? I absolutely loved my first trail event experience and am really looking forward to the next event in the series that I’m running in Silvan in a couple of months time. Bring it on!


the stuff I do in between events…

I was thinking the other day about how my running blog has become a place where I mostly write event recaps. There’s nothing wrong with this however, as I want it to document the journey in its entirety, I think it important that I capture the stuff that comes in between, at least once in a while.

Last week, I managed 2 mid-week runs and was pretty impressed with myself as they both involved hills. More importantly, they didn’t hurt as much as I thought they might. And it seemed to be helpful as I got very close to a PB at parkrun on Saturday – my best time for a year. So I’ve decided hills really are my friend after all 🙂

This week has been fairly typical – I missed one planned run on Tuesday (usual excuses – tired, lacking in motivation and had a ridiculously sore neck) but managed a run around my home circuit on Thursday which was great. It was crisp, slightly foggy and perfectly wintery, requiring me to rug up in long pants and long sleeves. My ideal running weather actually. I didn’t cover much distance but felt good just ‘turning the legs over’. As well as being physically beneficial, I remembered how much I need those mid-week runs to reset my brain. It’s hard to convince myself not to head for the couch after a busy week at work but it really is important for my mental health (and makes me a more pleasant person to be around!)


In other very exciting running news, I had an arrival during the week – my 50th parkrun shirt! I’m very much looking forward to running my 53rd parkrun while wearing this – extra motivation to get out of bed on a chilly Saturday morning!