2018 Great Barrier Reef Marathon - Race Recap
2:30am…gear packed…’fat black’ coffee…check list checked…nervous but excited and ready to take on our first marathon (well… for Smurf it was his first marathon not in an Ironman).
We got to Port Douglas and there was no one else in sight… we may have been a little early - turns out like an hour early…whoops. Lesson one – read the athlete guide properly but better early than late!
The sunrise over the beach was gorgeous, the town was quiet, but slowly our fellow competitors arrived one by one. We loved the calm and chilled nature of the start line – lining up with 100 other ‘marathoners’, the first 5k stretched ahead over the sands of Four Mile Beach. The race plan…KEEP THE EGO IN CHECK!
We soaked in the positive vibes of the race day atmosphere and cruised through the first 11k at an easy pace, keeping plenty in the tank for the upcoming ‘bump track’. The course meandered its way through the back of Port Douglas, taking in the sights of golf courses, beach paths, and cane fields. But the best was yet to come!
The BUMP TRACK!! We knew what we were in for after a training run on the trail in July and the plan was to ease our way up the climb. The first 2k, maxing out at more than 20%, meant lots of walking. But both of us, now separated by a few minutes, began overtaking other athletes who went too hard too soon.
Being a ‘home race’ for Smurfette (her childhood home at the top of the trail) it meant we had a cheer squad of mum, dad, her brother and others at the top cheering us on. It gave us both a much needed energy boost – Smurf 15th at the top of the trail and Smurfette only 8 minutes behind as 3rd female.
Both feeling great, we hammered our knees and joints on the tough downhill. We loved the friendly and supportive atmosphere with high fives from other runners from the top to the bottom of the hill. One of our goals for the day was to stay positive, be grateful and support all the athletes around us - so were both smiling and enjoying our Sunday ‘long run’, encouraging those who were still making their way up the climb.
It was when we hit the bottom that reality hit home…heat, smashed quads and sore joints…with still 17k to go! A short 6k loop allowed us to pass each other a couple of times and continue the high fives and the encouragement, but the mental challenges had only really just began. Smurf, no longer able to keep his ego in check, started to chase the athletes in front and began burning matches. Smurfette really started to feel the heat, having to make a few hydration adjustments, and also had a little ‘damn’ moment with the girl she had taken for 2nd place catching up again.
In the last 5k Smurf was struggling. In the hurt locker, the self-talk had to be positive to keep him going. Holy smurf it was tough! The carrots of other marathoners just ahead drove him to hold his pace and a heart rate that was WAY too high! Coming down the finish chute, he soaked up the crowd’s cheers, high fived as many spectators as possible and forgot about his legs that were ready to fall off! At around 7km to go, Smurfette found that point in the race she new was coming, the most challenging part of the day - a few kms of “I can’t” vs “I can”, mixed in with a few tears and then back to some smiles. The legs were hurting, calves were cramping up in a way never felt before, but it was definitely mind over body at this point. One step at a time, smiles, knowing we could do it, and wanting that finish line feel, kept us running.
A post-race massage and a dip in the ocean helped but holy hell – our legs were shattered! Post-race burgers and sweet potato fries was reward for an awesome morning at an awesome race in an awesome location. AND – now we have to go back…Smurfette, finishing 2nd female won us a two night stay in Port Douglas (Smurf is lucky he has a FAST fiancé!!).
Great Barrier Reef Marathon Festival truly is an amazing event with a unique course and an incredible atmosphere. Sign up for next year's event (including a 5k, 10k and half marathon) at https://www.greatbarrierreefma... One for the bucket list!
Smurf – 11th place male – 3:39
Smurfette – 2nd place female – 3:55