Northern Argus Clare Valley Half Marathon - Race Recap by Caitlin Marshall
Author: Caitlin Marshall, Beyond The Medal Customer
Event Date: 3rd April 2016
I am not alone when I say that a half marathon is on the bucket list for many woman of my age.
By ‘my age’ I mean wonderful women who may have taken up running post having children to manage the stress of work or those seeking relief from mental illness, those who wish to lose weight or keep fit and those who simply love a challenge. As you can see, there is no narrowness meant in the phrase but the application of a broad meaning to encapsulate strong and committed women in all aspects of their ‘post 30 year old’ lives. Whether you run to support others or to raise awareness or whether you run to change lives, one thing is certain, running changes your own life and the journey is often a very bumpy one but one that is immensely rewarding!
The Clare Valley Half Marathon was my first half marathon at 46 years of age and I doubted whether I could even get through the event. The week before I suffered from sleep issues, injury issues and general feelings of self-doubt and stress, but as I lined up at the start line amongst the beautiful scenery of the Riesling Trail my nerves finally turned to adrenalin and I just wanted to start running. I use the term ‘race’ very generally, as this was not actually a race for me. In my mind, the only person running on that day was me and I consistently applied my beloved mantra of all time, ‘run your own race’. I also wanted to enjoy the race, to smell the roses if you like, and admire the landscape and the mood. After all, it had taken me a year to get to this point!
I decided to do the Clare Valley Half about a year ago just before I departed for a month overseas to Boston, USA. What an amazing running city! I arrived in the summer which gave me the opportunity to relish running in such a gorgeous city with its famous Charles River running track. Boston is of course the home of the famous Boston Marathon, so there were always people out for a run and that in itself provided the inspiration and motivation! I broke out a 21.1km running plan, strapped on the new Saucony’s and off I went 3-4 times every week! At the end of the month I knew I could reach my dream but on my arrival back in the winter of the Adelaide Hills I had to muster up the courage to keep up the momentum and train, at mostly ridiculous times in the morning in close to zero degree temperatures. In truth it wasn’t my courage that kept me going but the determination and dedication of the ‘must have run buddy’. I really do owe much of my ability to complete my first half to my friend Kylie, because she saw me through the following next few trying months.
By trying I mean injury. Every runner’s nightmare is the training injury and mine came in the form of Achilles Tendinitis in both my legs from over training above my body’s ability. Distraught at the prospect of having to quit the dream of my first half I enlisted the help of physios, my chiro and a podiatrist. My weight suffered, I tried new eating plans, rehab and a running. I finally settled on the South Australian Road Runners Club (SARRC) ‘just do it plan’ for Clare, a plan that would be gentle enough on my legs for me to continue and the tried and true Galloway Walk/Run method to minimise load on my legs on the long runs. I learned from my training that I should finish my race in 2 hrs 30 and I was thrilled at that prospect! I must say my specialists were brilliant. All allowed me to pursue my dream and all helped me get there. I really couldn’t have done it without them and all the different types of shoes I trialled to get there!
This brings me to race day. What a gorgeous day! It was forecast for 24 degrees, obviously cooler at race start, but all sunshine. I brought the family to Clare a day before and we stayed in the caravan park with other friends competing. The fact that it became a ‘family affair’ made this day even more special for me. My race plan was simple, warm up with a slow 10 min run at the start, then straight into my 4 minute run, 1 minute walk methodology for the rest of the race. I used an app that gave my intervals through my headphones so that I didn’t have to keep looking at my watch for guidance. It was a godsend as all I had to do was listen for those precious words of when my next walk break was. As I ran I was taken aback by the beautiful surroundings.
The Riesling Trail is exactly that, a trail and this was no boring road run. The slow incline to the 10km turnaround was unrelenting and my mind had to focus on the return leg just to see me to the top. Technically the way back should be a downhill stretch right? Having said that the scenery did provide the interruption from the mind games that were at play as did the wonderful Running Mums brigade, of whom I am a member. They are indefatigably supporting at every event and always provide you a ‘keep going’ or ‘go RMA’ as you pass. I did stop and smell the roses per se and took the time to take a few photos of the trail, the gum trees, the vineyards and the hills. It was too beautiful not too!
The return leg did provide its challenges. As I mentioned earlier, I was expecting a downhill surge to help me keep going. I kept running expectantly, but it never seemed to come. I had headwinds and crosswinds instead. I knew when I reached the last 7 KMS that I had it in the bag but the Achilles were aching the calves were starting to tighten and the lactic was building. I kept running (and walking) and by the last 3 kms I was in a world of pain. I started tripping over thin air and I had nothing left in the tank. Everything hurt! I continued to stick to my plan and it was one of the things that moved me through those last few kms. Not having to think about running but knowing I had a walk break coming up was my lifesaver. The other great motivation was I wanted to get to that finish line to see my two daughters run in the kids’ 1 km event.
I rounded the last corner to see that finish line and I had my Chariots of Fire moment. Everything felt like it was in slow motion but I had the grit to sprint to the end. I was desperately seeking my family somewhere in the crowd as tears of emotion poured from my eyes. I had just completed my first 21.1km event! Although my husband and children were already at the children’s event and didn’t see my finish (all those wasted tears are quite funny really) there was something heart-warming about pushing myself over that finish line. It meant that I found the inner strength and determination to get this job done on my own. In that slow motion moment I put my hand to my neck to touch 2 important pieces of jewellery.
A necklace with 2 pendants with my girls names on them and my Beyond the Medal necklace that arrived 2 days before my event that gave me that final inspiration, ‘I can’, ‘I will’ and ’21.1km’.
I hope my girls look at me and know that they can achieve anything that they put their minds to and that if they want something bad enough and they put in the hard yards, they will achieve.
My eldest daughter actually came second in her 1km event and received her very own medal!
Clare, I will be back, for all your scenery, your beauty, your weather and your serenity and yes, even for your unyielding hills, for you are the first of my half marathons and you provided the backdrop of my very personal and proud ‘midlife’ achievement. I finished in a time of 2.22.
- Ann-Marie Johansen