Marathon 9 – the birthday marathon: race report

After the lonely marathon in January and a rather low influx of donations for cancer research, I decided to organise a more eventful marathon in February. I set the marathon on a Saturday, a couple of days after my birthday, and invited friends to a big breakfast after the run. What better than 42km to celebrate my 42nd birthday? 😉 In a bold move I put the invitation on Facebook. I knew I was under a serious risk of having way too many people to cook for, but I really wanted to get my fundraising back on track and boost the donations to Can Too.

A big line-up was expected for the marathon with people intending to run from as little as 5km up to the full distance. Joe (the same that ran 10km in the marathon in Rio and a similar distance in marathon 6) wanted to do a full marathon without walking for the first time. I prepared two marathon courses in such a way that we would start from our own homes and meet at around kilometer 10. With a prediction of a 5 hours-long marathon and the breakfast scheduled for 10am, we were in for a very early start…

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Course map. For the full statistics check the Garmin activity.

The night before

By Friday we had around 40 people confirmed for breakfast. That meant a long night preparing things for the next morning. While Marcele was making quiches and baking cakes, I was making banana bread and “pão de queijo”, a Brazilian savoury snack that literally means “bread of cheese” (not really a bread though). I finished rolling them after 1am and went to bed to have a little rest before the marathon. The plan was to wake up at 4:30, get ready in 30 minutes and leave home at 5am. The first people that I was going to meet were my friends Ping Koy (from the ANU)  and Tim (from Bilbys Triathlon Club – the same guy that ran with me the last part of marathon 7 during the Triple Edge Endurance triathlon).

I woke up at 4am, looked at the clock and thought: “Nice! Still 30 minutes of sleep.” The next time I heard my own thoughts they’re saying: “Hmmm, these 30 minute have been really effective. It seems like I slept for…” I jumped from my bed, eyes wide open: 5:08 am! I rushed to the computer, sent a message to Tim and Ping Koy (PK) telling I’d be late and got ready as fast as I could.

How to mess up the first quarter of your marathon

I left home trying to setup my GPS watch and the app to track my run. During the first 2 km I was trying to run and type messages in my mobile at the same time and I almost fell twice. I gave up messaging and just ran as fast as I could to meet them. I found PK just before the 4km mark at the south bridge of the Gungahlin Lake and we ran together to the meeting point with Tim. When we got there Tim had already left. He had to drive to Sydney that morning and my delay meant that he couldn’t wait any longer. Sorry Tim!

PK and I headed south to meet Joe who had messaged me just then to tell that my tracking app wasn’t working properly. He was way ahead from the meeting point but that shouldn’t be a problem as we were running along the bike path in opposite directions. There was no way we could miss each other… except that we did! Joe went up along the path on the east side of the road and we were coming down on the west side. After a couple of calls we turned back but Joe was already way north. We pushed a bit more to see if we could catch him but that would take a while…

The first lights and the lakes

When we got back to the Gungahlin lake we met Geoff, another friend from the ANU. Geoff is training for the Australian Running Festival marathon in April and was keen to run as far as possible. The sun was finally up and we were all happy.

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Geoff, PK, and I somewhere in Gungahlin

From there it didn’t take long to reach Yerrabi Pond and by then we had finally found Joe and were joined by Oliver (also ANU) and Brendan (from Gungahlin Parkrun). I recognised Brendan’s face at the Bateman’s Bay marathon (the all pink marathon) and on a later occasion he knocked at my door to pick up his daughter. Small world, our daughters are very good friends from school. Brendan is also training for the ARF marathon in April and he did a loop with us before heading to the Gungahlin Parkrun.

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Brendan joining for a short 3km loop before going to the Gungahlin Parkrun. Oliver (in green) and Joe also in the picture.

We headed yet again south for a loop around Gungahlin pond where PK left us after more than 20km with me. He showed that, despite the chronic back and neck pain, there is stil a lot left from the great runner that he was in the past.

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Almost 20km and we’re still happy. Some out of focus, but still smiling 😉

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Oliver and I around Yerrabi Pond.

Heading north again Joe had a quick support visit from his family. Janet and James met us just at the crossing between Gundaroo and Mirrabei Drive and James ran with his dad for a while. What a great supporter!

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Joe, James and Janet.

Mulligans Flat

As you may have noticed, there are multiple mentions to the lakes around Gungahlin. The reason for multiple loops around Yerrabi Pond was to make sure that we had access to water at least every 10 km and also to make easier for people to find me. On our last stop at the bubbler before heading to Mulligans Flat we found Mary (or she found us). Mary was training for the Six-foot track and was also going for a long distance run. For Joe and I, the loop in Mulligans Flat started at 28.5 km and ended at 35km, arguably the toughest and most critical part of a marathon. In our favour, the views, the trail, and a break from the hard surface of the bike paths. A lovely place to run.

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Mary leading in Mulligans Flat. She was looking very strong and comfortable. Joe and Oliver just behind her.

Again the Lake and final stretch home

After Mulligans Flat we went south, once again to Yerrabi Pond. I was expecting another group to join us for the last 5km to the finish line. It didn’t take long for Emily (on her bike) and Katie from the Bilbys, as well as Ethan, Richard, Sam and Tekle (ANU) to join us. It was really nice to have so many enthusiastic people in the final 5km.

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Mary leading the ANU students. From left to right: Tekle, Sam and Richard.

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100 metres to go: Mary, Richard, Sam, Tekle, Ethan, Geoff, Joe and Katie

Party time!

We finally got home and it was party time! Marcele and Clara (wife and daughter) did a brilliant job with the decoration: everything was all in the bright orange Can Too colour and the table was amazingly set with great food. I didn’t have much time to rest as someone had to cook the eggs, bacon and mushroom. There were friends from work, from the Bilbys Triathlon Club, from a previous Can Too program, and close Brazilian friends from Canberra. It was a great way to celebrate my birthday and marathon number 9.

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Marathoners and cooks

Thank you all for coming. I really appreciated your presence. You made my day very special.

Special thanks to the runners that joined me as well as those who donated to Can Too, after all this is the reason why I’m doing this!

And above all, my gratitude to my girls who have always been so supportive and understanding. You organized an amazing party!

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