By: Mark Rai
No sooner after crossing the finish line of Goss & Balfe South Coast marathon, my running mate Engelbert and I decided to run Bluff Marathon to hopefully better our time. What could be more difficult than the marathon we just ran? We were still marathon fit with Bluffs being two weeks away, there was sufficient time to rest and recover. Having never done this race before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I remembered looking at the route profile the night before and noticed the elevation. I knew it would be a difficult, hilly double-lapper. Sometimes ignorance is bliss!
Representing Stella, there was a few walkers, half-marathon runners and handful of marathon runners. The weather conditions were not ideal with a strong north-easterly wind blowing. We can’t control weather conditions on race day, so it’s best to try and train in all types of conditions. The 3H’s (howling wind, heat and hills) would definitely be a factor in the race. Bertie and I had an agreement at the start of the race that whoever was feeling stronger between the two of us would keep going. The race started at 5:30 at Fynnland sports grounds. Before I knew it we were off, and running straight into a strong headwind along a flat Lighthouse rd for a km or so before turning into Marine Drive to begin an uphill climb of 1½ kms to the military base. ‘We barely started running and the hills are already coming to us,’ I silently moaned. Marine Drive is ±9kms long with undulating hills and stunning sea views. From here on we were fortunate enough to have a tailwind and we settled into our rhythm. The refreshment tables were great with coke, water, oranges, litchi juice sachets, biscuits and sweets on offer. We took in fluids early as it was already getting hot. From 10-12km’s was easy downhill running along Engen Refinery. Running into a strong headwind along a flat Tara Rd for 4kms before passing Bluff Nature Reserve, we were still feeling great.
The 16-20km mark is a tough part of the course with mostly uphill running to the top of Bluff Rd. We ran up all the way to the bluff tower on the right with ease, before breezing through halfway in a time of 1hr52mins. We even joked that we could end up finishing 1st & 2nd for the very first time for Stella! (due to the fact that so few runners from Stella were doing the marathon). We were on track for our goal of a sub 4 finish. Things can change so quickly when you running. Not long after passing halfway and running up to the military base for the second time, I knew that I was in for a tough second half. Running along the slow poison hills of Marine drive at the 25km mark, I started to feel tired and subsequently dropped my pace. I knew I ran the first half slightly faster than I had planned and was paying the price .Bertie looked strong and kept going. I stopped at a water table to re-fuel and took two Rehidrat’s hoping it would give me a much needed boost. The short hills along Marine Drive seem never ending and are energy sapping. Recovery is quick but before you know it there’s another hill waiting. I passed 30km’s in a time of 2hrs46mins. It was a welcome relief running down Marine Drive for a final time and then along Tara rd. I just put my head down and focused on my running strides as the wind was slowing me down. At 32km’s I glanced at my watch, 2hrs59mins of running. I just had over an hour to run 10kms for sub 4 finish, that meant no walking and I still had to run up Bluff Rd! I was still in with a chance, a very tough one albeit!
At 36km mark I caught up to Bertie at Bluff Nature Reserve. I was a little sore and dehydrated with the conditions definitely getting the better of us on the day! 40kms down with a time of 3hrs 54mins, a sub 4 finish seemed so distant. Chasing down a time now was always going to be a difficult task especially when you don’t have much left in the tank. We walked for the most part all the way up to Bluff Rd, trying to encourage each other. When we crested the top of Bluff Rd by Spar, I grabbed a welcoming drink at a table before heading off for the final straight. From here to the finish was easy downhill running. Entering the field, we were cheered on by Sandy and Michael, finishing in a time of 4hrs09mins. I wasn’t too concerned about not achieving my target time, just a sense of relief that we finished. There are no easy marathons. Thanks again to Sandy for saving us at the end by getting us cold coke and a cream soda. Bluff Marathon was a tough, challenging course but a well organised race. No more running marathons for me this year. I’ll definitely take a much needed break and probably focus on shorter runs.