How much fun was that. Representing my country, meeting and making new friends, attending the opening and closing ceremony and other official events, experiencing a different culture, and hanging out with my fellow Australians and then finally the run.
Most of the team arrived in Doha, Tuesday with the last arrivals Wednesday. I met up with Sydney sider Andrew Heyden en route in Dubai, it wasn’t hard to find each other since we were both proudly wearing our Australian uniforms. Finally we arrive in Doha and make our way to the Aspire Zone and the Grand Heritage Hotel one of two hotels accommodating athletes. The aspire zone is dedicated to sport and is an oasis in the desert. One of the stadiums is currently undergoing renovation in preparation for the FIFA 2020 World Cup.
We spent the days before resting, hydrating and eating. Many of us ventured to the Villagio shopping centre a short walk in the heat. The Villagio featured an ice rink and small river system with Gondola’s for hire. Most importantly it had a supermarket where we picked up last minute essential supplies for race day.
All athletes were invited to a scheduled school visit which all Aussie athletes were eager to participate in and found interesting. A bus picked us and a number of Canadian, Polish, Japanese and American athletes and we were taken to a private boys English school, the children were assembled and Brendan spoke a bit about Australia and then a asked a few questions testing the local boys knowledge, when they realised there were gifts on offer (toy Koalas and the like) we were practically mobbed, fortunately the teachers restored order and the session continued with the other nations and a better way of distributing gifts was found. I handed out little Aussie flags and small koala’s saving two my fellow Japanese athletes who appeared to be more excited to receive them than the school children.
On Thursday we trekked over to the Torch where Brendan and Marita attended a media interview, then checked out this iconic hotel, this significant landmark can be seen for miles which was very useful for us when navigating Doha.
Race eve, the team seemed relaxed and focused working hard on nutrition and hydration, a highlight was a panel discussion in which Brendan participated with Michael Wardian, Ellie Greenwood and a very nervous Canadian athlete Alicia Woodside. From there we made our way to the opening ceremony which involved each athlete team being invited to the stage, a school child in traditional dress was our host and held a card with AUS on it. This was followed by the pasta party, traditionally pasta party’s at events such as this are not all that great, I have to say our Qatari hosts and the Aspire Zone make excellent hosts and this event was exceptional.
As had become our habit we gathered for the breakfast buffet but the approach on this day was a little different with a tendency for everyone to eat ‘lighter’ I enjoyed some pancakes, plenty of orange juice and some fruit. Then it was time to rest and hydrate and a short stroll to the shopping centre where I sourced a race treat, an iced coffee in this case a Starbucks Frappachino in a jar. Then a light lunch from the buffet, by this time I was starting to amp up a bit, then it was back to our room to nap, rest up and go over the race plan. Finally it’s time to put on the uniform and walk over to the start precinct.
We found our crew table and got ourselves sorted. Then it’s time to make our way to the start line for the pre race briefing, we are asked to walk slowly across the start line to ensure our timing chips are working. With over 200 athletes shuffling over the timing mats and then back again we wonder how they know. Finally the countdown starts and we set off I slip into an easy 5 minutes per kilometre pace running next to Nikki. We stick together for the first seven laps maintaining the pace and talking to other athletes as we go. As we run we estimate on which lap Brendan will lap us, we are astounded by the speed of the front runners when they come past us and then the large pack cruises past, it’s wishful thinking that they might pull us along for a bit. We get quite a bIt of attention the two Aussie girls cruising around the course, Michael Wardian cruises past us at the cool zone and calls out to us telling us he is coming to run in Australia. The cool zone is an alley of air conditioners about 10 metres long that pumped out refrigerated air which buffeted you from either side I ran through it every time.
There are large boards at points around the course the list the laps from 1 to 20 and the distance traveled. I only remember them being at the 2nd 3rd and 4th kilometre of the course. The 1st time we pass the 3km one Nikki mentions it will be good when it is 98km (20th lap) there is no doubt in our minds we will finish. When is another matter.
I lost Nikki on the 8th lap when she hit a rough patch, the pounding of the cobblestone and hard tiles was really starting to take its toll on both of us. I wore my Adidas Glide Boost and the cushioning serves me well but it is still hard going. I recall clocking up a marathon which is on the back section of the course a very slight climb on the more forgiving bitumen road before we turn and it’s slightly downhill. Nikki was always in touch and I would see her in almost the same section of course and I was sure she would be back with me before too long. There was a lot of comrarderie on course between not only team mates but even the top runners who offered encouragement as they went around.
I get through 50km I look forward reaching the halfway point in any race even though it doesn’t get easy the distance to go doesn’t seem so large and much more achievable. I always look forward to seeing the Aussie crew in particular David Eadie who kept me motivated and responded to my requests. My requests were quite simple almost every lap it was a gel and water, the small bottles of water provided were always icy cold, once on my way through I dropped a gel, bending over to collect it was a challenge, I told myself I didn’t need to worry about it, just keep moving. I felt my calf tighten and sometimes I thought my leg would give way but I continued on, I did notice my quads were taking a pounding and I would feel them for days afterwards whenever I squatted or tried to get up from sitting.
I had expected my team mate Marita to lap me and I take some comfort that she too must be finding the course and conditions challenging. I finally see Marita out on the course when she has about 3km to go, I have 7km to go and I spot Nikki again after missing her for a while and this lifts me, determined not to be lapped by Marita on this occasion after taking short walk breaks in the last few laps since about the 80km mark I set off with determination and run out the final kilometres.
It is a relief to finally finish. I am also an emotional wreck the officials at the finish line congratulate me, ensure I am okay make me walk when I all I want to do is lie down. I know it is best to keep moving so I do with some assistance, one of my legs feels like it will collapse but I manage to walk. I spot the massage tent and sense an opportunity to be horizontal and think I would like a massage. Somehow I climb on the massage table and I am tortured for what seems like ages but I am glad to be horizontal. I manoeuvre myself off the table and upright and stagger (no exaggeration) out to find my team mates Chris, Andrew and Nikki in the chill out zone not far from the finish line and lie down in the foetal position and sob for a while. Didn’t I already tell you I am an emotionally wreck especially after significant events such as this. I’m happy to finish and usually with my result but just feel overwhelmed and relieved amongst other things. I think David is there too relieved of his duty of crewing now that Nikki and I have finished but he is still hard at work running around to get finish videos for everyone and keeping Australia updated on Facebook.
I finally start to cool down and slip into one of my finisher shirts (athletes were provided with 2 shirts on finishing one read ‘participant and the other ‘finisher’) before making my way back to the crew table and the rest of the team. The gang are all there as they have been all night. Then David says is that who I think it is, or ‘I don’t believe it’ or something to that effect. Opposite us at about the 4km mark on the course is a Canadian runner still out running and another female in a tracksuit is jogging along with them. We think it is the new women’s world champion. As they turn the corner and then approach us we see that indeed it is. As she approaches us I say “Elli what are you doing?” To which Elli replies “Just helping out my Canadian friend here” now that my friends is a true champion.
By 4:00am or so we are all done and considering how we will cover the 1km or so back to our hotel. We start to walk slowly favouring the ramps over the stairs. Then we spot our captain and a few other Aussies have procured a ride on a golf buggy. What the, we are not forgotten though and the buggy comes back for us and we only have to walk half the way. I am fatigued but not tired, too much caffeine. We decide that the breakfast buffet at 6:30am after a shower is a good idea. We shower and wait patiently for 6:30am, practically breaking down the doors to get in.
The women finish 6th out of 9 federations able to field a full team (3 athletes must finish for a team result) and the men 8th out of 19.
|41st||Kerrie Otto De Grancy||AUS||10:38:21|
|3rd||Jose Antonio Requejo||ESP||6:37:01|