Race day was overcast and cool, ideal conditions for a 100km run. I had been running for about 7 1/2 hours and really noticed that the running hard for an extended time on such a flat course was taking its toll on my quads and I had about an hour of running yet to do. Meanwhile behind me at that time in the field there was a bull, charging through the field. Kirstin Bull (KB) the pocket sized trail runner from Victoria was clipping along. She came across fellow Victorian David Overend on track for a personal best and urged him to join her for the final few kilometres. David commented he had nothing left and KB powered on. Then KB came up behind me offered some encouragement and charged past. There was about 2 kilometres to go for that lap (Kirstin’s last). I glanced at my watch and noted the time and as the AURA Records and Rankings officer I was well aware of the current Australian Women’s Record for 100km, 7 hours 40 minutes and 58 seconds. I was excited as I quickly worked out that Kirstin was certain to get that record. This lifted me and I ran with a little more determination as KB ran ahead charging through the field.
Kirstin had not long ago moved from 10th into 9th place overtaking British athlete Susan Harrison and then had the 8th placed Russian athlete Irina Antropova who had run/walked the last lap in her sights. Irina and I had exchanged places several times during that 10km lap, Kirstin ran past the Russian into 8th place not looking back not giving away anything as she charged towards the finish line. Then KB had the finish line in sight and Aussie team mate Sonia McDermott was there at her side. Sonia had struggled earlier and had considered withdrawing from the race and had 20km to go but she fell into step with Kirstin over the closing stages of Kirstin’s race and they sprinted to the finish line together. Amazingly on just her 2nd attempt at running 100km Kirstin achieved a new Australian Record 7:39:28. I ran through the finish line for my final lap completing 90km in 7:40:39, 1 minute and 11 seconds after KB has finished and spotted Kirstin finished leaning on the railing. I ran on to break the exciting news to those around the corner at the aid table for the last time to collect my nutrition and hydration. Of course they already knew because Sonia who had run through the finish with Kirstin had already passed through.
It was an exciting day but we had all that ahead of us as we settled into the athletes village. Being one of the nations with the furthest to travel we were among the 1st to arrive. The Canadians, a few Americans and the Japanese were the other nations checking into the residences early. The accommodation for most of the team was self contained 2 bedroom bungalows which slept up to 6 people although we typically had 3-4 people in each.
An easy routine was established and the Aussie spirit was evident. We met punctually at an agreed time for meals. When as out group we could no longer all squeeze around one table we were the only team to rearrange the table and chairs to make a table big enough to accommodate us all. Other teams simply split their group between two tables, not the Aussies.
We enjoyed our last few training runs, easy runs around the local area. A team bonding walk into the local town centre for coffee and then the obligatory supermarket forage was interesting. Brendan introduced us to Dutch Licorice Coins (hard and a little salty) and Kirstin discovered the Stroop waffle which proved to be great for carb loading.
The Australian 100km team members had chatted often via email and social media leading up to the championships but many of us had not met until we arrived in The Netherlands. Despite this an easy rapport was immediately evident and there was a strong sense of Australian team pride. This was the largest 100km Australian Team to date and also one of the strongest. As a team we savoured the experience of the opening ceremony a parade through the Town Centre of Winschoten with much pomp and ceremony which ended at a sports hall near the start finish precinct. The 28th IAU 100km World Championships were declared open and a mini stampede ensured as athletes sprinted to get to the front of the queue for the pasta meal supplied by the local organisers. The Aussies had strategically chosen a table at the back of the room close to the food but were out sprinted on the night.
Finally race morning was here and the mood in the Aussie girls bungalow was definitely up beat. We were excited that this day was finally here. Individually we went through race morning routines and were soon on one of the last buses ferrying athletes to the race precinct.
Finally we are herded into the race corral and the a day of running has started. The race start is a little congested but 100km is a long way and no one appears to be too concerned yet about getting a clear run. The course is 10 x 10km laps around Winschoten. Local residents are very supportive of the event and are there all day lining the course enjoying the sights and cheering on the athletes. The Australian athletes seem to get a lot more support and I almost feel sorry for the athletes running around me. It is some time before I am lapped by any of my Aussie team mates. Brendan cruised past offering words of encouragement, closely followed by Barry. I tell Barry is not far ahead and Barry tells me that he and Brendan had run pretty much together for the 1st 50km. Next to come loping past is Andy. I had expected Gary and I wondered how much longer it would be before I saw him too. It was later than we both expected.
I had followed Nikki for a while, she ran out of sight before I caught up again on one of my favourite sections of the course, a straight stretch of bike path and then a left turn onto a road that followed a canal for a while. When I came through aid station 2 at that time where Robert Boyce and Greg Smith were stationed at the 6km point on the course expecting athletes in a certain order they seemed surprised to see me and not Nikki. I reassured them she was right behind me but starting to feel fatigue creep in. Later I found David Eadie, competing as a Masters Athlete here ‘just taking a rest’ was his response when I asked him what he was doing sitting down.
I wondered how the team mates I had not seen during the race were faring. David and Marita were ahead of me and Sonia behind and then boom Kirstin blasted past. I caught Sonia on my last lap cruising along, we chatted briefly about what I have no idea. It was one of many exchanges over an amazing week.
Finally back at the athletes village later that night despite the long day the Aussie girls all chatted avidly tired but happy.
The results speak for themselves. Every member of the Aussie team gave it their best on the day. Four team members (Barry, Gary, David and Sonia) were representing Australia for the 1st time. Two new Australian Age Records (M30 & M35) and an Australian Record were achieved and five team members achieved a personal best.
It was an amazing experience, an honour to be given the opportunity to represent Australia yet again and a real privilige to share it with my team mates Sonia, Nikki, Marita, Kirstin, David, Gary, Andy, Barry and Brendan. The crew as always played an integral part behind the scenes and I know the whole team are extremely grateful, a massive thank you must go to Team Manager Robert Boyce it’s an almost impossible task organising runners especially at this level and his wife Pistamai who is now a very experienced helper at these events, Sonia’s partner Andrew and girls, Daniel Wynd, Julie and Gary. How lucky were we to witness first hand Kirstin’s achievement.
Jodie’s Race on Strava.
Jodie’s favourite race nutrition Gu Energy Gels (Vanilla Bean, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Salted Caramel and Roctane Salted Chocolate).
Champion System Australia make the Australian uniform and I am sure the other teams were envious we look pretty good even though we don’t have matching luggage.