Today began unlike any other race day – the low beeping of the alarm clock substituted by a rather vicious foot to my jawbone. At some point during the night, E had been roused from his sleep, probably by the warm weather. Too sleepy to deal with anything, J had simply dumped him on the bed between us – three of us sharing the comfortable but squeezy double bed in our humble motel room.
The sun was not yet out, and flag off was not till 1000h, so I gently nudged the tiny foot away from my head and tried to go back to sleep. The next hour or so was spent discovering that my dear flesh and blood is quite the gymnast when asleep, at one point managing to half-roll over me, nearly tumbling off the edge of the bed.
On the schedule for the morning was the Marengo 6km run, the shortest event in the Great Ocean Road Marathon festival. 6km may seem rather trivial in the light of my usual escapades, and on my own I certainly wouldn’t bother with running an organised event that short. However, today it was going to be special. This would be the first timed event that all three of our little clan would be participating in together.
We ended up getting out of bed at 0830h, and after a breakfast of bread, nutella and bananas, a sleepy trio of Wongs stumbled off to the car for the 30 second drive into town (my lazy idea! Just saving my legs for tomorrow). It was only 30 minutes before gun time, but the streets were still relatively empty, everyone clearly opting to have a bit of a sleep in.
As we unpacked the pram from the car, Murphy’s law kicked in. You wouldn’t normally expect any major logistical issues with a 6km fun run, but lo and behold, we found that all 3 of the jogging pram’s tyres were flat, and trying to steer the pram was like manoeuvring one of those crappy shopping trolleys with a wobbly wheel on one side. We spent a good 20 minutes trying to find someone who could lend us a bike pump, when finally one kind stranger pointed us in the direction of the fuel station – something we should have thought of in the first place!
Tyres filled, we trotted back up to the start line, and took up position with the rest of the prams at the back of the pack. 3 minutes to spare! Somehow we always end up cutting it fine. A few garbled words by a race official on a loudhailer, and the long blast of the starting horn sparked the throng of runners into motion.
Starting at the back of the pack is a somewhat anticlimactic experience. After the cheer of the crowd and seeing the front runners bolt off into the distance, you end up stuck behind a human wall of people who don’t seem to understand that they are attending a running event. I don’t mean people who are walking because there isn’t any room to run – in this case, it was just people plain walking. The turnout for the 6km event wasn’t exactly massive and we could see clearly that there was plenty of room ahead for this lot to speed up, but instead, they just strolled along, iPods in ears, spread out neatly across the road in intervals just too small for the prams to squeeze through.
I can perfectly understand people walking once they’ve given it their all and have hit that point of exhaustion, but I would struggle to believe that 50 odd people reached that state just 100 meters off from the starting line. And what happened to keeping left to let others through?
Eventually, we managed to squeeze our way through the snail field and pick up our pace to a gentle jog. The temperature was a pleasant 15 degrees or so, but the sky was a threatening dark grey . A fresh wind was on our backs nudging us along the road, which after a small climb and a couple of turns, left the small town of Apollo Bay and followed the coastline towards Marengo.
Lush green pasture dotted with cows filled the gap between the road and the hills to the north, and to the south the dark blue sea crashing up the beach under an angry grey sky was quite a sight. The small pack of runners had now stretched out, and as we passed the 2km mark we saw the front runners already on their way back to the finish.
E was having a whale of a time, pointing out the various bright colours of the various running tops, and calling out the passing vehicles – “Blue motorcycle! Red Truck! White Car!” much to the delight of other runners. J was also holding up pretty well, much better than I had expected given she basically hadn’t trained at all for this. Everyone seemed to be having a good time as we plodded down the country road, the air thick with the scent of ocean spray and fresh grass.
Before long, we reached the turnaround point in Marengo, a small loop through the little village and another little climb and descent. The road back down to the beach presented us with the perfect mid-run treat – Waves rushing towards the beach, mist billowing off their white foamy crests like the manes of a charging herd of wild horses. We paused briefly at the only drink stop of the run, downing a quick cup of water each, and began the return leg of the run towards Apollo Bay.
Ever the charmer, E got a bunch of complements from all the volunteers and marshals along the way. J on the other hand, was starting to feel the results of no training at all. Her breathing was now a laboured panting, the grimace on her face a telltale sign of the pain coursing through her legs. The wind which had been our much appreciated ally just a few minutes ago, was now putting up a fierce opposition to our onward progress. E was still having a blast, oblivious to the sheer anguish his poor mummy was enduring. I, on the other hand, distinctly recall being on the receiving end of multiple death threats for my part in signing her up for this event as the road began to climb steeply back up the last hill before the finish.
With just under a kilometre to go, I tried to distract J from her suffering by discussing the possible options for lunch, as well as the lovely view of Apollo Bay from the top of the hill. My ploy was less than effective, and more death threats ensued. With the finish line in sight, the other runners around us began to pick up the pace. J put on a brave front and kept up a steady jog as we descended towards the final straight. The actual sight of the archway and the word “Finish” clearly visible must have had some effect on her as even she began to pick up speed. We made a dash over the final 100m to the sound of cheering spectators. Mum and Dad with a hand each on the pram, the three of us crossed the finish line in unison, all smiles and any pain from the journey all but forgotten.
A volunteer popped a medal on J, and put mine round the neck of a delighted E. As if on cue, the ominous clouds parted, and the sun was now cheerfully bathing us in its warm rays, and a huge patch of pure blue sky now hovered above the town. Who would have thought a little 6km run would bring this much satisfaction.
I really hope this is just the first of many finish lines we will cross together. It was a perfect start to the weekend, and I couldn’t have asked for a better lead in to my first major event of the year, the GOR marathon tomorrow. Praying that the weather will be just as nice!