Lights, camera, darkness. And running. 

I felt so good during the last run at Anglsea that I began to believe a little more in the scribbled down training plan I’d put together from about ten different ones I’d read online or in magazines:

One long run, one short run and one hills or sprints per week, with 2-3 cross training / strength sessions. Yoga and Pilates are there too….but my holistic wellness often revolves around wine. So that won. A lot.

So I continued, exploring new trails and trying to motivate myself to find hills to run up and down.

The next race was different – in the evening, and in complete darkness. Neither I was fully comfortable with and only really had the experience of Lara Pinta to go off.

Let me expand: Evening races to me – or anything that’s after I eat breakfast – is a bit of a challenge. I generally like to graze throughout the day (by graze I mean have full meals and pretend they’re snacks), so my body is pretty sleepy and full by 8pm, which is when the race was scheduled.

Running in darkness poses the challenge that I should slow down and watch my step a little more. And I just don’t, I simply stumble a little more, and laugh at myself a lot more.

Anyway, race day.

I managed to rest and taper training (harder than it sounds) and eat a little less during the day (definitely harder than it sounds), and there was no wine with dinner (virtually impossible).

I parked a little away from the event and managed to get lost on the trails leading to the start line, so my warm up was a panicked jog along the trails themselves. My heart was pumping.

I had my contacts in so no need for sunshades. Because it’s evening Jess, and no one does that anymore.

For the first time before a 10km race I decided to take a gel – for the caffeine and sugar / energy hit. (But also for the general tiredness I was feeling from it being probably an hour or two before my usual bedtime….)

I considered running with no music – there was a lot of single track and it would be dark. That though lasted about two seconds before I realised I would hate my life for the entire race if I did that. One earphone. A compromise.

30 seconds to start. Head torch on.

The siren went and a few girls raced out ahead of me, this was going to be fast.

I realised I didn’t really have a planned speed for the race, or a plan at all. Just to not fall in the river.

I stayed at 4.20km/min (which I consider quite fast for trails) and felt ok.

We went along wide track and separated out, I could see a girl ahead of me. I kept her in sight, I knew there was single track coming up so it’d be hard to overtake her – if I could.

This was the last race in the trail series, and my last trail run for a few weeks, so I went for it.

I managed. Legs on fire. Feet stumbling on the downhill when I thought the ground was there but it wasn’t.

I continued and we hit the single track. Amazing. But terrifying. The moon lit the river and highlighted where I’d end up if I lost my concentration. I tried to aim my head torch at my feet, in my path.

There were a few of us running together, which helped. When they jumped or ducked I knew I should probably do that same. It became almost like a dance.

I also discovered two things from only wearing one earphone…

1) I’m a really loud breather and basically sound a bit like I’m dying

2) When you sing along to lyrics, other people can actually hear you. Sorry other people.

Before I knew it we’d hit 5km. Thank you gels, and singing.

We hit the short course runners along the single track (not literally). No overtaking. I decided not to panic and take it as forced rest, slowed down, recovered my breathing (see above).

Wide track, and I moved past them, all encouraging each other.

We went up onto high ground, above the tracks and along a road. I allowed myself to look at the moonlit outline of the City. I love you Melbourne.

3km left.

I sped up, trying to gain back some speed from the single tracks.

Suddenly I could see the lights of the finish line. In my mind I sprinted, but I really don’t think I sped up at all. Exhaustion was kicking in.

I crossed the line, not sure of my placing.

I stopped and stood still for a few minutes, The end of the Trail Series. In my mind I had worked out I could win the Trail Series if I won the race. That would be….amazing.

I took it in. The atmosphere, the live music, the happy runners. I love trail running.

I found friends, and found wine. And quickly forgot to cool down in any form.

The placings were announced.

Third, second…I wasn’t called up and I wondered whether they’d made a mistake, or whether I’d just not made it.

“And in first place and also the Series Winner…Jess Short”

Bloody hell.

I stumbled towards the stage (both in shock and maybe a glass or two of wine down)

Ecstasy. This feeling couldn’t get any better.

I stood on the podium and they gave me a sparkler. It got better.

I received a pint glass and a medal. They were kicking goals.

More wine.

Still no warm down.

Sorry legs.

What’s next?

Melbourne Marathon. Yep a road race. But mostly for work, and for the YMCA Open Doors Charity.

There is another reason I’m doing it though – I’ll be racing against my toughest competitor…the 10km PB I set 6 years ago…in my twenties….when I was a Police Officer…and definitely hadn’t fully discovered or understood the beautifulness of good wine and good food.

Oh, and my mum will be watching

No pressure.

Sorry legs.

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