The Concrete Playground 

The Studley Park night run resulted in some unexpected knee and upper buttock spasms / pain. Quite amusing in private, quite embarrassing in public.

So I rested, and mainly focused on cardio based strength training (25-30 min workouts with a heap of equipment, tabata style). No runs though….probably not the best preparation for my first road race in a year.

The weekend of the race was suddenly upon me. It was Friday and I needed to rest for Sunday – and my mum was arriving. My rest day turned into a 17km hike around Melbourne and an evening of wine tasting. I love my mum.

Saturday was assigned official rest day….gardening….and wine.

5am Sunday morning came. I was up, standing in darkness in my pyjamas in the kitchen. I downed my beetroot juice (I have it every morning in the few days leading up to a race) and glanced over at the empty bottles of wine in the lounge. Shit.

Within the chaos and the calm of my morning preparation my mum sat down next to me “Jess. I need to tell you something…”. I stopped what I was doing. “…I’ve discovered how to tie shoe laces so they won’t come undone. Can I show you so yours won’t come undone during the race?”

I love my mum. And she showed me – double loop the bow.

I cooked a full breakfast (as I would have done a trail run) and got my Coles Express coffee on my way down to the MCG – it’s the only place that serves freshly ground coffee open before 6am, therefore a godsend in my book.

We (me and my mum, because she’s a legend and came with me) watched the sunrise at the MCG as I got ready for my race, and she walked me to the start.

My legs felt a little sore from the hike on Friday, and my mind was racing a little.

4min/km pace, on road. To some road runners I guess that sounds normal or even slow. To me it meant sprinting for around 41 minutes, hopefully less. Yikes.

I left my mum to walk up to the first part of the start line. She waved me off and told me she would see me in 40 minutes at the finish, I laughed.

Gel time. Music on – Slash, Apocalyptic Love. Come on legs.

The ten second count down.

Then go.

I ran, along flat, along concrete, with the masses. Dodging, jumping trying to get a clear path and out on the side.

We were running down a freeway, down closed roads. I found a comfortable pace and checked my watch. 4.20km/min. Bollocks.

I stepped up a gear into uncomfortableness. 3.50km/min. Yep, uncomfortable. But I found a rhythm, and some people to chase.

If I’m honest I can’t remember the first part of the course, I know I enjoyed the roads being closed, and appreciated the support of random strangers clapping and cheering.

Then the tan hill hit. Road hills – they’re not the same as trail hills. If you start to aggressively lunge like you can up the trails….you basically end up just actually lunging, which isn’t going to beat any PBs…and might look rather strange.

Pace maintenance….I dropped to 4.20km/min and it went through my mind – this was why I couldn’t get under 41 min, the dam gradual hills.

I refused, I pushed. I chased people, and I thought how disappointed my mum would be if she didn’t see me in 40 minutes. I pushed deeper.

Then the flats and a downhill. I flew, on jelly legs, and squealed, and let my legs guide me.

I hit 7km, and that was when I really struggled. My legs just wanted to stop, or slow down. And somewhere in my mind I reasoned that it wouldn’t be the end of the world to not beat my PB.

I shouted at myself (almost like bark, and I’m pretty sure out loud) It was all in my mind. I wanted this, my legs were fine. 3km to go, they were fine. I pushed.

3.50km/min. I was back. I found my rhythm again. The Prodigy came on. Game on.

I was on around 37 minutes when I passed the MCG to the awful out and back that comes before you actually go in to the finish. It seemed to never ever end. I saw people going back the other way and wanted to ask for a piggy back. But I knew the end was near.

I spotted a woman who had been with me the whole time and maintained pace with her (thank you random woman)

I turned into the entrance and it was incredible. The atmosphere and the feeling was worth even just entering the race regardless of the race itself. I was on just under 40 minutes. Never one for sprint finishes (they have resulted in many stumbles and face plants before), I began to pick up the pace.

And so did someone at least 40 years older than me. We raced (I’m not sure he knew), until I actually realised he was winning, so I eased off. Good work random man, good work.

The last 20 metres or so I realised I was coming in under 41 minutes. I laughed to myself. Maybe cried a little.

The line. I stopped my watch. 40.25 unofficial.

My lungs were heaving, my legs were shot and I was quite sure they would never forgive me, but I so happy. Six years in the making (or undoing as some might see it…thank you wine).

I looked for my mum in a sea of people. I couldn’t find her. (turns out she did actually watch me cross the line and took photos….of me and of a few other runners she also thought might have been me, just in case).

I took some selfies at the MCG, then went to meet my mum at a predetermined meeting point at 8.30am. We celebrated, then spent the morning watching the legends that were running the half and marathon come in. Amazing efforts.

And then?

We went to spend the evening at a winery in Yarra Glen, because why not?

Wine tasting and picnics galore. I love my mum.

My confirmed official time was actually 40.19. I was blown away, stoked, and very grateful. I still am.

4th female in category of 662

21st female overall from 4292

Ugh. If I’d known I was coming forth….

And next?

The 4 Peaks challenge in Bright over the Melbourne Cup weekend.

4 days, 4 mountains, 4 races.

Sound familiar?

Maybe not the 30 degree heat of Alice Springs though.

Sorry legs.

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