Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Race Report - Hamilton Island Fun Run

It will not surprise you to learn that part of my pre-honeymoon planning was to find out if I could get into any races in the Whitsundays, Sydney or Queenstown during our three-week trot around Australia and New Zealand. Remarkably, the Crew Chief didn’t seem fazed by this suggestion – possibly because she had already done the same research and concluded, like me, that there were none going...

I had just missed a half marathon on Hamilton Island, our flight schedule didn’t allow for a trip to Sydney parkrun, and there was simply nothing in Queenstown to satisfy my racing needs. To be honest I didn’t really need to race. I’ve done plenty this year, but I like to boast about having crossed finish lines in England, Scotland, France and the USA, so adding Oz or NZ to that list would have been ace. But whatever, honeymoons aren’t for selfish things like racing.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I picked up the What’s On guide in our suite in the Whitsundays to discover the Hamilton Island Fun Run – Friday at 5.30pm. I’m up for that.

Obviously I had brought some running kit with me and so was totally ready. The 29 degree heat and warm breeze were still pretty significant in the early evening, and the beers I’d had with lunch may not have been a great idea, but this would probably be my only opportunity to race in this part of the world for years to come. I called the sports centre to try to suss the race out:

Me: How far is it?
Reception: It varies. Usually between 5k and 5 miles.
Me: Er, right. And how many people do it?
Reception: Oh quite a few. Somewhere between 5 and 15.

This last comment is indicative of how small Hamilton is. Clearly this was going to be a doddle.

There were 12 runners. I started chatting to one, a local resident of seven years and aspiring professional Ironman. Intimidated, I chatted to another, a tourist who had just run his first Boston Qualifier. Getting desperate, I spoke to a couple of girls, both staff members who had recently stepped up from half marathons to Olympic distance triathlons. Looking around, it dawned on me that I was clearly in for a kicking. Everyone here was some sort of hyper-serious athlete. Balls. Just before the off a retired couple arrived and I breathed a sigh of relief that I wouldn’t finish dead last. Then I noticed their lean, bronzed Aussie bodies and noted that they had spent all day hiking the island’s remote trails before hitting the gym. Hmm.

This wasn’t really a race. Three of the staff – Ironman and the triathlon girls – knew the route and would ‘guide’ the fun run around the island. No distance markers, no exact distance, no marshals, no water on the course, no worries. Very relaxed. Very Australian. I loved it already.

The pack shot off at a blistering pace. An Aussie tourist joined the race a hundred metres after the start, having missed the rendez-vous time, and he easily fell into step with the faster runners. A divide quickly emerged, around six of us pushing the lead with the triathletes, and the Ironman dropping back to guide the senior citizens. We hauled ourselves up hills, dripping with sweat within moments, before careering around the marina, past beaches and luxury yachts and palm trees and eucalypts. At one point a wallaby burst out of the bush and ran across the road directly in front of us. What a fantastic little event.
Hamilton Island: a bit of alright. Note the very strong, very warm breeze too!
 The lead group dropped two runners around halfway, leaving just four of us running in a square formation and pushing the pace – the triathlon girls, the Late Tourist and me. The girls repeatedly pulled away from us every time they swerved around corners, which Late Tourist and I overshot (not knowing the route) and had to backtrack.

With only the vaguest notion of how far we had run or how far we had to go, I was starting to flag until one of the girls allowed that there was less than a kilometre left, and that there were no more corners to take before the finish. She told us this, jokingly, ‘in case we couldn’t keep up and needed to walk’. Incensed, the pack gathered pace, and suddenly four became three as one of the girls dropped back. Sweating, lurching, panting heavily, the three of us jostled elbows in a classic finish that really should have been televised. We saw the finish line – or rather the STOP roadsign which served the same purpose – and the sprint was on.

I finished second. Late Tourist took the win by a nose, with triathlon girl a few seconds behind us. No medal, no number, no time, no crowds, no worries.

Very happy running indeed.


2013 to date: miles run - 19.98

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