The day and the night we didn’t run 100 miles

I was informed I needed to tell the tale of the day and the night we didn’t run 100 miles.

Dave Kennedy organises a few races; the 47km Six Inch Trail Marathon (this year with a half marathon alternative), Lark Hill 50km and 100km Dusk till Dawn trail ultramarathon and the Waterous Trail on Foot 50 mile and 100 mile trail ultramarathon, otherwise known as the WTF50 and WTF100 race. Yes, that acronym works in a number of appropriate ways.

Lark Hill is a short loop course, and as such doesn’t need too many volunteers, but WTF and Six Inch require a number of volunteers to operate. When WTF was an unofficial, unsupported race it actually ran on the Waterous Loop Trail south of Dwellingup near Waroona, but now it is run as an official race it is restricted to a stretch of trail from Jarrahdale to Dwellingup. The 50 milers run a point to point from Jarrahdale to Dwellingup and the 100 milers run an out and back from Dwellingup, to Jarrahdale and return. The 100 milers are allowed pacers for the return journey. One day we may be able to return to the classic WTF course, but the new one does allow for far easier setup of aid stations and controls.

In 2014 Jeremy and I and our friend Colin helped Frank Chauveau, Andrew Shugg and another fellow run the North Dandalup Dam aid station for WTF. The torrential rain earlier in the day meant that the practically endless supply of tea and coffee we had was quite welcome to the returning 100 mile runners. Jeremy had made soup but we experienced a massive container fail which made it inedible, so were restricted to providing countless peanut butter or Vegemite sandwiches, lollies and crisps. After the final runner had left North Dandalup we broke down camp and Jeremy and I went home very early on the Sunday morning, ideas brewing in our heads of how to do it better next year.

Earlier this year Dave contacted us and asked if we would be willing to run the North Dandalup aid station for the 2015 running of the race and we immediately said yes. We put the call out for other parkrunners to come and help on the day. We had a few parkrunners taking part in the 50 mile race and the 100 mile race, so along with parkrunners who would be pacing we had a number of takers.

The weekend before the race I scooted through Coles buying supplies. We’d contemplated getting an inverter installed in the Captiva (we had one in the Camry, it’s good for car rallies too), but Jeremy had calculated the voltage required to power a coffee machine and decided that it wouldn’t work as well as we’d hoped. We had to pick up a few things from the local camping store after parkrun and Jeremy found a propane powered coffee percolator and for half price at that. We picked it up and a kettle to replace our old dodgy billy. At Coles I bought coffee for the percolator, peanut butter, Vegemite, and a few gluten free things because I knew one of the runners was coeliac. Another parkrunner, Cassie was going to bring vegan gluten free pumpkin soup so we didn’t need to make any. Last year we’d noticed a lot of the runners were vegan or avoided food with dairy in it; apparently dairy takes more effort to digest, so vegan soup was the way to go. I’d done what I did in 2014 and bought over seven kilos of Allens race car lollies (they make you go faster) for WTF, the Blerch run as well as all my training for Six Inch and the race but after the physio’s big no regarding running I was determined to unload what was left after Blerch at WTF. Everyone would be offered race car lollies. We also had a bunch of things from our pantry and I’d bought some pears and loaves of bread too. Andrew Shugg knew he wouldn’t be able to come until later in the morning so he’d dropped off 10 kilos of bananas and a kilo of chocolate coated coffee beans to me at work on Friday afternoon.

Jeremy and I rocked up at the dam at 7.58am, with a couple of cars of supporters in the carpark waiting for the first runners. The first group due to arrive would be the thirty four 50 mile runners coming in in dribs and drabs from Jarrahdale towards Dwellingup at their approximate 30 km mark. Once they were all through we would see the first of the fourteen 100 milers heading from Dwellingup towards Jarrahdale at their 55km mark. We would have a break from around 2pm through to about 8pm when the 100 milers would start to arrive at about the 116km mark on their return from Jarrahdale towards Dwellingup and the finish line.

Not long after we arrived we had our two gazebo tents set up. We put the walls up on the newer blue tent, while the already fairly wrecked green tent was parked alongside. I threw all the solar powered lights we had brought with us on top of the Captiva to sit in the sun and charge – we’d gone a bit nuts at Bunnings the night before, having intended on buying a cheap rechargeable light we realised the Christmas decorations were already on sale. Belle Kennedy, Dave’s wife, arrived with the 50 miler drop bags for ours and a few aid stations further up the trail. Belle set off and soon Dave arrived with the 100 miler drop bags, a table, a general supplies box and I’d estimate about 90 litres of water. We marvelled over how little and how much some of the runners had in their drop bags. It ran the gamut of a single ziplock bag containing smaller baggies of Tailwind powder for water bladder refills plus a couple of gel packets, to sizable backpacks containing replacement pairs of shoes, rounds of sandwiches, fruit and nut mix, muesli bars, lollies and bottles of water.

There was a reasonable group of supporters at the aid station when the first 50 mile runner, Nathan Fawkes flew in and out, followed by Roni Kauri a minute later, and Richard Gould a minute after that. Runners came in in small waves, you could see that some were running together, others had been together previously and remained fairly close to one another on the trail. Tracy Hudson helped out while she waited for Scott Bunny, her partner to come in, we asked her to help keep the check in time sheet of the runners as they arrived, and to yell the bib numbers down to where we were so we could have the runner’s drop bag ready for them. We operated swiftly – some runners came in so keyed up and nervous, fumbling with clips and seals on water bladders. We’d gently detach their hydration packs from their hands so we could fill the packs, handing the runner their drop bag supplies to fiddle with instead. Some runners sat down, and tried to concentrate on what they wanted to carry with them to the next aid station, others daren’t sit down for fear of never wanting to stand up again. Andrew Shugg and Alicia Harris arrived armed with further supplies to help out as the day wore on and the heat and sun grew more intense. Instead of just offering it we started insisting that runners apply sun cream, while some were sternly informed that they shouldn’t have that much fluid left in their pack after over 2 hours trail running.

Once we were clear of 50 milers the 100 milers began to come in. Richard Avery was first. Dave Kennedy had answered his telephone just as he got out of the bus at the aid station earlier that morning, so we already knew that Richard and parkrunner Crystal Shiu had accidentally missed the out and back to the Oakley Dam aid station; nicknamed Treasure Island because Ben and Shirley Treasure were running it. That explained part of the 30 minutes he appeared to have on Ben Harris, Alicia’s husband who arrived at North Dandalup in second place. Because of the out and back nature of the course, Richard and Crystal would not be disqualified, but instead would have to run the Oakley Dam out and back twice on their return journey. It’s reportedly a terrible hill in and out of the Oakley Dam, so running that twice when you knew you were only 17 km from the finish line would be particular agony.

Along with runners coming into the aid station we had crew and supporters arriving as well. Chris Neilon and Sarah San were crewing for Ron Mcglinn, and later that evening were going to be pacing for him as well. Frank Chauveau came to visit, as he was going to pace Ron from Del Park Road onwards to the finish. Crew and supporters would pop in, chat waiting for their runner, and then when they’d seen them off they’d head off in their cars to the next aid station.

To our delight, Crystal came into North Dandalup Dam aid station in third position and as first female. Her nutrition strategy was notable – Crystal had found individual meat pies on sale at Coles because of the AFL finals season, so she had cooked them on Friday night, refrigerating them to later load her drop bags. When she left North Dandalup on the way to the Kingsbury Road aid station we rescued the second pie from her drop bag and threw it in the esky we had stuffed with our personal provisions – ultra runners regularly have gut issues after running long distances, and we didn’t want to risk Crystal developing salmonella too.

Alexis Oosterhof came in with Glen Smetherham, then Wayne McMurtrie with Simon Bonnick. Rachel Evans came in two minutes after them as second female, then Ron Mcglinn, then Mick Hearn, Harmony Waite and lastly Nhung Wawatai and Carl Matol. Once Carl had left it was the start of the long break before the return. Andrew, Jeremy, Alicia and I rearranged the contents of the tents, putting things back into the shade, moving the 50 miler supplies completely out of the way, rearranging the 100 miler drop bags ready for the return and stringing the solar powered rope light and lanterns.

At 2.30pm Alicia headed off to meet Ben at the next aid station and Andrew set off back to Perth. I settled in with a book and Jeremy tried to snooze for a bit in the back of the Captiva. After a while Randy van Poecke arrived, he was going to pace Harmony Waite into North Dandalup so he parked his car at the dam and Harmony’s crew Sasha Silk took him to the aid station where his pacing duties would start. Cassie and Connor Hughes arrived with soup and more supplies. We had a four litre thermos pump pot filled with boiling water, and when we made a pot of coffee we’d decant it into a thermos to keep warm. Two people in the end of the fifty miler group had welcomed a cup of tea but we knew the bulk of that business would be at night, so we refilled both thermoses. As the evening wore on more and more people would arrive; Grant Langford and Dan Baldwin turned up, Ben Harris was going to be paced into North Dandalup by Richard Back where Grant would take over and eventually Dan would take over from Grant, taking Ben into Dwellingup. Abdul-Raouf Mohamed-Isa arrived, he was going to pace Harmony after Randy’s stint had finished. Karen Hagen was pacing Rachel Evans the fifty kilometres from North Dandalup to the finish line and Ben Oxwell was doing the same for Alexis Oosterhof. Todd Panietz was dropped off; he was going to be pacing Nhung Wawatai from North Dandalup.

I imagine it’s difficult if you’re pacing – you only wear your running kit because you don’t want to have to leave clothes behind at an aid station, so you have to try and time your arrival at the aid station to not freeze your proverbials off waiting for your runner, but not so late that you get panicked and stressed trying to be ready – you have to be the calm, sensible one in the partnership. The only problem was the wind started picking up at the aid station. Several times the green and blue tents weren’t actually standing on the bitumen carpark of the dam, they were airborne with only the tie down ropes keeping them from sailing away. The blue tent was lashed to the Captiva and to trees, with bundles of 1.5L water bottles standing on ropes where we had nothing to lash them to. The small fold up barbeque was being hugged by pacers patiently waiting for their runners. Worried about that much manmade fabric near white hot coals we started chucking the pacers of runners not expected for a few more hours into random cars to get them out of the wind, promising either to wake them at a specific time or that we’d give them as much warning as we could when their runner arrived.

During the break before the return of the 100 milers we’d worked out the sweet spot for mobile coverage at North Dandalup. The aid station itself was in a blackspot, but if you walked towards Dwellingup at the other end of the dam wall there was coverage and if you walked towards Jarrahdale there was a signpost behind the Armco railing on the road around the side of the dam that roughly marked where coverage started. While it was still light to see we hung a pink glow stick from the signpost so when it was dark we’d know where we had to walk to in order to get a connection, because during the night we’d be keeping an Aid Station Communications Facebook group up to date with arrival times, the state of runners and whether anyone had had to withdraw from the race. In the quiet period before runners started arriving we’d wander up and down the road towards Jarrahdale looking for the telltale glow of headlamps in the distance.

Rachel and Andie Walsh arrived around 8pm with even more supplies – honestly, we had so much food we were hoping for a sudden swarm of teenagers with hollow legs or tapeworm. It turns out ultrarunners eat less than parkrunners. We were advised that Carl Matol had withdrawn, as had Richard Avery, which put Ben Harris in first place. Not long into the night the green gazebo tent was dismantled – the frame was fairly knackered when we started the day, the wind didn’t help it any and had there been a skip bin at the Dam carpark like last year at the end of proceedings it would have been bundled in there instead of back into the car.

The first glow on the road from Jarrahdale appeared and Ben flew towards the aid station with Richard Back. Cassie Hughes had changed into a Spiro the Dragon onesie she’d found on sale – she was probably the warmest dressed person at the aid station. When Ben arrived at North Dandalup he saw Spiro the Dragon ahead in his headlamp light; for a second he thought he was hallucinating. Cassie ran into the aid station with him and Richard, and at Ben’s request used an app on her phone to calculate pace required for certain finish times. After a quick conversation and some refuelling Ben was ushered out again with Grant Langford alongside. It had been so good to see him come in, to see that he was physically fairly OK and his spirits were high.

We had to wait an hour before Alexis Oosterhof came in, with Glen Smetherham eight minutes later. Last year the general plan was to run down towards the runner arriving at the aid station, greet them, find out who it was – all you can see is a glow and perhaps a faint body shape – and then sprint back into the aid station to pick out their drop bag, prepare their drinks order and any food request they had made before they came in themselves. That process seemed to work OK last year, so this year we did it again. We’d brought in Alexis then Glen and then I went back out to the coverage point to report their safe arrival – you’d post an update, but you’d lose coverage before it had completely uploaded. It was two days shy of a full moon, so you could see a fair way down the road without a headlamp, and I was standing by the Armco railing generally swearing at my telephone’s ability to have full service or no service whatsoever with no in between when a flash from the direction of Jarrahdale caught my eye. It wasn’t a headlamp, it was a stripe, like a Zorro sword flash at about chest height. I saw it again, and then I was certain I could pick out the shape of shoulders, steadily moving down the road, so I started running towards it as I switched on my headlamp – it was Wayne McMurtrie in stealth mode, enjoying running in by moonlight. I got his requests and belted back to the aid station, which was about when I remembered agreeing with the physiotherapist about no running for a month. Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound.

We had another hours wait for Crystal to come in – we’d walk up and down the road, talk with the pacers waiting at the aid station and then head back up the road to wait for the next runner. Once Crystal came in, four minutes later Ron Mcglinn came in too with Chris Neilon. Ron and Chris had been in darkness because Ron had accidentally brought the wrong headlamp and it had died 15 km from the aid station, so to keep it going Sarah swiped the entire supply of AAA batteries we had on hand. Crystal was going through a low patch when she arrived at the aid station; she wasn’t the bubbly Crystal we knew; she was shivering so we threw our massive blanket towel (think Barry White sized cloak made of towelling) around her and fed her. Chris’s pacing stint with Ron had finished at North Dandalup and Sarah was taking over, so Chris immediately said he was going to run alongside Crystal until she got to where her pacer was meeting her at Whitakers Mill. When I’d put a headlamp on earlier that evening I’d picked out my small low powered one because anything more seemed overkill at the aid station, so I still had free my best headlamp. I loaned it to Chris because I knew that he may have to turn around at Whitakers and run back by himself to North Dandalup, and he’d need the brighter light.

Our next customer was Mick Hearn. He was going through an exceedingly low patch, and Cassie was trying to get him to stay a little longer at the aid station so we could look after him while Jeremy asked advice of Rob Donkersloot via the Facebook group. When Jeremy came back with the news that Nhung Wawatai had had to withdraw at Kingsbury, Mick had just left heading to Del Park Road. Todd Panietz was supposed to be pacing Nhung from North Dandalup so we woke him up from the car he’d tucked away in, explained that Nhung had had to withdraw and that we were worried about Mick. We asked whether he would be willing to head up the track and pace Mick until at least Del Park Road and he immediately agreed.

In the meantime Rachel Evans had arrived. I’d run up to greet her, with “We’d like to welcome you to North Dandalup Aid Station, we trust you’ll have a pleasant stay”. She had amazingly high spirits, and was stupendously pleased we had hot coffee and tea, and that the soup was pumpkin. I belted back into the aid station with her drink order and someone sped off to get Karen Hagen out of the car she had been sheltering in. Rachel sat down on a camping chair next to the barbeque and Karen came up to greet her, Rachel practically hugging her own knees exclaiming “I’ve never run so far in my life!” She was absolutely buzzing with happy energy, and Karen soon had her eating soup and drinking and readying herself for the next stage. After Rachel and Karen had left, Rachel’s previous pacer grabbed a coffee before she headed off in her car and said that soup flavour had been a long discussion as they ran; Rachel knew that we had soup at the aid station but not the flavour so they had been discussing the various merits of different soups for quite some distance. Anything to pass the time.

Cassie got a message from Nhung Wawatai trying to find someone who could pick up Natalie Cushion, the pacer who had brought Nhung into Kingsbury. Natalie’s car was back in Jarrahdale but there was a dearth of seats and Natalie was slowly turning blue from cold. Jeremy was free to collect her, except for the fact that the Captiva had the blue tent lashed to it, keeping it grounded. Earlier that evening we’d chucked Abdul-Raouf in the back of the Captiva to have a snooze on the air mattress; we knew that Harmony would be a while, so Jeremy borrowed Abdul’s car. Just before Jeremy disappeared off down the road towards Jarrahdale, he stopped to tell me where he was going. I said to him I was starting to worry about Simon Bonnick – on the last run through he’d come in with Wayne McMurtrie with Rachel Evans just behind, so he was at least two hours behind Wayne and looking to be a fair way behind Rachel. He’s an experienced trail runner, and the only person we know to have run the Six Inch course twice in 24 hours, but we were getting concerned. As I came into the Aid Station I said the same to Cassie and she agreed. We had heard from other runners that he’d stayed at the last aid station for 30 minutes, so we decided that we’d start worrying if we considered him 45 minutes ‘late’, only to look at the check in time sheet and realise that he’d just hit 45 minutes. Around this time Rachel and Andie Walsh headed home.

Jeremy drove into the Kingsbury aid station and pulled up next to Nhung and Natalie, wound down the window and asked “Did anyone call for an Uber?” Nhung was pretty broken up at this point, but even she laughed. Natalie leapt into the car and Jeremy took her to Jarrahdale. The only real issue was that Jeremy didn’t know where the aid station had been located, because by then it had been pulled down, also it was dark and they were coming from a different direction. Once Natalie’s car had been located, Jeremy headed back to North Dandalup.

Cassie was out on the dam road with Sasha Silk, Harmony’s crew. They’d been watching this headlamp move towards the aid station for a while, it was slow going, and we thought it was probably Simon Bonnick. Once he got a bit closer we headed out to see him in. Simon was a bit gutted; physically he knew he couldn’t carry on to the finish – his right calf muscle was in a permanent knot, but mentally he was ready to keep going. He said he would stay for 30 minutes while he decided. We sat him down in the aid station and he ate and drank while Grant Lewis came in seven minutes later and then Harmony arrived with Randy seven minutes after that. Once Harmony had headed into the aid station I reported in her arrival and started retrieving the glow sticks that we’d put out along the road from Jarrahdale.

Once we’d seen Grant and Harmony out off to Del Park Road, Sasha started to pack up Harmony’s gear and Simon asked Randy if he could give him a lift as he was going to withdraw from the race. Jeremy arrived back with Abdul’s car and gave the keys to Sasha to take to Del Park Road for Abdul. We started dismantling the aid station, and all energy disappeared at this point. We were all exhausted, and out of Jeremy, Cassie, Connor and I, 16 year old Connor was the only person suited to being up this late. I suddenly felt like those tired runners looking at their drop bags trying to decide what to carry on the next stage – we looked at the pile of food, supplies, bottles of water and general mess and couldn’t work out where to start. We started picking out Dave’s supplies and packing them away, and then boxing up the drop bags that had not already been collected by supporters.

We wouldn’t have room in the Captiva for Dave’s equipment and our own – it was already a game of Tetris with just our stuff. Jeremy had wandered down the road to the coverage point to ask Dave where he wanted the gear to be stashed, but he hadn’t had a reply. I suggested we bung it all in the disabled toilet – it had a door that properly closed and it wouldn’t take much wind to blow everything all away if it was just left by itself outside.

At 2 am the four of us finished Tetrising our cars, piled in and started driving back to Perth.

We’ll see you at North Dandalup next year.

Red Bull Wings for Life World Run, Busselton

This is the first time I’ve been reluctant to post a race report, not because I didn’t get a good time, or didn’t enjoy myself, but rather because I’m afraid my writing doesn’t do the event justice.

The Red Bull Wings for Life World Run was a completely bonkers idea that worked so well. The 2014 race took place simultaneously in 34 different locations around the world, everyone starting at the same time; 10am GMT. For Australia, Busselton was the only location taking part, and for us that meant a 6pm start on Sunday night. 100% of the entry fee went to spinal cord research.

The Busselton event local organisers were TriEvents, who had run the Busselton 70.3 the day before; so all the infrastructure that they had in place for the 70.3 was recycled by the Wings for Life run. A number of the 70.3 athletes used the WfL as a recovery fun run, because really you could run as far and as fast as you wished.

We all set off near the famous Busselton Jetty heading west to Dunsborough, and then the plotted route went south towards Augusta. Half an hour after we started, a ‘catcher car’ began to travel the route at 15km/h behind us all. The idea being as the car catches up and passes the back marker runners, they are deemed ‘out’. Effectively, your finish line is behind you, and you have to try and outrun it. Following the catcher car are shuttle buses to take finished runners back to the party at the Busselton start line. The catcher car travels at 15km/h for 1 hour, then 16km/h for a further hour, then 17km/h for a third hour, then 20km/h, and then five hours after the car starts it travels at 35km/h. No one would be able to outrun the car; if you are a slow runner, or a walker, you are looking at 4-6km completed before you get caught. The faster you are able to travel, the further you will make it down the road.

Now, I can’t remember where or when I read that there was a runner that was considered the ‘favourite’ at Busselton. Of course, Red Bull had some people that were ‘ambassadors’ for the run around the globe – Mark Webber ran at Silverstone in England, locally we had Steve Hooker, the Olympian pole vaulter and Courtney Atkinson the triathlete (who actually also competed the day before in the 70.3). But I read somewhere there was some obstacle course runner called Chief Brabon who was supposedly the favourite in Busselton, and I laughed. You see, Wings for Life had done some late promotion work for the run and we’d seen a video where a TV news mob interviewed a local ultramarathon competitor that Jeremy and I automatically assumed was going to win WfL Busselton; Dave Kennedy.

Now an ultramarathon is any distance over the standard 42.2km marathon, so there are ‘short’ ultramarathons and there are ‘long’ ultramarathons. Dave Kennedy runs both. Actually, he organises them too – he’s the Race Director of the Six Inch Trail Ultramarathon that Jeremy ran last year, and also organises the WTF 100 Ultra, a 160km/100 mile race around the Waterous Trail mountainbiking loop – the ‘Waterous Trail on Foot’. Dave Kennedy considers a half marathon a warm-up, runs a marathon as a constitutional and is the sort of person who doesn’t look at a mountain range and say “race you to to the top”, he looks at a mountain range and says “race you to the top, along the length of the ridgeline, down the other side and back again”. Dave was going to win, it was just a question of how far he’d have to run in order to do it.

In the starting corrals we all stood and waited – there were five parkrunners that I knew of; Jeremy and I, Matty, Tim and Abdul. Abdul hadn’t run his half marathon before he’d signed up so he had been placed in the starting corral behind us. Jeremy and I had previously discussed our plan for the race and he suggested that we run together, and Matty and Tim were going to do similar. About 3 minutes before the start I said to Jeremy “No, let’s run separately – let’s see what we can do.” Almost simultaneously Tim said the same to Matty; we’d been speculating in the corrals as to whether the event was going to happen a second time, so I felt it seemed such a waste of an opportunity to truly test out what distance you could manage by running together and one person potentially slowing the other down.

Because the timing of the event meant that Busselton was starting after the sun had set we had all been equipped with complimentary LED Lenser headlamps. In the first kilometre the long snake of runners glowed as we ran. Jeremy and I had chosen our outfits carefully, because we knew that it was going to be quite dark and assuming we got that far we’d be running on Caves Road (which has a 110km/h speed limit) so we both had our high-vis Craft running vests on for extra visibility. Jeremy wore an amazingly bright headlamp that he’d bought earlier in the year over a hat and I wore my LED Lenser headlamp over the Wings for Life supplied buff – the problem with running with headlamps we had been advised was that you can end up with blisters on your forehead, which is not entirely comfortable or the best look.

The plotted route took roughly the same course as the February half marathon that Jeremy and I have run, travelling through the back streets of Busselton from the Jetty, eventually making it the 7km to Alan Street and onto Bussell Highway. Running through the suburban streets there were masses of people cheering; locals, tourists and the previous day’s 70.3 competitors. I think it’s partly because Busselton people embrace endurance sports, partly because of the time of day and partly because of the brilliant and daft concept of the event there was more support and cheering for the Wings for Life than I’ve seen at any running event I’ve ever participated in other than the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival. At the 5km aid station we came across Cathy, Greg, Claudia and Misia cheering on the runners. I found out later that at this point Jeremy had thrown his Craft vest at Greg to take because he was just too hot in it. We had experienced some very gentle rain by this point, but it wasn’t sufficient to get you cold.

While the majority of the pack ran the 1.5km along the shoulder of Bussell Highway vehicle traffic was stopped – I did feel sorry for the Domino’s Pizza driver – but spectator support continued, with clumps here and there where people had come out of hotel accommodation and stood on the corners of streets connecting with Bussell Highway. Once we crossed the massive roundabout to Caves Road vehicle traffic flowed around us while we ran on the wide shoulder of the road, but because there are no street lights along that road and the mass of runners had thinned out significantly, combined with the sparser spectators you found yourself running stretches by yourself in the dark, slowly catching blobs of light in the distance that became people-shaped and occasionally having your shadow appear defined on the road in front of you as someone overtook you.

Earlier in the race I’d been overtaken by Steve Hooker, so I was proud to later overtake him on Caves Road. As you ran along you’d fall into conversation with other people; encouraging them and being encouraged yourself. There were a number of 70.3 competitors who were running with complaining hips, knees and ankles and many were flagging after 10 kilometres – hardly a surprise as they’d put it all on the line the previous day. I later found out that Courtney Atkinson who the day before had had to pull out of the 70.3 race half way through the run leg was leading Wings for Life Busselton at around the 30km mark.

I’d played with a “how far can you run” device on the Wings for Life website and worked out that with my likely pace I could probably managed 15km before the car caught me, and sure enough I managed 14.66km. The first indication I had that the car was near was two support volunteers on mountain bikes who were warning runners of the proximity to the catcher car. When they told me I took off. I would have been around the 14.1km mark when they told me, and if you look at my Garmin file for the run my speed shoots up for about 500 metres. I just sprinted for as long as I could while the volunteer biked alongside encouraging me, but at 14.66km the car pulled alongside. The passengers in the car were cheering and clapping and one called out my distance travelled as I gently jogged up to the 15km aid station.

I scoffed down water and electrolyte drinks at the aid station while the volunteers manning the station were frantically pulling it down to leapfrog the field and set up an aid station down the road for the runners further away. Just as they cleared off the tables I grabbed an energy bar to eat on the shuttle bus back into town, and all the runners at the aid station clambered aboard to cheers of people who had been caught earlier. There were no seats left on the bus so rather than stand the 15km ride back into town I sat down crosslegged in the aisle, grabbed my phone from my spibelt and tried to find out how Jeremy and everyone were managing.

There was the most amazingly long thread on Facebook filled with comments from friends who had been following our progress during the race, and Cathy, Greg and Claudia had been tracking our progress and updated me with text messages. As the runners were caught the website showed our names and the distance run, and there was a live video feed from all the other locations of all the other runners. Bill advised me that I beat most of India and large chunk of Ireland, which I was rather chuffed with. While I was on the bus heading back into town Jeremy was caught at 20.58km.

I got back to Barnard Park and went straight into the marquee tent and picked up my backpack of clothes – the temperature was low enough to warrant the adidas tracksuit I’d packed to wear afterwards – and then I went straight to the food line. The array of food was wide, portions good and the butter chicken was brilliant; even factoring in endorphin supplied flavouring. I scoffed my food while watching the live feed on the screen; there is something quite wonderful about a crowd of people in Busselton, Australia cheering on an exhausted man in Colorado who is just trying to eke out a few more metres before the car catches him.

So: Jeremy managed 20.58km and Matty got 22.07km with Abdul just ahead at 22.58km. Tim thrashed us all with a mullet wig assisted 32.99km, which put him as the 9th male in Australia.  The women’s race at Busselton was taken by Laoise Thuama, an Irish born local, and the men’s race was won by Dave Kennedy who ran 43.89km, finishing just past Wilyabrup. The overall winners were – female – Elise Selvikvag Molvik in Norway who ran 54.79km, and – male – Lemawork Ketema in Austria who ran 78.58km.

One of the best parts of the run was knowing that you were competing with people all around the world, and it was easily checkable on the website as to where people came. For example, Mark Webber managed 28.36km, which isn’t bad considering he apparently intended on 10km.

Happily next year’s World Run has already been announced for May 3rd 2015, and I am crossing my fingers that TriEvents are able to put on a Busselton edition, because if so I will be there. I cannot recommend it more highly – that was the most fun I’ve ever had racing.