Just when you thought running couldn’t get any more fun you line up with some awesome chicks for 64km of relay runphoria – the Bruny Island Ultra.
The weekend started on Friday night as we gathered around the kitchen table in our beachfront Stayz apartment in Adventure Bay. Naomi and Kim had agreed months prior to join the Runphoria crew for our debut team event and as we put paper to pen a plan started to unfold. We weren’t out to win this weekend, instead our plan was to run together and enjoy every moment of this notoriously exciting relay event.
After a bit too much planning and overthinking (to say the bloody least) we decided on running 6km splits in different pairs each time. Add in running the last few kms all together, this would see each of us knocking out about 34km for the day. We were excited and set out to pack the support car with all the necessary items – fruit cake cut into portions, plain potato chips, gels, lollies, water, electrolytes, caffeine tabs, cameras, GoPro, spare clothes, phones…you know, just the essentials.
Saturday morning, race day, dawned cool and relatively clear, and as we all woke and started to get organised, the usual race day nerves and anticipation were apparent in our conversations.
We all had a quick brekky generally centred around various combinations of bananas, toast, or porridge. We snapped a couple of team photos (the first time we had run together in our kit), then piled into the car and made our way to Dennes Point, at the northern end of Bruny, to kick things off.
One of the unique things about this event is you can start whenever you like in 5min waves as long as you reach the lighthouse between 12:30 & 2:30pm. As we drove towards the start line, we started to meet competitors on the road who had already started at an earlier time. Seeing both solo and team runners made the excitement levels creep up that little bit more and we really couldn’t wait to get this underway. About 6k from the start line, we were redirected to a detour that saw us heading in a different direction on a somewhat rocky and seemingly isolated road. Minor panic ensued but after seeking confirmation from our good friend Google Maps to make sure we were at least headed in the right direction, we calmed down again.
At the start line, we checked in, grabbed our relay baton (no. 44 – a good number for Gabby) and caught up with friends who were also corralling for a start. After the usual toilet stops and general mucking around, we finally got it together and waved Naomi and Kim off in the 8am wave. We jumped in the car and started made our way to the 6km mark to prepare for the first relay change.
The changeover points are every 2km throughout the race so team members can run in any given multiples of 2km. It really makes for an interesting and unique experience because you could have teams of 2 doing any number of variations or you may have teams of 16 doing 1,2 or 3 legs each.
After 2 or 3 changeovers we started to see some of the same teams at the meeting points and before long we were exchanging pleasantries and encouraging those who became familiar faces.
Our relay changes went smoothly as we consulted our ‘plan’ and from the outside looking in, we would have looked organised and seamless. From the inside, it was no such story. There was no shortage of hilarious moments during this day. Bec got stuck in the barbed wire fence trying to go bush for the toilet. Gabby, hanging out the sunroof of the car taking photos of Naomi running, almost lost her hat, camera and general composure as she fell back into the car – onto a latte in the back seat all while Bec was desperately trying to drive while in fits of laughter with Kim was sitting in the front seat likely wondering how she ended up in with these crazies. It was a day we won’t forget.
At the half way mark we were in high spirits and the traffic started to thicken. We saw our first solo runners since we started and it was a great feeling to be able to cheer them on and congratulate them for what was a super human effort. The vibe was energetic and one of encouragement. Total strangers were warmly encouraging each other on to the next leg. We reflected afterwards at the presentation ceremony that we can’t remember an event that felt so much like family. A true representation of human strength.
Before long we reached the pointy end of the race – the last 10kms of this race are undulating and challenging. Passing solo runners at this point, we saw real pain on faces and usual, strong gaits reduced to limping and just getting through. Our team was also challenged at this point, but when we felt the fatigue of what we had completed in the last 4 and a half hours, running alongside the solo runners put it all into perspective.
Our plan had been to get to the 62km mark, park the car and run the final 2km together. So when we arrived at the 60km mark we tagged in Gabby to make neat work of kms 60-62 while Naomi, Bec and Kim drove. As Gabby disappeared into the distance, we attempted to pull out into the thick traffic on essentially a single lane gravel road full of support vehicles of all shapes and sizes. But with advice from an enthusiastic bystander that we had a long line of jammed traffic ahead of us, we realised we may not make it to meet Gabby, so made the split decision to leave the car (at 4km to go) and run after her. Unbeknown to us, Gabby had decided to stretch her legs smash those last 2 kms and was hammering ahead at 4 minute kms – so the rest of the team were quite a way behind her!
To make it worse, as the three of us got a little way up the road, the traffic was clear and we realised that listening to whoever that person was (certainly not an official) had not been the best advice we’d taken that day (we’ll put that decision down to brain glucose deficiency…)
As we reached Gabby, she’d been standing at the 62km mark waiting for what seemed like an age, wondering where the hell the team was and what had happened. But within minutes, it was forgotten as we looked ahead and could see, in the distance, that majestic, historic lighthouse on Cape Bruny and realised this was just about done. All four of us fell into step together and started the steady climb towards the finish line – that lighthouse. Crowds of people and vehicles thickened as we neared (yes there was still parking available inside 2kms!) and we heard our names being called out, by friends we knew, as well as cheers from other teams we’d become familiar with during that day alone. As the road ended and we climbed the track and stairs to the lighthouse, there were high fives and big smiles along the route. It certainly helped us get up that incline!
Lighthouse reached, we all leant in and touched the door – the finish line. We handed over our baton, received our medals and turned to each other and hugged. It was such an accomplishment. Kim achieved a distance PB for the day, and we had so much fun, it was 5 hours and 14 minutes that we didn’t even notice went by.
Stuart and Toby (ever present, ever supportive) had cycled during the event, ferrying us coffees and getting our backpack to the finish line with the essentials we’d need there – including our celebratory drink to be enjoyed at the finish line. This turned out to be more valuable than we’d expected as when we went to get a post-race drink of water, we found a deserted car, boot open, paper cups literally strewn everywhere, and no water in sight. The race organisers had run out at the finish line! Luckily Stuart and Toby still had water in their bottles so we all shared a sip before eagerly opening our celebratory drinks and enjoying them together.
Photos, many hugs and congratulations done, we headed back down the hill and started towards the car. Luckily Kim’s husband (who also competed that day in the quickest sporting club team!) went back to retrieve the car from the 60km mark and when he reached us, we piled in, dusty, sweaty and a little tipsy, and giggled our way back to the accommodation to clean up before presentations.
Later, after presentations and Hotel Bruny, the pub at Alonnah, (Bruny Island’s only pub located right on the water with good food and drinks, and a chicken parmigiana that takes up an entire plate!) we caught up with friends and fellow competitors for a drink and to relive all of the moments from that day, leaving with the decision to definitely be back again next year to once again bring Team Runphoria to tackle this unique race. Will we see you there?