by Kati Bell
Originally published in the TMM May 2015 Newsletter.
The Coburg 24 hour Australian National Championship Track race sounds daunting – running around a 400m track for 24 hours…why would anyone want to do this??? Well, it turns out, not many people in Australia want to! With only 60 slots available for walkers and runners, I was able to sign up (no qualifier required!) with only a month to go until the race. In fact, there were still open slots available on race day. With a nice 10am start, we had plenty of time to set up our aid station (they even had extra tables for out of towners to use). We were split into two lanes, lane 1 and lane 3 (the slow lane which of course is the lane I was in – see picture). The day started out sunny and got warm, then the rain settled in. And it rained, and rained and rained – for about eight hours, while the temperature dropped, resulting in many runners succumbing to the cold. I braved it out until about 10pm, when it was clear I was not going to make my goal of 100 miles. I was wet through and getting chilly, so I gathered anything I still had that was dry and headed to the club house. Best decision of my life!!! I stripped off all my wet gear, had a hot cup of tea, a massage (by a legendary masseuse, Michael Gillan, who has worked on many of the great runners, including Yannis Kouris) then meticulously geared up to head back out. I ended up wearing a long sleeve top, with a running jacket over it, followed by a fleece jacket with wind protection, and topped off with my goretex. I blew it by not having a hood, but my core was toasty warm and a beanie was fine for my head. I kept going through the night until about 3am when I could go no more and l crawled into the tent. I pondered why I had waited so long to do this, especially now that it wasn’t raining. I slept in fits and starts and emerged 90 minutes later, ready for coffee, another massage and more running. But I could no longer run – too painful! – but I could walk and at a pretty good clip (about 3.5 miles/hour). I walked and walked and walked my way into fifth place! I completed 86 miles going around and around a 400m track. Give me a trail any day!
Meanwhile, Shane had his own issues and had to dig deeper than I have ever seen him during a race. His rare illness, Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS), attacked him viciously and he was having horrible spasms after 6 hours. I encouraged him to lay down, saying no race is worth wrecking your body. He went into the tent, but could not throw in the towel (this bull headedness is the reason he’s alive today), so kept going, even through the night as I slept. He ended up doing 100 miles, short of his goal, but an amazing effort with all that went wrong for him that day. Shane is truly the toughest man I know and he will be running TRT 100 this year, another race that will test his ability to control SPS. Say “G’day” to him if you see him there.