The Comeback: Beaches Unsupported Marathon Series (BUMS)

“My legs felt strong, my lungs felt clear, and as I looked around to take in the stunning water views I started to wonder if I’d missed one of the chalk arrows keeping me on course.  I looked ahead to try and spot Jane and the crew who I’d been running with earlier, but they were nowhere to be seen.”
Mental Note: Don’t forget to keep an eye out for chalk markings on the road or you’re going to get lost Hailey.

A couple of weeks ago I ran my first marathon in over 2 years. Why so long between races? In late 2016 I tore my plantar fasciia in my left foot. Initially it was diagnosed as Plantar Fasciitis which is treatable, so I’d kept running on my foot thinking it would get better. After starting the 2016 Coast2Kosci Ultra Marathon I got to 110km before the race organisers pulled me aside and made the tough decision to cut me from the race. They knew my pace had slowed during the day and it was certain that I wasn’t going to make the next checkpoint in time for the cut-off. They didn’t want to see me struggle through the night only to miss out, and I’ll be forever grateful they stopped me when they did or my injury could have been made a lot worse. After the race I took a break from running for almost 2 months and when I finally took myself out for a run I had instant pain. After an MRI and several doctor visits I was put into a cam boot for 5 1/2 months and since then I have had a long, steady recovery, ensuring that I don’t cause any further damage and pain. To say it’s been difficult is an understatement, but there are worse things in life and I’m lucky to have some wonderful, supportive people around me.

When the boot finally came off in June 2017, I made a conscious decision to not sign up for any races until I knew I was well and truly recovered. This meant there was no pressure on me to run a certain amount of time or km’s each week leading up to an event. I did have several bouts of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) over the months, especially after 2 European trips in mid 2017 to crew at races (Andorra Ultra Trail and Tor des Geants). During rehab an old knee injury flared up and I decided to take up mountain bike riding as cross training to lessen the impact on my joints.  I joined the Helensburgh Off Road Cycle Club (HORCC) and really loved seeing the trails from another perspective. I also used a wind-trainer with Zwift at home during the winter months to help keep up my fitness, and I found these sessions quite fun.

After getting a late entry into the UTA22 event in May 2018, I planned to use this as my ‘come-back race’ to get the ball rolling again. However the universe had other plans, and the night before the race I came down with a temperature and illness which had me bed-ridden. But all was not lost. In October 2017 a friend got in touch about a multi-day running trip she was planning for late 2018 and I had jumped at the chance. I knew I wasn’t ready for that kind of distance when I accepted the invite, but I had plenty of time to get myself fit and ready.

I kept riding and running, and in early 2018 I decided it was time to call in the experts. I contacted my coach Andy at Mile27 and he set about getting me back on track and accountable with my training. Finally in June 2018 I for to run my ‘come-back’ race at the Kendall Mountain Run in Silverton, Colorado. It was amazing and you can read about it here.

With all the hiking and running that I managed to do in Colorado, I thought it was time to do a marathon. It would be a good test of my fitness and recovery leading into the multi-day trip coming up in late September, so I did it, I signed up for the BUMS marathon being held on 1 September and I had a blast.

I was one of 15 runners who met outside the Bavarian Bier Cafe in Manly on a beautiful winters day. We each made last minute trips to the bathroom and then I caught up with some running friends who I had not seen for a while. At 7.00am (on the dot) Jane signalled for us to start and we headed south along the harbour towards the trails. Brick & Dave were up front and in charge of ‘chalking’ the course, they would draw arrows onto the road/pavements at the intersections where we needed to turn. Danny Spencer was just behind them and then there was Jane, Peter, Ben and myself. My plan was to stay with Jane and Peter for as long as I could. My coach had told me to run 25mins then walk 5mins, which I’ll admit that I did not stick to. But I knew there would be some walking involved as there was quite a lot of trail and stairs on many sections of the course.

It was a beautiful day to be running next to the harbour and this course followed Sydney Harbour all the way to Watsons Bay. I had presumed it was mostly road, but it turns out the course was mostly trail with only a few sections of road. I love trail so this was great for me, but I had worn road shoes so was a little more cautious with any technical sections that we encountered.

Catching up with Jane and Peter, and hearing about their recent Oxfam run was fantastic. Ben was great company too, having never met him before we spent time talking about past races and what we were both training for.

We caught up to our friend Greg just before the Kirribilli Pub, he had started an hour earlier than us because he knew his pace would be slow and he didn’t want to hold everybody up. Plus it meant he could have celebratory drinks with us at the finish line. We downed a traditional quick beer (well… I had a coke) and we headed out the pub door and towards the Harbour Bridge.

The bridge was full of tourists and we walked a lot of it because it was too hard to try and run through the crowds. Once across we headed down towards The Rocks, thorough the markets, past the Opera House and through the Centennial Park.

We hit a few streets after this section and I started to do some walking like my coach had said because it was much flatter for the last half of the course. My legs felt strong, my lungs felt clear, and as I looked around to take in the stunning water views I started to wonder if I’d missed one of the chalk arrows keeping me on course.  I looked ahead to try and spot Jane and the crew who I’d been running with earlier, but they were nowhere to be seen.

I kept running and eventually I caught up to Jane, Peter and Ben again. This happened a few times, I’d stop to walk and then when I started to run I would catch up to them again. However about 3kms from the finish I really started to slow. My muscles were tightening up quite a lot and I decided not to push it and drop back to take it easy.

I couldn’t believe how lucky we were with the weather. It had poured with rain the day before the race, so much so that I had packed my light-weight wet weather gear in case of rain but ended up ditching it into the car before the start. Roger had kindly offered to get up early and drive me to the start in Manly, a very early morning for him (especially for a weekend) and I was very grateful. I had been texting him throughout the morning so he could check on my progress, as he was also my back-up plan if the body wasn’t co-operating and I needed to cut the run short. But that wasn’t going to happen, I felt great.

Eventually I hit Watsons Bay and made my way to the finish outside Watsons Bay Hotel where our mates were waiting patiently for everybody to finish. They cheered me in and we headed to the bar for some celebratory food and drinks. It had taken 5 hours and 48 minutes, and the best part was how good I felt. I wasn’t fast, but I had achieved my goal to run a marathon and finish in one piece. And getting to run it with such good mates was a bonus. Life is good.

I may have dozed off in the car on the way home too, ha ha

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