Beach to Brother Marathon was planned as one of my goal races for this year. My training for this race was good for this race, and I felt ready when I lined up on the start line. I had made a decision almost 12 months ago to run this race in my Gladsoles Trail sandals, when I was feeling unmotivated to run last year I changed back to running in sandals and found an enjoyment to running that I was struggling to find. Since then I’d estimate 80% of my running is in sandals and I felt confident running this race with them.
A week before the race it was evident that Sunday was going to be a hot day, the weather report had predicted 32C/89F and this was going to be unseasonably hot for September in this area. I was concerned by this as all my training for this race had been done in early morning and cool conditions, it had been 6 months since I had done a hot run.
Race morning arrived and the weather was already warm, race began at 7am from Town Beach, Port Macquarie, my goal was to run the first section of coastline to Lighthouse beach conservatively as this is quite hilly. After five minutes of running I found myself in the lead of the race, this a section of terrain I train regularly and I ran this section at my own pace, walked two of the steeper hill sections. I hadn’t planned to be in the lead of the race but I felt very comfortable with how I was running so I continued to run my own race.
The next section of the race is a beach section from Lighthouse Beach to Lake Cathie to the south, once I started running this beach it was hot. There was a light wind behind but the exposed sunlight made it very hot. I decided to run within myself here and conserve as much energy as possible. There is a soft sand section as you detour off the beach which was tough going before getting back onto the beach. Coffee rock just before Lake Cathie was also a challenging section as the tide was rising. On this beach I was overtaken by the eventual race winner and arrived at half way at Lake Cathie in second place and feeling good.
From Lake Cathie to Bonny Hills along the beach the tide had risen and the soft sand and exposed rocks to run over made for tougher then expected conditions. The heat was really on now making running difficult, I was doing my best to keep hydrated and keep conserving energy. At Bonny Hills surf club I exited the beach, fatigue and pain in my legs had started to set in now. I was told at the aid station the leader had 3 min 50 sec on me now, I wasn’t confident of catching at this stage.
This section includes quite a technical trail around Grants Headland and a nice fire trail before the aid station with 10km to go. Once off Grants Headland I was aware that heat stress was starting to be a factor and my legs were beginning to cramp. On this firetrail I was passed by another runner a local runner Luke and we ran to the aid station at North Haven together. There was a large crowd there waiting for the 10km start and I got some good support from some friends there.
Section from North Have to the base of North Brother mountain is mainly pathways and flat. This section normally would be a comfortable part of the course but my legs were starting to cramp badly along here. I made the decision to walk to stretch my legs and then continue running. This was successful for a while however after 3km of this strategy almost every step my legs cramped when running, walking was difficult. I made the decision to walk till I felt I could run. During this period I was passed by another three runners including friends Cliff and later John. I seriously consider dropping out with 5km to go but couldn’t do it, i needed to finish this one. All in all I walked about 3 km before the base of the mountain and only then i decided to run some of the down hill sections before the hill actually begins.
By the time I hit the North Brother mountain track I was starting to feel better, my walking was quite strong as I began the climb. I passed a number of people in the other distance events on the climb and caught back up with John who had dropped me earlier and we finished together. 2.5km to the top of the mountain was very tough, after 40km of tough coastline the hill at times felt impossible to walk. After 4 hour and 40 min I got to the top of the mountain and finished this tough event.
Overall I am disappointed that I didn’t have the race I wanted and things go to plan but marathon running isn’t easy and I’m happy I came through and got to the end. The maximum temperature for the day was 39C/102F, hotter than anyone expected and way too hot to run a marathon on this course. The Gladsoles sandals were excellent throughout the race, great on the hard sand and trails. The only issue I faced by running in sandals was after wet feet go through soft sand the sand can build up on the sole of the sandal and this took some time to run off.
I underestimated some of the terrain for this race, in particular the amount of soft sand running and how exiting beaches on soft sand repeatedly saps your legs. The terrain I am familiar with and the most of I expected, I had expected the hill to be a brutal finish to the race and it lived up to expectation.
Beach to Brother Marathon is great event which is sure to grow in coming years. It’s well a organised event and the camaraderie and support on course is excellent. It’s a tough course, on some of the most spectacular coastline in Australia. Already looking forward to next years race – Might do the half marathon though.