Coastal Classic 2018
Updated: Jul 29, 2020
I entered Coastal Classic on a bit of a whim. My running this year has been a bit up and down, and I wanted to do something different. Two weeks before the event, I found out that a friend wasn’t going to run, and asked if she would transfer her entry to me. She said yes, and a few days later, I had an entry! I was excited and a bit nervous about what was to come.
My trail running history includes the Woodford to Glenbook in 2009 or 2010, and Lawson parkrun a few years ago. And that’s it! I had never run the coastal trail (or even been in the Royal National Park), and had no idea what it was like, so I was going in completely blind.
It was definitely different to do something without a big build up. It meant I went in with no expectations, except to enjoy it and maybe learn a few things. On the other hand, it had been months since I’d run close to 30km, though I had been hitting roughly 80km-100km weeks for part of the year. So it was hard to know what my fitness would be like.
The morning of the run, I got on the train with a few friends about 6am. One of the funny moments of the morning was getting off at Otford, and the whole train of runners lining up along the station waiting to tap off at the one opal stand. It wasn’t a huge rush though, as the race couldn’t start until everyone had their bib. The 8.30am start time was eventually pushed back until 9am.
We collected our bibs, dropped off our bags and went for a short warm up and a bathroom stop in the bushes. I got some last-minute tips from friends about how to handle the technical aspects of the run. From what I had been told, the only section that was really technical was a downhill track including stairs and tree roots in the first 5km. After that, it was beaches, a lot of boardwalk, and a sandy track about 3km long to finish the race.
The start was set up for runners to self seed in half hour blocks of estimated finish time. I was told to start in the first 50 or so runners if I wanted to run the technical section at the start, as it got more congested with more walking the further back you started.
One of my goals was to test myself on that type of terrain, so I definitely wanted to run it if I could. We lined up with the people aiming for sub 3 hours, and waited for the start.
Almost immediately, I saw someone I know (Greta) and said hello. The start involved runners going off in pairs at five second intervals. We started together, about 40 seconds after the first runners went off. The race started up a steep hill, and almost straight away everyone was walking. It wasn’t too long until we reached the technical down section.
Having never really done anything like it before, I had no idea how it would go. I think I did alright, it wasn’t too difficult to run, though there were definitely people who were faster than me. I let a few people pass me, including Greta who was a lot better at the technical running than I was. I tried to follow her footsteps, and got through with only one near stack, a pretty good effort I thought.
Soon enough, the path opened up and we were running on boardwalk. I swapped places with Greta, and we chatted a bit as we ran.
The early sections of the race have sort of blurred together and I can’t remember the order everything happened. I remember some single track with grass either side that was growing over the track. I kept thinking I was probably going to stack it on a rock or something because I couldn’t actually see the ground. There was also a section of boardwalk that felt a bit bouncy, which led to the first hill that I walked up since the start.
Another thing I remember was going down a grassy hill towards a beach, and a steep grassy hill coming up from a beach, which I also walked. And there was a set of stairs going down towards a beach, with a beautiful view. At the bottom, we ran along a flat dirt trail which lead to the 10km checkpoint, where I picked up some lollies. Following that was a long stretch along the beach, and by that point, I was definitely feeling fatigue.
The other end of the beach led to another big uphill, most of which was stairs. The top led to a flatter track through the section of the park that was damaged by a bush fire earlier this year. I followed Greta for a few kilometres, and actually felt like I had recovered a bit.
We passed half way, and I remember the heat setting in and the feeling of tiredness starting to dominate again. Somewhere before the next checkpoint I dropped behind Greta when I walked to have some gel. Running through 16km, I stopped to refill my water and tried to convince myself that I had more left.
The next section was a lot of boardwalk that was flat enough to run. I was boosted by passing a couple of people and being able to get into a bit of a rhythm. Before long though, we hit another beach, which also meant a hill following it, and soon enough I was walking again.
Around this point, I caught another friend, and told him that I was pretty spent. We had passed 20km, and I was really dreading the sandy section in the last portion of the run.
The next few kilometres were the hardest of the race for me. I was mentally tired, and the terrain was switching from boardwalk to sandstone rocks. It meant I had to stay really focused, which was tough because I was so tired. I caught Greta a couple of times, and then dropped back again.
When we got the last checkpoint at about 27km, I was so ready for it to be over. I knew I wasn’t far behind Greta, and though I couldn’t see any other women behind me, I had no idea where they were.
I started on the sand, and found that it actually wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. It led to one more beach, which was really windy. I slowly caught Greta again, and again, the beach was followed by a hill, this time onto the road.
I’d pretty much had enough, and walked up it. Behind me, a friend who had come to watch the end was yelling at me to keep going because I was third. I asked if she could see the next girl, and she said yes. It turned out later she misheard, but it spurred me on anyway. I started to run up the hill, hoping I was about to see the finish ahead of me.
I got there eventually, crossing the line in third place. I was quite lucky in the end, because it turned out I only had about 10 seconds on the fourth place girl based on chip time.
I’ve had a few people ask me if I enjoyed it, to be honest I’m not 100% sure! I did for the first probably 8-10km, then I just found it really hard. That was probably to be expected, since I hadn’t been training for it specifically. It was great to have Greta to run with though, she ran so well and definitely kept me going. And I was super excited to get on the podium.
Would I do it again? That remains to be seen!