As a runner though, you would normally expect to see a lot if you were to head out for 100km run in any given city you visit. For Andy Heyden and myself, we recently spent close to 8hrs running round and round in circles, in fact in Doha and minus the sights. But why you might ask!
After 5 failed attempts to stage the 27th World 100km championships since early 2012, Doha stepped up and decided to reignite what was rapidly becoming a sorry situation in the ultra running world, one which I didn’t have too much experience or affinity with until now.
Andy and I travelled to Doha alongside Rick Cooke who was once a sub 31min 10km runner, and Brendan Davies who may not have run that quick over 10km but has certainly made himself known in the trail and road ultra fraternity. I was very pleased to have Andy on the trip as he proved to be the necessary conduit connecting my normal running world with that of the ultra runner. It’s not that I felt out of my depth. Just that I tend to carry the mindset of speed over distance despite entering these long events and just listening to how these ultra gurus speak was an experience.
Doha was my first outing as an Aussie representative so it did feel special to receive the uniform, book the ticket and head over to pit myself against a bunch of unknowns from around the globe. I must say, the hotel and accompanying 3 x daily buffets were rather schmick, as was the organisation of the pre-race runs and the formal aspects of the tour.
Race day – Fri 21st Nov. 6pm local time. Temp 25deg and 60-70% humidity, no sunshine. 20 unsighted 5km laps to get through. I’d heard that there were some cobbles and perhaps some slippery pavers but as I stood on the start line, I cleared away all pre conceptions, zeroed my watch and set off.
Both Andy and Brendan are seasoned in this event and as such new exactly what pace they would be comfortable starting at. I figured I would position myself a little off the pace Brendan created and as such settled in for a rough average of 4:10 per km. The course did infact prove to be pretty ordinary. 1.2km worth of cobble stones (not huge deviations between cobbles but enough to notice), 2km worth of pavers (some becoming slippery around drink stops), and the rest normal bitumen. Added to this were 3x180deg u-turns but to be fair, these were widened after the recent 50km staged there and as such were not that much of an impediment.
My first 10km was a little quicker than I was planning, 41:30 but feeling comfortable. In fact I felt great moving through all the laps towards halfway. My marathon split was 2:56, again a bit quicker than the 3hrs I had planned and by 50km I was 3:30 and change and setting up a possible 7hr result. Andy was holding a stable tempo approx 4-5mins back but looking to come chasing in the back half.
Then things turned pear shaped. I hadn’t factored in eating anything solid or substantial before 50km as I thought I wouldn’t start fading until at least 60-70km but sure enough my earlier effort caught up with me and the gels weren’t cutting it to help me out of the hole I was in almost immediately after 50km. I think Andy had finished emptying his guts by then so he was also feeling depleted and off his normal solid form. Rick had pulled out with a sore hip by then but Brendan was firing along and moving through the ranks as others faded.
Between 50-70km I questioned how I would be able to finish, what sort of slow time I’d be posting, how those at home would be seeing this massive and sudden drop off in pace and so on. Not the positive thoughts I needed. I was walking much much more than I ever would allow myself but I had no choice, it was a brutal 20km. The vegemite sandwich I forced down at 50km and some positive words from my team mate Kerrie, helped get me back into the game and by 70km I picked the pace up and forged ahead.
By then having done the numbers, I was still going to have to run consistently to finish in under 8hrs and at least record another qualifier (should I wish to line up for another one of these things). My sub 7:30 and beyond ambitions were gone, my PB of 7:51 looked unobtainable but I was in good spirits and moving better by the lap.
A giant screen at the finish displayed my name, lap and time after each circuit and to see it showing 16,17,18 etc was quite uplifting even if the first dude had already finished, grabbed a feed and left the country in search of a beer. And with the illumination of that wonderful last number 19 came the final lap. I was hurting all over but feeling positive and running okay. I had just run a 23min lap and was suddenly in the mix for a PB so with each stretch, turn, cobble section and so on, I farewelled the course and ran a strong 22min last 5km to complete the event in 7:46 having taken 5mins off my PB.
After noticing that Andy was catching me with 5-6 laps to go, I managed to hold him out after he again started feeling ordinary with a few to go. I was keen to stay on my feet at the finish line and wait for him to cross, which he did several minutes later also going under 8hrs to back up his impressive 7:29 a few months ago in the British championships. And it was a special moment for the two of us HuRTs lads to get through such a tough night after overcoming adversity and showing the resilience that can surface in such challenging races when every other part of you is telling you to get the hell out of there. Well done mate.
Our men’s team came 9th (3 to count) and as we watched the presentation the following day, we saw that we would all need to dip under 7hrs to take out bronze for the teams. So a competitive situation for sure.
My traditional post 100km beer had to wait a few hours as we all went in search of a Doha hotel restaurant that would serve us alcohol whilst accepting that a bowl of fries constituted our desire to dine. Great country to go to for a detox in case you need to (quite a few names are popping into my head here).
The 2015 world 100km was announced at the presentation and will be held in the Netherlands in September. If you feel the urge to qualify and have a crack at this game, just pick an AURA affiliated event, become a member and run under 8hrs anytime from now until next June. Personally I’d like to see the likes of Tom, Barts and Quentin man up and give it a go instead of leaving it all out there with just the one 5km Park run lap. It would also be entertaining listening to Enda and Tim ranting on throughout the race about who ran the fastest 14th lap and who owed who money as a result.
So whilst Brendan backs up and faces off against our own Tucks this coming Sunday in the 240km Coast to Kosciusko (go get him Tucks), Andy & I are choosing the path more suited to the relaxed recovery. Sleep & beers.