The Tarros Ladders stood below and we all politely stood in line. The ladders are literally a couple of extension ladders lashed together with rope, done solely for the race, leading down a vertical cliff face. If anything it’s an excuse to take a break, chat to other runners and take stock of what just happened.”How are you feeling?” “That’s great. What time are you hoping for?” Basically everyone is using everyone else as a time check to see if we are on pace. My time was already a long way behind my ridiculous planned time so I was often quietly saying to myself, “well there goes that plan”.
We had just completed about one-fifth of the total distance. Climbing down the ladders was a time to rest and enjoy the scenery … and avoid stepping on the hands of the person below. At the bottom and back on firm ground my mind started to wander a little and I rarely spoke many words to those around me, in fact if anything I was trying to avoid any small groups where the level of chatting was annoyingly high. I just wanted to quietly wallow in my realisation that this was going to be a long day out and before I knew it checkpoint 2 sat ahead and slightly to the right, bathed in warm sunshine.
I ate pieces of watermelon, craving for its sweetness. I drank water, filled my bottles, still didn’t feel great so I headed off to find out what lay ahead past the grassy track. Hills, that’s what was ahead. The first was Ironpot Mountain. A steep, dry, uninspiring and sometimes scrambling climb. When I first saw it, after the morning I was having, I laughed to myself and said aloud “yeh, yeh, that would be right”.
At the top awaited stereo didgeridoos, one each being played either side of us on a large rock outcrop — a welcome reminder of the traditional owners. Then we promptly and at times due to the steepness, absurdly, descended back down the dusty mountain side. I heard someone mumble something about another climb up the dirt road past the farm house on the right. Well it was a climb alright and at the top on the last bend was an upended wombat, its belly missing and its stench wafting this way and that and in particular, into my dry mouth. I looked at the poor mangled thing and it reminded me of how I felt and I found myself thinking that I’m sure it didn’t plan to be still on the road, upside down, lifeless while strange humans walked and ran past. If it had a plan at all it would surely have been to be sleeping peacefully in its burrow with not a worry in the world. “Shit”, I said to myself, “I’m over-thinking this!”
The day was hotter than expected, I’d drank all my water and the descent down into the third checkpoint felt warm and so was the crowd. Someone yelled out my name and I was still thinking of that poor wombat. I turned to acknowledge the person and tripped nearly falling down until I managed to hold myself upright. I was spent and absolutely willing to finish there and then. I’d had enough. I’d already gone further than a marathon. “Just show me one familiar face and I’ll jump in their car”, I thought. I’d rehearsed my reasons. No need to continue when you’re having a bad day, right? I looked around, I couldn’t see my friends. Oh boy.
I peered into a large tent behind the water barrels and saw some other competitors taking their numbers off. They were pulling out and the look in their eyes told me it wasn’t a fun experience. Suddenly my planned exit didn’t feel like the best thing to do. I quickly drank about five cups of coke, literally one after the other as if it was happy hour, nearly throwing the whole lot up again. I had suffered through a headache for the last two hours and suddenly realised I had missed my morning coffee and I was going through a real ‘first-world problem’ – I was coffee deficient. Bloody hell, the humanity! The coke did the trick and lifted me back up emotionally within minutes and I was left dreaming of freshly ground coffee beans. A grin crept onto my face and I knew it was onwards and upwards, literally, to the next and first real major climb of the day. I’d like to say I ran out of that checkpoint like a champion. But I’ll be honest — I walked out. However, I had a healthy spring in my step, like a small boy off to play with his friends on a particularly sunny day, with a smile, burping the coke in a sort of tune and for the first time feeling almost happy.
To be continued …
Read part 3 here.