On Saturday 24 November 2012, 6 months of hard work culminated in my running at the Razorback Run.

Run throughout the gorgeous Victorian High Country, the Razorback Run consists of various distances ranging between 22 and 68 km. The run is fully self-supported, meaning you have to carry your own food, water and mandatory safety gear.

Of course, being slightly crazy, I elected to run the 68k! I should also point out that I have done the 64k and 22k versions over the past 2 years, so had some idea of what I was getting myself into.

A motley crew of more than 60 runners assembled in Harrietville at 6 AM on Saturday to tackle the 38, 58, 64 and 68k events. Another 10-15 22k runners would start later from up near Mt Hotham—around 50 competitors in all.

My first task in this event was to run a mere 11k from Harrietville to Mt Feathertop via the Bungalow Spur. Did I mention this climbs from 500 m above sea level to over 1920 m? Yep, 2 hrs 20 mins later and I was soaking up the glorious vista provided from the top of the still-snow-capped Mt Feathertop. From here, there’s a gentle trot along the Razorback to Diamantina Hut (the start/finish of the 22k event), and then up to the summit of Mt Hotham for more scenic views.

My last time at Mt Hotham involved a set of skis, which would have made for much faster downhill travel times than this weekend. Undeterred by the lack of snow, I headed down to the Mt Loch car park, and followed the trail out to Derrick Hut and down Swindlers Spur to Dibbins Hut. By this time I’d covered 33k in a shade under 6 hours, which was in line with my projected time.

After a short scoot along, you begin the run up Machinery Spur. By this time, the temperature was nudging 20 degrees, which doesn’t sound that hot, but when you’re tucked away in the Alpine Valleys out of the wind, it is pretty unrelenting. I lost a lot of time on this leg, with the climb back up to Mt Loch Car Park taking me 2 and a half hours to cover 10k!

It was at this point that I was feeling pretty low, but fortunately I managed to hook up with some of the 58 and 64k runners on this section, and it is amazing how much better you can run when you have someone suffering alongside you. I ran with a couple for a little while (I think it was Jacqui and Matt, but my memory is a little hazy), but had to leave them at Mt Loch with Matt’s calves spasming away.

You have to dig deep at this point—you look out along the Razorback, realising you still have 23k to go (4-4.5 hours at my pace), and you know you’ve been on your feet for almost 9 hours, so you just have to wonder where you will find the strength. It looks a damn long way I can tell you. You learn a lot about yourself at this point, and I am pleased to say that I elected to push on.

The Razorback Run became more of a Razorback Shuffle at this point (at some stages being further downgraded to a Razorback Walk, as well as a Razorback Bent-Over-Double-With-Hands-On-Knees-Sucking-In-The-Big-Ones). I caught up to Ben Fisk, who had done the 64k with me two years ago, and we travelled together for a while, again feeding off each other until he got his second wind (none to be found for me unfortunately). It continued to be survival of the (un)fittest, but again I just continued putting one foot in front of the other, breaking the run down into stages to keep it manageable.

You would think the run back down Bungalow Spur would be a doddle, but the knees dictate otherwise, and again, you just grit your teeth and persist. The thought of a cold beer was great motivation for me!

I managed to finish relatively strongly in a time of 13 hrs 21 mins 16 seconds. 6% further than 2 years ago, and 13% faster—the equivalent of knocking 2 hours off my time. All that hard work had paid off. I did finish third in the 68k category, however I should qualify that by adding that I also came last, as there were only 3 competitors. But with an event like this, you’re mostly happy just to finish, and it’s interesting to note that I actually ran a faster pace than some people doing the shorter distances. There’s no shame in coming last in this sort of event as far as I’m concerned!

I certainly wasn’t one of the front runners, but everyone involved in that race was feeling it just as bad as I was, and I absolutely love the camaraderie of trail runs, the atmosphere, the competitors, the laid back nature of Paul Ashton’s runs—everything about it felt good (well, except for my legs at the finish). But a few lessons were had:

  1. It’s important to set yourself a challenge and work towards it. For some that might be running 68k in the mountains, for others, achieving your next martial arts belt, completing a fun run, finishing your HSC, getting a promotion or mastering a new skill. When we extend ourselves beyond what we were capable of before, we become better people for it.
  2. It’s not necessarily about the destination, but the journey. One competitor at the race was endeavouring to finish the race for a third time—talk about perseverance! Never ever ever give up.
  3. Surround yourself with supportive people—you will feed off each other and draw strength from one another, too.
  4. The deeper you have to dig within yourself to meet a challenge, the more you will surprise yourself with how strong and amazing you really are.

So many people have to be thanked for this that I will understand if you want to skim over this section, but here goes:

  • Paul Ashton of Running Wild for organising the run, along with all of his support staff and sponsors
  • All of the competitors in the race—you inspire and amaze me, and I enjoy being in your company
  • Carly Johnson of Healthfocus Physiotherapy, who managed to treat the nerve damage I had in the back of my knee 2 weeks out from the race and get me shuffling again
  • Rob, Patrea, Tony and the gang at Crossfit/South East Australian Tae Kwon Do for pushing my fitness to new heights in a fun, group environment
  • All my colleagues at AlburyCity, who constantly questioned my sanity for attempting this event, but never questioned my ability to do it
  • Mountain Designs Albury (especially Jarrod), who helped me purchase the gear I needed
  • The Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation crew, who helped me trim down from 88kg to 77kg in preparation for this event
  • The team at Hammer Nutrition, for their informative publications, sage advice, fantastic customer services and excellent endurance nutrition products
  • Finally, my darling wife and children, none of whom seemed to even bat an eyelid when I would head out the door for a training run with the words “see you in 6 hours” (guess they know Daddy’s a bit crazy!)

Next challenge—who knows…

Cheers,
Steve