Brimbank Park Running Festival – 50km 2020 Report

Brimbank Running Festival Start/Finish Line @ Brimbank Park
  • Location: Brimbank Park, Victoria, Australia
  • Time: 03:55:25
  • Overall Place: 3/25
  • Full Results

It’s been a crazy couple weeks with the coronavirus, a rapid escalation. Just two weeks ago I was at the Warburton Trail Festival talking about the potential of future races maybe being affected by the virus, at that time we had no idea how severe it was really going to get. Since then it’s been a rapid descent into craziness. Most of if not all ultramarathons and/or trail runs have been either postponed or cancelled. It’s disappointing but on a more important note people from all around the globe are getting sick, significant amount of those people are dying, others are losing jobs (myself included), countries are going into recession and extreme and strict but necessary social distancing rules and regulations are being enforced. Amongst all this craziness and right before rules and regulations got even stricter Trails+ with caution, somehow managed to put on The Brimbank Park Running Festival. Without a doubt it’ll be the last running event for a long time.

Major changes and precautions were put into place for the health and safety of participants, volunteers, the public and staff. Social distancing was enforced, some aid stations where removed and the ones that remained had strict rules and regulations (volunteers with gloves had to hand out food and drinks), place getters received awards individually, no high fives or any physical contact was to be made, race times were changed to avoid crowding, restrictions on entrants and spectators where put into place to avoid crowding and no merchandise was sold. It fundamentally changed the whole atmosphere of the day. With that being said Brett (Trails+ owner & race director) did an amazing job of making it an entertaining day for runners, it allowed us for a brief period to forget about the coronavirus. Brett deserves a lot of credit for pulling off such an event in these circumstances, whilst implementing strict social distancing rules. So thank you and well done Brett, Trails+ and all volunteers!

As the title suggests I entered the 50km distance making it my second 50km in two weeks and my 8th ultramarathon in 7 months. I was disappointed in myself after the Warburton Trail Festival because I knew I could’ve pushed harder. Unrelated to that my depression had also worsened, haunting me like a ghost for the past 3-4 weeks. As a result my mental state going in to the Brimbank Park 50km was a bit all over the place. However with all that being said my primary emotion going in was anger, anger at myself for knowing I could’ve pushed harder at the Warburton Trail Festival and anger at my selfishness as I was once again thinking too much about myself, which allowed my thoughts to lead me down the dark path of depression. The good thing about anger though is it can be used as fuel, especially with the right mindset (giving yourself a chip on your shoulder). I planned on using this for the Brimbank Park 50km.

It was a somewhat cloudy morning, overcast and cool with the odd rain shower here and there, great running conditions. The 50km was the second event of the day with a start of 7:30am, 30 minutes after the 42km. The race start times were designed to reduce crowding and promote social distancing, to Trails+’s credit their schedule seemed to work very well. The start/finish line never had more than approx. 50 people (at least while I was there) and there was plenty of room to have your own space. Instead of a gun start we were using a time chip start method (time starts for each individual as they cross the start/finish line rather than everyones timing chips starting at the same time with the word go), this was another method Trails+ used to reduce crowding. It definitely changed the atmosphere because no one was pushing to get to the front. Instead it was much more relaxed and spread apart start which I actually preferred, it helped reduce the race nerves. I decided I was going to try something different with this ultramarathon, instead of purposely slowing myself down to prevent bonking I was going to go at my 10-20km training run pace (around 4:15 per/km) and see how long I could keep that pace for. And GO! Just like that the race started, I felt good, I had my earphones plugged in and was listening to my running playlist, music by Hopsin, Dax and NF (If you haven’t heard of these artists check them out, because if you haven’t your missing out). This in conjunction with the anger I mentioned above was pumping me up.

I took off in first position, this stunned me I’m so used to hanging back not wanting to get in the way of the fast runners, being out in front made me anxious. I led the first 5km however the whole time there was another runner right behind me, I could tell he was using me to pace himself, he was going to take off sometime soon. The 50km course pretty much consisted of 3 out and back loops which started and finished at the start/finish line, the first loop was around 5km, the second loop was around 10-15km and the last loop was around 30km. By the end of the first 5km loop the runner behind me starting running next to me, we were now neck and neck, looking back no one else could be seen. It was a good start and I was feeling good however the other runner was starting to distract me. How long is he going to run with me for? I wanted him to either slow down or speed up so I could be alone, instead though I started talking to him. He’s named turned out to be Mathew and he was good bloke. Turns out Mathew had won the 56km Two Bays Train Run back in January (he was a whole hour faster than me, I came 28th), he also had a marathon PB of 2 hours 20 something minutes. Why was he hanging back with my slow a** then? Who knows I didn’t care, it was nice to have someone to push me and run with for a while. We kept a good pace running together for a good hour, however we must’ve starting lacking concentration because we took a wrong turn. As we were running I starting thinking this is weird why are we running along the streets? Why is there no marshals at the road crossing? Why have’t we seen a sign or ribbon for a while? We kept running but eventually decided this wasn’t right and accepted we must’ve made a wrong turn. We turned around frustrated. Picking up the speed we ran back the way we came, after about 1km we found the last sign we ran past. Omg I thought all we had to do was run straight and NOT make a turn. It was clearly marked we just f**ked up, at least now it was back on. We ran together for another 500m before Mathew turned to me and said “Hope you don’t mind but I’m gonna pick up the pace”, alright I thought here he goes. I tried to keep up with him and managed for about 10 seconds before we got to some stairs and off he went. Oh well I thought, earphones back in, I’ve got some work to do. At this point of race we’d caught up to some of the 42km runners, I asked how many 50km runners were ahead of me, 4, there was 4 runners ahead of me. I could still place I thought to myself, imagine if I could place after running an extra 2km, that would be special. So I pushed.

The trail thus far had been a mixture of gravel and concrete paths, most of the time we were surrounded by gum trees and native grasslands, much of the trail ran alongside the Maribyrnong River however at times we ran alongside the road or a park. It really was an urban trail. I liked it, no 5km was the same which helps pass the time. Anyway after approximately 5km since taking the long turn I’d passed one 50km runner and got myself in 4th place. I continued to push, at around the 18km mark I completed the second loop. I was still feeling good and the music pumping through my earphones and the thought of placing after taking a wrong turned motivated me.

Coming into the last 30km loop I knew I’d have to continue to push hard if I wanted to place. I was averaging a 4:30 per/km pace and continued to wonder how long I could keep that pace before I ran out of gas. As I ran alongside the Maribyrnong River and passed the halfway point I started feeling a little tired, I was pushing hard and started worrying that I would bonk. Surely the others (besides Mathew) couldn’t be running this hard, it’s unsustainable, I must be catching up. 5km passed and then another 5km passed, I’d ran 30km but still no 50km runners in sight. I also made the decision I wasn’t going to stop at aid stations in this race due to having to wait to get served, this was especially relevant now because I didn’t want to waste any time. I ran straight past the two aid stations between the 20km and 30km mark. The last aid station was the turn around point for the 42km runners however we the 50km runners had to keep going. When I passed this aid station I finally saw another 50km runner, he was about 200m in front of me, f**k yeah I thought. This is mean but I knew I had to demoralise this guy because once I passed him I didn’t want to see him again. So I kept the pace I was running, conserved some energy and gradually got closer, once I got about 20m away I put the pedal down whilst trying to look as relaxed as possible. I went back down to a 4:15 min/km pace and ran straight passed him. Once I passed him he stopped running and started walking, it worked, I didn’t think it’d work like that, I actually felt bad, he must’ve been really hurting. It is a race though so I put the guilt out of my mind and continued pushing. This is when I started hurting. The last couple km’s before turning around were probably the hardest km’s of the whole course, it’s quite hilly, nothing crazy but when your 30-35km into a running race where you’ve been working pretty hard, you feel it. This is when I saw what I believed to be second place, he wasn’t too far in front of me, also at the same time I saw Mathew. He had already made it to the turn around point and was on his way back, I hadn’t seen any other 50km runners making the return so this meant he must be winning. Wow I thought, he’s fast, as he passed me he encouraged me and said your gonna catch him. I was going to come second if I could keep this pace. But then about 4 mins later I was passed by another 50km runner from the opposite direction. Hold up I thought, that means I’m coming fourth and the other guy I can see in front of me is coming third. F**k I haven’t placed yet, I’ve got to keep pushing.

I made it to the turn around point feeling pretty exhausted, alright I thought to myself I need to get some food into me. I grabbed a choc chip oat bar from my pocket and shoved it into my mouth, the thought of eating made me feel sick even though I felt tired and hungry. I managed to get it down though and almost instantly felt better, then before I knew it third place was properly in site, I was gonna catch him. Once again I tried to pick up the pace and passed him. This guy was relaxed and congratulated me as I passed, what a good bloke I thought “good work mate, your smashing it” I responded, this guy was super nice and once again I felt bad for passing someone. I had to remind myself, it’s a race. Ok I thought at least I can relax a little bit now, I’m definitely in third place and second place was probably to far in front to catch, so lets just hold third spot because I’m hurting. But then a little voice spoke in my head “no, f**k it your not relaxing now, I’m not going to be disappointed at myself for not trying my hardest again”. It’d be better coming 4th knowing I tried my hardest than coming 3rd and knowing I had a little bit left in the tank. All right lets try and get second place I thought to myself.

I was on the return and felt better after getting down that oat bar, I was sore and tired but wasn’t bonking. Eventually I got to the aid station where the 42km runners turned around, I made my only stop for the whole race here. I grabbed out my cup and asked for some coke, poured some electrolytes, quickly downed them, thanked the volunteers and ran off. 40km, 45km I was getting close, second place was no where to be seen but I remained optimistic, it helped me to keep pushing hard. 47km, 48km, 49km ok I thought I’m not going to come second but I have a chance of subbing 4 hours! I double checked my watch, no way I was capable of subbing 4 hours. I thought before the race that I was being optimistic hoping to sub 4 hours and 30 minutes and would’ve been happy just subbing 5 hours, now I’m going to sub 4 hours! I seriously wondered if my watch had stuffed up, I genuinely didn’t believe I had the capability to ever sub 4 hours for 50km. But I kept pushing and before I knew it I’d finished. I never caught second place but managed to come third with a time of 03:55:25.

Once again thank you Brett, Trails+ and all the volunteers for making another great event possible, especially during these difficult times. I also want to add and re-affirm that at the time of the event Trails+ and everyone who participated did not breach any Coronavirus implemented laws. Trails+ went above and behind to ensure social distancing was implemented and everyone who I saw followed and respected these rules accordingly. I do want to add I without thinking, due to aid station habits grabbed a jug of electrolyte mix and poured myself a cup to which I was reminded of the rules. This was the only time I saw any of the Coronavirus rules broken.

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