Run the Lighthouse – 115km (DNF) 2021 Report

  • Location: Wilson’s Promontory, Victoria, Australia
  • Time: DNF
  • Date: 27/02/21
  • Overall Place: DNF
  • Full Results

My first DNF, this one hurt, it made me question why I run, it shattered my confidence, it made me ask deeper questions about myself and my motivations, it made me want to quit running. I’m not trying to be dramatic here but not finishing this ultramarathon reminded me how mentally unstable I still am, it rocked my boat. I’ve never prided myself on being a fast runner, instead I’ve prided myself on being someone who could push themselves to complete many, and here I was not being able to finish one. I’d set up a challenge, after the Delirious W.E.S.T 200 miler got cancelled I wanted to complete a streak of ultramarathons, first starting with MVP Last Man Standing (Backyard Ultra) followed by Oscars 100 Hut 2 Hut (100km), Run the Lighthouse (115km), Warburton Trail Festival (Multi-Day Madness which included a 50km, 22km & 9km over two days), Duncans 100 (100km), Buffalo Stampede (10km/75km/42km) & Alpine Challenge (100mi). I’d “completed” MVP stopping at 200km which I was disappointed with because I pulled the plug when I had more in me but I was still happy I reached a new distance record of 200km. I was battered after MVP, plagued with injuries and niggles, I was also mentally exhausted so going into Oscars 100 two weeks later was a challenge. Still though even after the snap COVID-19 lockdown which led to the 100km changing to back to back 50kms over two days I managed to scrape through with some hamstring/glute/knee issues. I was exhausted though and mentally drained, this then leads me into Run the Lighthouse (115km). A week after completing Oscars 100 Hut 2 Hut I made my way onto the start line at Wilsons Prom with one other competitor in the 115km. The body was actually feeling ok, not 100% but I’d run a test 10km a couple days beforehand and the hamstring was not perfect but ok, my mind though was not. I’d convinced myself though that this wasn’t gong to be an issue, my mind was my strength and I was going to take the 115km easy and enjoy myself, ignorantly forgetting running anything over 20km is NOT easy.

I’d driven up to Wilson’s Promontory Friday afternoon (a day before the race) with two good friends Cam and Mel so I could complete Trail+’s mandatory gear checks, also because it’s easier to just camp the Friday night instead of driving up super early Saturday morning. Everything was good, it was great to chat to Brett (Trails+ race director) and the whole Trails+ crew at the mandatory gear checks, and it was nice cooking some hamburgers for dinner at the campsite, It was quiet and low-key, it was a good time.

I was woken up Saturday morning AKA race day at 4am to the sound of my buzzing phone alarm. Like normal I got up and ate breakfast, however after eating breakfast instead of getting dressed like I usually would during my pre-race ritual I went back to my tent, got in my sleeping bag and went back to sleep, re-setting my alarm for 6am. I had to be at the check in/start/finish line by 6:30-6:50am. Luckily it was only a short 5 min walk from our campsite (the starting line and finishing line was at Tidal River campgrounds). This was the first sign something was wrong, my discipline and commitment was wavering, I was too exhausted and undisciplined to care. So once the alarm went off again at 6am I started properly getting ready; getting dressed, preparing my pack and gear, brushing my teeth, going to the toilet, etc however since I only had 30-50 minutes left it was a frantic 45 minutes to get to the starting line. I made it though and whilst Brett was doing his race brief I instantly fell back to being too relaxed, I felt dopey, I wasn’t with it, I didn’t feel excited or anxious like usual I just turned myself numb and wanted to get it done and over with. I’d lost respect for the distance, 115km is a long way and should be respected as such, if your not anxious about 115km your either a superhuman or like me you need to be checked. It was a beautiful morning though, perfect weather at the Prom for a run. There wasn’t much of us, 12 in total and thats including the 50km runners as we were all starting together, there was only one other 115km runner, it was a low key event which was nice. 7am hit and we were off, a very casual start and from the start I knew it wasn’t going to be a fun day, my upper hamstring/glute was achy. I’ve had this kind of ache before and it doesn’t get better, it either stays the same or gets worse, I hoped it’d stay the same. Exiting the campgrounds and making my way onto Norman Beach I felt nothing, it was so weird I was enjoying the scenery though, Wilson’s Promontory is such a beautiful place. Being a low key race there was no real pressure, everyone was just there to enjoy the trails and each-others company, as a result from the get go I found myself by myself at the front. Looking back it’s all just one big blur, at first I was running along Norman Beach, then I made my way onto the rocky trail that took me along the headlands leading into Oberon Bay, from there I took the sandy trail taking me to the Telegraph Junction. The whole time I was either taking in the beautiful views of the coast or trying to ignore the increasing pain in my hamstring. By the time I reached the Telegraph Junction I’d run around 11-12km and it was from here when things really went down hill. The pain from the hamstring started to become more than a dull ache and as a result it was starting to affect my running gate as my body compensated for the pain. Then at around the 15km mark as I made my way to Telegraph Saddle via the Telegraph Track I started to fall apart. At first my leg seized up and I had to stop running, I started massaging my hips and glutes and then started running again. Then once I started running again the pain started creeping from my glute, along the hamstring and then around the knee and after a couple more km’s I found not only my hamstring aching and tightening but my knee also. Then I could no longer run downhill and eventually along the flats. This is when the thought first came into my head that maybe this might be my first DNF, I might not make it out of this one. I’m so used to niggles as an ultra runner, they come and go during a race all the time but they’ve never gotten like this. I convinced myself I could still keep going though because I could run uphill. So for the next 3km or so (to the first checkpoint at Telegraph Saddle) I alternated between walking and running. Once at the checkpoint a part of of me knew I should stop and withdraw from the race then and there but I couldn’t accept I wasn’t going to finish. Finishing is what I do, I don’t give up, I’ve never given up with anything before and I can’t start now. Despite those thoughts I couldn’t escape the cold fact that I could no longer run and still had 95km left. If I walked super fast I could still get the finish before the cut-off as we had 24 hours to finish, but I saw no reason to spend a full 24 hours to walk a course I’d already run and complete a distance I’d already completed. Was this weak of me? Was it wise? I wasn’t sure but once I passed the aid station I kinda hoped I wouldn’t have to decide, and the body would just fix itself. Call me an optimist because once leaving the aid station things only got worse until it all came crashing down after 2km from the checkpoint, I was brought to a stop. I couldn’t run at all anymore and had to limp to walk, this is when I started accepting that I wouldn’t be finishing. Still though just in case I gave my dad a call to ask for his opinion, to no real surprise he recommended I turn back and pull out, still though I didn’t want to accept I was about to DNF so I called the race director, Brett. I told Brett I thought it as an IT band issue and he recommended I try get into the hip area and massage the s**t out of it with a stick or ask another runner to get their elbow in there. I couldn’t ask another competitor to stop their race to help me so I grabbed the nearest stick and got stuck into it. It hurt like hell but I kept at it, determined to be able to finish the race, once done I tried running again. For the first 2-3 strides it felt like it may have worked before I was once again stopped in my tracks. The hamstring/glute attachment strained and wouldn’t let me take a full stride and after each stride a shooting pain would radiate down to my knee, and made it feel like the outside knee joint was being pulled apart. “Alright then, thats it I’m done”, I turned around and called Brett to let him know I was pulling out and turning around to head back to the checkpoint. So many thoughts and emotions were going through my head, I’d given up, I’ve always been so judgemental of others who pull out as I could never understand why you couldn’t just finish whether it be a walk, a hobble or a crawl. However here I was giving up, as I said above I could have walked to the finish and got the finish but I didn’t, I wasn’t hungry enough, the me a year ago probably would have walked it but it seems I’ve lost that grunt in me. This made me feel like s**t, I’d taken on ultramarathons to increase my mental strength but after doing 15 of them its as if I’ve lost some. Where does this leave me? I thought to myself, why am I doing this? Who am I if I’m not mentally strong? I think I’m done running…… So many questions and thoughts were racing through my head. I past all the 50km runners and the one other 115km runner, cheering them on as they past in the opposite direction, it felt weird. After 30 minutes I found myself at the checkpoint waiting for a ride back to the campsite/finish/start line. I DNF’d and had never felt so empty handed and disappointed in myself, I was getting cold but didn’t feel I deserved to put a jumper on and be warm, I didn’t deserve to eat either. I really did start to question everything from who I am to who I want to be. Who thought something so unimportant would bring about so much disappointment and would break me like this. I really am weak, what’s wrong with me? I’ve always said I love ultramarathons because of the highs and lows they bring you and with that the learning experiences, but I only say this when I’m on a high its much different looking at it so optimistically when your on a low.

Thank you Brett and to all crew and volunteers at Trails+, despite my own personal disappointments I’m so grateful for how well you guys set up your races. They’re always a lot of fun and its great catching up, such a positive environment. It always amazes me how selfless you guys are for giving up your weekends for us runners. Also a massive congratulation to all participants for all distances whether it be the 6km, 21km, 55km or 115km. In particular a huge congratulations to Jonathon the other 115km competitor, 115km is a long way and getting the finish is an effort and a half, so a huge congratulations to you mate.

2 responses to “Run the Lighthouse – 115km (DNF) 2021 Report”

  1. Thank you for sharing, Tom! We are only humans, and what you described in your race review is completely normal. In similar ways I also have moments when I asked myself why I run. The answer is, for me, to feel happy and excited. Please find the excitement in your next big event, and happiness will naturally follow, 🙏. I believe the body reacts in an unexplainable (superhuman) way when our feelings and thoughts are positive. Keep up the spirit and keep running, mate!


    1. Thank you mate! Appreciate you’d take the time to comment and let me in on your own insight. I also 100% agree that the body can do amazing things when where in that positive mindset! Your a legend mate, thanks!


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