30th March 2016
Maidenwell marathon formed part of my cunning masterplan. The Comrades 2016 masterplan. Thwarted at Melbourne in my quest to qualify, (sidelined to the 10km with a hip injury), I needed this avenue to get back on track. And it was such a perfect solution. The race was in Queensland, better still, within driving distance. And camping was an option. And everyone knows – camping keeps costs down – so Grumpster was sure to give me a pat on the back. #HashtagWinning! The fact that I had NO IDEA where the hell Maidenwell was not a problem: the race prides itself on the secrecy of its location with advertises itself under the slogan “where the hell is Maidenwell?” What could possibly go wrong?
Oh yes, that’s right. I could get injured. Again.
So my second marathon entry within 6 months, and my second injury in the same space of time. At least it was a different part of my body, I suppose.
But there’s even more to this theme than meets the eye.
Because on both occasions, I was going to run with Coach Zoey. Who I am now convinced thinks I go around throwing my body at hard or sharp objects, or contorting myself ridiculously, simply to avoid running with her.
So to try and reduce the amount she must now hate me, I thought the least I could do was go to Maidenwell and cheer her on. (And ensure she had somewhere to sleep, as Maidenwell isn’t a-wash with accommodation options, and Zoey’s nest for the night was supposed to be my tent).
Besides, I wanted to find this Maidenwell…
So Easter Saturday, car laden with the tent, sleeping bags and hot cross buns (not much else), we set off. We lasted all of 5 minutes before pit-stopping, but only to pick up coffee. Because, you know, coffee. Important on road trips. And the next thing I knew, we were in Toowoomba. I was definitely paying careful attention to driving, but there was significant chatting along the way and it made the time pass. So we re-caffeinated in town. But not according to the tip we’d been given, because I had, erm, possibly got onto the wrong road and we possibly went the “extra scenic” route to Maidenwell. But all was fine, and it was the only minor diversion of the weekend. It was NOT because I was paying more attention to chatting than the route map!! 😀
Maidenwell is a “blink and you miss it” place. So much so that I saw the sign for the running festival on my right only to find I’d just driven past the campsite and race HQ. OOPS!
We doubled back and, having never been to a small, grassroots event, we wandered nervously round the site feeling a little unsure of ourselves. Where were all the marshals? The signage? The razzmatazz?
And then we found the centre of operations! Pretty obvious really…
So having identified Race HQ, we ventured in to pick up race numbers, or in my case, plead for a race exchange. EVERYTHING about Maidenwell is laid back, so swapping events was not a problem. From marathon to 5km in the strike of a pen!
I hadn’t wanted to worry Zoey (or give her further cause to hate me), but I’d never laid eyes on the tent I’d brought until the previous day. So I had to do my very best impersonation of a camping ninja, attempting to look confident and assured as I fumbled with putting up the tent. I managed to pull off the stunt and luckily the canvas was all correctly assembled just as the rain arrived.
We all hoped it would be short and sharp, but it recognised the company it was keeping, so settled in at a solid, steady pace to go the distance. (Having spent the morning scorching those running the Saturday 57km and 42.2km events). Ah, Melbourne – even Queensland can do changeable weather sometimes…
We planned to eat at the Maidenwell Hotel/pub/community centre (because I’m pretty sure it serves all purposes, except hotel, as I don’t think they have rooms). Zoey was relieved to see that Friday and Saturday were pizza night, as the board brandishing news of Pig on a Spit wasn’t really tempting to a vegetarian. Only, we learned, the hog roast was all that was on offer this particular Saturday. 🙁 And whilst they very kindly raided the freezer to find a couple of vegetable patties, it might have been better if I hadn’t lost the gas bottle connector when I left the cylinders in Whyalla when we moved, and given ourselves the option to self-cater…
So sustained on a few veggies in Zoey’s case and loads of meat and veggies in mine, we trundled back to camp and after a smidgen more chatting, turned in the for the night.
Which was when I started to regret quite the volume of veggies I had eaten.
Let’s just say, it’s fairly uncomfortable sharing a tent with someone who hasn’t got themselves locked into a marriage pact with you when you’ve eaten a hearty dinner of protein and fibrous carbohydrates and they haven’t.
(Besides, I’m too much of a lady for that kind of behaviour)…
The rain continued through the night and drizzled undecidedly into the morning. The marathon runners (several hard core running nutters amongst them – some running 3 marathons in 3 days OR 57km on Saturday and 42.2km on Sunday?) set off at 6am, and the weather looked promising.
Their task was to run 2 circuits of the 21.1km course, including a loop alongside the finishing strait, so they got a shout out from the compere and voice of the Maidenwell Running Festival, Darryl. (Who sounds like he probably commentates horse races and is the town auctioneer as circumstance dictates).
Next out were the 10km runners, followed by the half marathoners and finally those of us running 5km. And it was at this stage that the true beauty of Maidenwell revealed itself. Because alongside the die-hard members of the ultra running community, here were locals and shorter distance specialists and other mere mortals, and everyone was out on parts of the course at the same time, and all were hugely supportive of every other person out there.
The 5km was harder going than I’d expected. Was it the grassy (and muddy) off-road course, the steady hills or just the drop in running fitness due to injury? I couldn’t tell, but it felt much harder than the 5km I’d run the previous week as part of the Twilight Run. And whilst Zoey said the marathon route was stunning in parts, the 5km never really got you to a vantage point with views across the Bunya mountains. (Still way better than trotting alongside busy city roads on a Sunday morning!!) And so, I completed the 5km, running into the finish circuit with Darryl shouting out my name for all the “crowd” to hear. I was presented by one of the little kids with my cowbell (in place of a medal – so much cooler) and waved at by Amanda from River City Runners, who was timekeeping on the day.
My cowbell was a great asset, because it was in my possession when Zoey came in for her first loop AND as she headed back out to start her second loop AND again when she approached the finishing strait. How delighted she must have been to hear the joyous jangling of a cowbell every time she was in earshot!
The rain made it’s mind up about its intentions on the second loop of the marathon and decided on a full blown downpour. I packed up the tent as best I could. I’m pretty sure I provided great amusement for the couple camping next to us, as they sensibly sheltered under their awning, whilst I worked like an ant ferrying things to the car. But it meant that as Zoey finished, I was ready to whisk her off (on the correct route home) and get her as directly as possible to some post-race FOOD.
And whilst it may have rained, the spirit of Maidenwell was never dampened. It was a truly unique and welcoming event, and if you’re looking for a big or a little challenge, or want to be part of something that is a bit different, or you want to get away from it all, or you like quirky, or just need to find a way to fall back in love with running, then why not give Maidenwell a whirl in 2017? You will have an adventure!