• Elliot Cooper

Bush Capital Marathon Festival: Day 1

Updated: May 23

Back in January, when I wrote up my list of goals for 2019, I put down eight races. Not by name, I just decided arbitrarily that I should run eight races in 2019. A couple of weeks ago we were more than halfway through the year and my total number of races for the year was two. That didn’t exactly mean that the plan was in tatters, but as any student of human psychology will tell you: the greatest predictor of future behaviour, is past behaviour.

In late July the race calendar offered an opportunity. Matty G alerted me to the Gunghalin Gallop, which he and I both ran last weekend, and then there was the Bush Capital Marathon a week later. I had initially planned to do the ultra again, but it turned out that would be difficult because there would be no ultra this year. Yet, the Bush Capital is over two days, so why not just do the longest race on each day? This would mean running the 16km event on Saturday 27, and the full marathon on Sunday 28. This way I could rapidly bring my race total for the year to five.

Following last weekend’s race, despite the very bad cramps and so on, I rest zero days. It doesn’t even occur to me to taper for the two upcoming races. On Friday before the 16km race I’m thinking about how I could fit in Parkrun before the race. And that’s what I do.

Before Parkrun I stand around chewing the fat with friends and the volunteers. I tell Russ my game plan is to take it easy at Parkrun and for the 16km: “I’ll just mid-pack this one to save the legs a bit for tomorrow.” I follow the plan at parkrun with a gentle 21:25. With a big turn-out and 7 runners who finish in times under my personal best of 19:19, it’s a good day to not get competitive.

Now at the Bush Capital John Harding is giving his race briefing and I'm I sizing up the competition. The guy in green from the Gunghalin Gallop is there. We’ve chatted and now I know him as Glen. There’s also a guy, Steven, with a big dog, who overtook me at Parkrun a few weeks back. Otherwise there are a few guys with the right build, but they’re wearing running vests filled with bulky-looking gear, so I figure they’re less experienced. Then I turn my head and notice one more runner joining the group. It’s Matthew R., a fella I saw running a 17-minute Parkrun a few weeks back. ‘Ok’ I think, ‘there’s today’s winner’.

Martin - the man with the clock - says “go” and the big dog takes the lead with his Steven in tow. We round the tree at the bottom of the field and as we come up over the rise Matthew R. takes the lead. Once he takes the left into the nature reserve I don’t see him again. The dog and Steven are growing a lead, but I’m not concerned, after all I’m going to “mid-pack” this one. But, I am feeling strong and the pace is not uncomfortable, and after all, this is a course I’ve run eight times in the last two weeks. It all feels totally natural.

At the road crossing Mike l’Pirate is marshalling. He says, “great job”, ‘yeah’, I think ‘I am doing a good job’. On the single track there’s suddenly a clatter from the shooting range: multiple guns firing multiple rounds.

Heading into the back straight I can see Steven and his doggo, they’re moving well but they don’t seem to be drawing away anymore. I start to real them in.

I glance back a couple of times. I can’t see Glen, but I’m sure he’s there. On the way up to the saddle, at about the 9km point, I make my move. By the pinch up to Hackett Ridge, I’ve got a good lead on Steven's dog.

Turning right at the top of Hackett Hill I’m still feeling strong. I’m quick but careful down the rocky descent. Past the reservoir and down the gravel, I’m debating with myself whether to grab a drink at the aid station. I don’t really need it, but I glance behind again and don’t see anyone so I take out my cup and pull in for sports drink. As I do so I look back again and see Glen. Close. I get about three drops of sports drink in my mouth and go. If Glen can catch me that’s great for him, but he’ll have to work for it. Once I’m inside 3km of the finish, there's a moment of doubt. Last week Glen showed himself to be a strong and determined runner. But I keep at it, and at some point I’m able to increase my lead a little. So it’s down the connecting track to the Campbell High grounds, around the tree at the bottom of the field and I’m done.

Bush Cap 16km time: 1:07:58. 2nd place. Tomorrow is the 42.2, so the trophy and finisher's cup go in the backpack, and I jog home to stretch and rest and get on the carbs.


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