• Elliot Cooper

Grindfest, or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the dig.

I don’t know what’s wrong with Matty G, but he’s got this idea that running up and down on a boring strip of asphalt for hours and hours is a reasonable thing to do. The thing that has kept me running over the years is the fact that it’s a form of transport into (and safely out of) places i want to go; places that are beautiful and natural and away from cars. But Matty G has devised a course that is entirely artificial, dull (the highlight being the street-facing facade of his own house), and - for the most part - parallel to a busy road. Just. Evil.

This is the course he ran on for 24 hours back in April. Now he’s managed to organize 9 other runners (yes, including me) dumb enough to try it for 6 hours. They are the founding members of a new team called ULTRA Mediocre - Runners of Canberra: UMRoC. These are their stories.

Nick “Water Boy” Hamilton

Nick was disqualified because too lazy to even come to the event. Instead he decided to run a 1.7km circuit starting at his home in Tokyo. He also ran out of kilter to the rest of us, starting at 4:30am to avoid the heat. Now you might be thinking he’s soft for making this choice and indeed this is why he was double disqualified. On the other hand, I've lived several summers in Tokyo and I can sympathize. That whole heat island thing effect puts summertime Tokyo somewhere between the 8th and 9th circles of hell. If he had been hard enough to start on time and run 60+km I think of there would be a strong argument to declare him the overall winner.

In his words:

Like most runners out there, this has been a trying time for me seeing race after race being cancelled. So, when Matty and Elliot made the Grindfest 6 Hour "official" it was like Christmas had come early. Of course, that meant I'd be running alone for 6 hours in the Tokyo heat. No matter, the hope and joy the idea of Grindfest brought compelled me to immediately throw down the gauntlet.

Weeks later, 6/6 was finally here and I was raring to go. 70km's, here I come! I woke up bright and early for a 4:30 AM start. Had my little table set up next to the road in my Tokyo neighborhood. It must have looked bizarre to all the Japanese out for an early morning weekend stroll. 4:30am arrived and off I went on the 1.7km loop weaving in and out of busy residential streets. After the first lap, it was obvious I'd underestimated the heat and humidity. It was not even 5am and already 23 degrees at 65% humidity. Time to downshift and try to acclimate.

At 6:30 AM, I was feeling comfortable with the pace and got a nice surprise when my 4 year old was lacing his shoes up to join me for a lap. That huge boost only got me so far, and by halfway the humidity was really starting to take its toll. 3 hours in, and only 32Km's completed. Time for plan C. By hour 4, I was in the pain cave bad, feet slogging along step by step. At this point the kids had Garigairikun icy poles waiting for me every 30 mins. I'll remember those cold, sweet, luscious treats for the rest of my life.

At 4.5 hours in, the real event was starting in Matt's back yard. Knowing they still had 6 hours left, while I only had 1.5 left, strangely made me happy. Sorry guys! A bit more slogging and strange glares from strangers, and finally my 6 hours and 60.7km's was up. I was probably the hottest guy I've ever been as I lay in the garage for an hour. Despite not reaching my goal, it was an utterly fantastic morning: like learning the ultra-running code all over again. I can't wait for the next one, hopefully in the flesh! Thanks Matty and Elliot for the inspiration and friendship!

Allicia “Good Sport” Heron.

I met Allicia last year, about half way through the Sri Chinmoy 100km. Both of us were suffering hard. It was her first 100km, I had gone out too fast and blown my quads and adductors. There was some yo-yoing, and at about 80km we started running together. It was a great ultra-running moment as we pushed on to the finish line. Allicia is a powerful runner, and not only did she crush this 6 hour effort, she’s one of maybe two participants not to be disqualified (successful finishes remain under investigation).

In her words:

It was touted to be a devilish 6-6-6 run… and it proved to be just that! The “Grindfest” would be a 1.75km loop on bike path in the leafy ACT suburb of Torrens. 'I’ve run for longer on hilly trails and this is flat and on a path, it will be a walk in the park' I thought. Oh how wrong I was!

Being the only female participant, I wanted to prove I was worthy of my invitation to this event! I went out fast (maybe a little too fast) but I didn’t want to be lapped by Matt “Goes Boom” Robbie too early on in the piece. I beat my 10k, 20k, half marathon and 30k PBs. But that didn't make the end come any nearer. The only option was to slow down, so I could actually finish the 6 hours of loops!

The third hour was, if I can say it – nice.. keeping myself occupied by counting how many times I could pass someone going the other way, keeping a tally of how many different coloured cars drove past (silver won that) and of course, stopping for the occasional snack! The final two hours though were a different story. They were hard. They were very hard. I was hurting from going out so fast. I allowed myself to walk from the aid station through the alley way, and only forced myself to run once I was on the path. Doing this saw my pace drop dramatically so I knew I needed to do something to pull myself out of my hell and push on. I just had nothing left in the tank! Despite the exhaustion and the niggles, I continued on – mental toughness is a wonderful thing! Watching Matt “Cheezburglar” Griggs get faster and stronger every lap was definitely an inspiration!

I ended the race with my youngest daughter running beside me for the final lap. As the 6th invite for this event, I’d made my goal 66km, however didn’t quite get there. Next year I will be remembering that old story – the Hare and the Tortoise, and we will see how far I can get! Bring on Grindfest 2021!

Matt “Goes Boom” Robbie.

Matt Robbie is everywhere. You might have recently seen him being touted as ambassador for Elevate Running. I’m not sure if that disqualifies him from being a member of ULTRA Mediocre, but I’m pretty sure him being a member of a team called ULTRA Mediocre might make the folks over at Elevate Running reconsider their position. So let’s keep that one quiet, at least until UM has a policy vote. So forth. It’s unfortunate that Matt was disqualified before the race started for missing the race briefing, cos' he ran like a fuckin' demon.

In words, memes and emojis:

After the race

And so it was. Or, so something was. What was was that mediocre ultrarunners of team ULTRA Medirocre produced some of the best 6hr efforts that will be produced this year anywhere. Disqualified, ill-equipped, unelite, inexpert or neigh, we got out there and did it. It was our 6 hours on the 6th day of the 6th month of the most hellish year since the Fukushima nuclear meltdown and the bubonic plague happened that one year. In the same year. Fuckin' Beezulbub. Did it stop us? Hell no.

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