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  Paul's rapport fra Australian Outback Marathon Tirsdag, 29.07.14

Australian Outback Marathon - Uluru, Yulara - Northern Territory - 26 July 2014
Phew, metaphorically and literally, is the only way to describe the Australian Outback Marathon. Phew, about the scenery and area; stunningly beautiful desert scenery from horizon to horizon, and there is a lot of horizon in Uluru, stunning sunrises and sunsets, incredible flora and temperatures to take your breath away. Phew, also about the race, the toughest I have embarked upon and a real struggle to keep mind and body intact for all grueling 42.195 Km of it. And oh, the Rock and the Olga’s, just amazing. It was freeing cold (I estimate 5 deg C) as we headed out in the bus to the start / finish area, a few Kms from Yulara. At the start area a light breeze created a considerable wind chill factor so we left our warm clothes on until the last minute. Unfortunately, but somewhat predictably, the marathoners were lumped in with the halfwits, I mean half marathoners at the start so the first few Kms was a jostle on the uneven track. We started just as the sun was rising but the only view I got of it was from the toilet queue; only 6 portaloos for the entire 100+ field; not enough Mari. Brian kept up a barrage of mindless jabber and bonhomie while we lined up, and then we were off. The track, oh the track, was mixed compacted corrugated dirt, soft sand and ankle sucking, paralyzing sand, only a little short of quicksand. Much energy was wasted scanning the tack for likely firm spots but mostly each step forward resulted in 5 cm backward, especially up the sand dunes, which were totally unrunable. There was, joy of joys, about 1 Km of bitumen scattered throughout the course, which vaguely circumnavigated Yulara. The reports of pristine desert were true, but the organizers failed to mention the sweeping views of and smells from the sewerage works, the power station and the debris on the road to the rubbish dump. Otherwise it was amazingly scenic. Although Ayers Rock and the Olgas were more than 10 Km, they appeared huge as we ran towards them when the track turned south. However, and there’s always a ‘however’, the uniqueness of the run did not register with my cardio-vascular or respiratory systems and after 3 Km I started to gasp and slow down. By 5 Km I was in ‘survival mode’, running / walking as demanded by my breathing rate. I quickly dropped from 6 to 9 min / Km and even later teetered on 10 min / Km through the deeper, sandy parts. All calculations predicted a 6.15 finish and under the circumstances, this seemed quite respectable. David and I leapfrogged for the first 30 Km. Thereafter he teemed up with Carol, who was doing her first marathon. They seemed to creep along at the same pace. David got his fashion advice from Yeti Inc. for this race and was wearing everything he bought along, discarding is as the temperature rose. By 10 a.m. the temperature was rising and by 12 it was blisteringly hot with not a single cloud in the sky. The reflection of the sun on the sand was blinding; very few people thought to bring sunglasses. I ran / walked with my eyes half closed for the last 10 Km in order to reduce the glare but in doing so missed several tussocks which sent me into a stumble. The course was well marked, although some people managed to get lost; did I say stupid? The Km markers were a welcome sight although not, I suspect, entirely accurately placed. In the last straight the 42 Km marker was at least 400 metres from the finish line and that duped me into a premature final ‘sprint’, resulting in a gasping, vomitogenic finish.
Times – Paul 6.07 and David (and Carol) 6.24. This makes David an Australian All States marathon runner and an ANZAC marathon runner also. It makes me a triple Australian All States marathon runner. David and I were singled out at the pre-race briefing and our 100+ marathon status broadcast. The muted notoriety was welcome but did not make us run any faster. Next week we are off to Townsville.

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