I work, live, play and run to tell stories.
But the story of Gold Coast, in the narrative of the Muddy Masochist, is not my usual adventure of blood, sweat, mud and mashed palms. The struggle against the terrain and the elements did not occur. So this is a tricky story to tell for the Muddy Masochist, but it is still an important one.
I am a pacer, you can spot me easily in the crowd, a 6ft2inch skinny, hairy dude with two big purple balloons attached to the top of his singlet. The balloons are purple because I have opted to pace a 5 hour marathon. I am pacing for first time marathoners or those who have been nursing an injury and a looking for something which doesn’t have a 5 or a 6 at the start. It is a significantly-mixed-ability group in the 5 hour pacing zone. But that is my job, to run somewhere between 7 and 7:06 minutes per kilometre for 42 straight kilometres.
My biggest impression is how much of a technical experience the whole day is, my entire existence distilled down to three things, pace, duration, distance. There are people dependant on me, I don’t know many of them, I won’t even see most of them but they are depending on me to run this thing consistently and accurately. Running this way, actually, makes the kilometres fly by — everything exists in 5km chunks and my goal is to get my time on course (at that point) as close to the number next to that distance on my pacer band. Essentially, I spend a lot of time staring at my wrists.
I’ve just come off the high of running through the race precinct, crowds line the opposite side of the road with — what looks like — hundreds of runners finishing somewhere between the 4 and 4:15 mark. The support on my side of the road, heading into the final 10K is still amazing but as soon as I clear the precinct, the music and the crowds die down and once again it’s me and the clock. There are sections here, when pacing is a lonely affair – the field is strung out, you tend to only interact with other runners at drinking stations.
The last 8km of the Gold Coast Marathon becomes a journey into the realm of the bastard pacer. Pacing consistently you tend to gradually gain places over the course of the event, at the 35,36,37 kilometre mark, you begin to pass those who have gone out too hard, picked up an injury or are just having a bad day. There are a number of cries of anguish and even harsh words muttered under breath “bastard”, it’s not personal, it’s the unfortunate visual realisation that you’ve just been passed by the slowest of all the pacer groups.
The final push, the final kilometre. Marquees line the course filled with people from charities, local running clubs, all sorts. I tend to get a bit emotional at the end of races and I am not 100% sure how I will cope with this, so I move out into the middle of the road, give the runners around me the space to get into the crowd atmosphere. Ben, the other pacer and I have been running together for most of the run, but have been literally side-by-side since kilometre 38. We’ve managed to time this out near perfect and as my watch enters the 59th minute of hour 4, we are only a 100 metres or so from the finish. I cross the line (officially) at 4:59:45 — I could run a little more if I had to but I am glad to stop.
I can’t wait to do this again.