20 May 2017
GREAT OCEAN ROAD RUNNING FESTIVALby MATT CHARLESWORTH
The long-awaited weekend had arrived. It was race day! The warmth of the sun could be felt peaking through the gap in the blinds; a crisp Autumn morning that defied every weather forecast across the state. I pulled on my active wear, fitted my runners and prepared my breakfast. Strategically, I opted for a light continental breakfast, pre-empting the challenge of the 6km run. Rosie, my partner who joined me for the weekend escape, insisted on labeling the event as a “fun” run. I disagreed, arguing that any race longer than 2km just couldn’t be fun. That morning we were treated to some of Lorne’s most stunning ocean views from our balcony; the Grand Pacific Hotel seemed to have the best vantage point in town. A serene start to our Great Ocean Road Running Festival campaign.
After a brisk warm-up along the Lorne foreshore, we jumped in the car and set off down the Great Ocean Road. Unlike the marathon events, the start line for the shorter distances was located in Apollo Bay. The winding section that links Lorne and Apollo Bay is arguably the most scenic section of the entire GOR. Each corner offered a new perspective from the last. On one particular bend, I had a moment of realisation. The 23km, 44km and 60km marathon variations were all due to run this exact route on the following day. I began putting myself in the runner’s shoes. I imagined the burning sensation in the legs, the sweat beading from every pore in the body and the impact felt as each foot made contact with the bitumen. But, I also imagined how rewarding it would be as the spectacular seascape came into view; enough motivation to keep even the tiredest of legs ticking along. Although, that might be rich coming from someone who entered the 6km event.
The “fun” run was set to start in less than 20 minutes. We arrived just in time to catch the youngins cross the line for the 1.5km kids gallop event. Immediately we could feel positivity and encouragement emanating from the Apollo Bay main street. It was fantastic. Rosie and I were both filled with excitement; however, with no training and little experience in long-distance running there’s no denying some doubts were beginning to creep in. Modestly, we positioned ourselves at the very back of the start line. 3…, 2…, 1…, and we were off and running. The course sent us and 600 other competitors away from the residential area of town, to the country roads surrounded by rich, agricultural land. We ran the first two kilometres at a very steady pace, just keeping up the back end. It wasn’t until the leaders flew past us, already making their way back to town, that we really started to up the ante. We hit our stride and ran strong for the next few kilometres. On the way back, we passed what looked to be dairy cattle. I remember thinking about the tasty Great Ocean Road milk I have on my cereal each morning. A strange thought, but any distraction was a good one at this stage in the run. The highlight of the race came as we approached the finish line. We turned the final corner to see the main street lined with families. Children reached out on to the track, competing against one another for the most high fives. Proudly, we crossed the line in 39 minutes and 20 seconds. It turns out that we greatly underestimated our fitness levels and finished with that “could have run further” feeling. We might have to try our luck in the 14km next year.
Our run only lasted 40 minutes but it became very obvious that this weekend is about so much more. The festivities continued all weekend and offered something for everyone. A kaleidoscope of kites took to the sky in both coastal towns, keeping the young and young at heart entertained. The Lorne theatre also screened many films over the three days. Fittingly, they included “Spirit of the Marathon” and “I am Bolt”. Yoga sessions were also held on the Lorne foreshore, to assist runners in warming-up or cooling-down. There was even a live music and entertainment program! We rushed back to the Lorne Hotel to see the Pierce Brothers; a Melbourne-based duo promoting their new EP, touring the East coast of Aus. And, just like every other piece of fun over the weekend, the whole thing was totally free for runners… Unreal! We sat on the rooftop beer garden, dancing and singing to internationally acclaimed music, as the sunset over one of Victoria’s prettiest coastal towns. Unbelievable.
Taking into consideration how accomplished I felt running down the last straight and the festival vibes felt in both Apollo Bay and Lorne, it turns out I was wrong… This was most definitely a fun run!