Sunday, April 24, 2005

A Night to Remember

By Viviene Kartsounis
Photographs by the Andrew Drayton crew

Saturday the 8th of January 2005 started like any other Saturday, with no early morning run and a little lie-in. But today was no ordinary day. It was a day to stay off the feet and relax and yet be busy enough to make the day fly by as this evening was the Gosford Coastal Classic 12 Hour Track Race.

The arrangements were to leave Sydney at 3pm, travelling north to Gosford for arrival just after 4, but the waiting proved to be too much and at 2 o’clock we were under way. Arriving so early at Adcock Park Athletics track the gates were locked and we waited along with a number of other impatient participants for the officials to arrive. As soon as the gates were opened vehicles drove down onto the oval, parking at various spots along the inside perimeter. The race starts at 7:30pm but there is a lot of preparation required and everyone was soon at work setting up their tents, tables and nourishment for the night ahead.

The contestants arrived in dribs and drabs, reunions were sincere and the atmosphere was one of eager anticipation. At 7:20pm all the walkers and runners gathered at the start for a short pre-race briefing. The field of 31 entrants was varied, ages ranging from 15 years to man in his seventies. At 7:30 the gun was fired and the race finally began. The warm clear evening didn’t last long as the sky soon turned dark and cool, and the runners settled down into a slow steady pace for the long challenging night ahead.

Running a race for a set time as opposed to a given distance is very different and you need to be mentally prepared for this. Run with an open mind, without any boundaries or doubts or limitations, as there is always room for more. And remember to pace yourself carefully. Twelve hours is not a long time if you are running well and positively, but if there is any doubt it could be a very long night.

Running around a grass track is also unusual in a race as it is consistently flat, with the scenery and people always the same. You are never running alone and this is a very strong silent support system. There are always others on the track going faster or slower than yourself with a push or pull close at hand, and by the end of the race you feel a great sense of camaraderie with the other achievers.

During the night most runners needs a crew to support, nourish and monitor their performance, and our crew were fantastic. Along with their loud music and good sense of humour they were constant and dependable throughout the night providing mental and physical support and relief. And their menu was endless: sport drink and glucose, or pizzas with a beer – and while you’re here how about relaxing in a chair with a smoke. An option accepted by some. We do run for enjoyment after all!

Running starts in an anti-clockwise direction with a change every two and a half-hours. And change, any change, is good. You look forward to the change of each hour on the clock, changes in the position of the moon, a few clouds, the arrival of the morning sun and finally the firing of the gun to end the race. When the sun’s first rays appear in the sky the whole atmosphere lifts as the end is finally in sight. The runners and walkers are tired and pushing for that last half hour is hard as the body and mind are so tired and the legs and feet so sore.

The sense of achievement after completing this race is huge no matter the distance covered, and emotions run high as all the participants release their minds and bodies from the strength they have used from the past 12 hours. It is another challenge that life has to offer us, and so very exciting and the mental rewards are enormous. It is hard work and requires a strong and determined body and mind, and as you are only ever 200m from your support crew and a chair, stopping could be a convenient option. To have given your best for so long is a wonderful feeling and there are no limits to what you can do if you put your mind to it. There can be no doubt.

Thank you to the organisers, Gosford Athletics Inc. who did a fantastic job throughout the night. It is a night to remember with its warm and unique atmosphere created around a 400m athletics track. Race information and results can be found at the AURA web site,

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