Home > Running > Mount Solitary Marathon – never give up

Mount Solitary Marathon – never give up

An easy taper week leading into the Mount Solitary marathon: I cut short on Tuesday’s fartlek and did 3x 2km reps on Thursday (6:29, 6:31, 6:30). To race day…

Amanda was sick with tonsillitis so I was heading up on my own. Race start was cold & dark with a cheerful band of Running Wild race officials. Shortly after dawn and a quick briefing from Sean we set off down Kedumba Pass. The course starts with a fast descent (-750m over 7km) to the river. Matt Cooper, Brendan Davies, Ian Gallagher and Andrew Lee charged off in front while I held back a bit. I haven’t been doing much downhill running recently and I knew if I hammered it early on I would pay the price later. By 4km the leading group of four were out of sight. When I reached the river I missed the taped crossing and jumped right in. This was stupid as there was a fallen tree 20m upstream that I should have used to keep my feet dry for the ascent. Never mind – I settled into a slow grinding climb up the mountain. It’s a 650m climb over 3km, but the last kilometre of the climb is a “hands and knees” scramble gaining 380m altitude over just 1km. About halfway up I passed Brendan and Ian (both ran the M7 marathon last week). I thought that would be the last I’d see of them – unfortunately not. After crossing over the top of Mount Solitary I reached a rocky outcrop on the far side and peered over the edge looking for the pink tape. Couldn’t see any on the right side but on the left I saw some pink marking on a rock so I jumped down (pretty hairy “free climbing” actually) and followed the arrows. The arrows seemed to be taking me the wrong way but I was committed by this stage. Soon I started climbing up again and I thought “this can’t be right”. Eventually I found myself back on top of the mountain! 8 minutes lost and 3 places down in the field. This was a big pain in the arse and hard to motivate myself to get going again. After a lot of swearing I got myself off the mountain by the correct route and set to work trying to regain those lost places. I decided to challenge myself to see what I could salvage from the situation over the next 3 hours. A lot can happen in such a long race.

As it happened, I caught Ian and Phil quite quickly once we hit the fast single track in the valley. This put me back into fourth place and I concentrated on getting some gels and fluid down while my stomach was agreeable. Approaching the scenic railway I caught Brendan again – told him my tale of woe and left him at the bottom of the Furber steps. I was still feeling strong so climbed as quickly as I could while watching out for the leaders coming back down. Matt Cooper appeared first with 10 mins on me and Andy Lee followed 5 mins later. This was closer than I expected and gave me a glimmer of hope. There was still a long way to go and I knew from experience that you could lose it all on the final climb if you misjudge the race. So I had a quick refill at the checkpoint, grabbed a banana and headed back down. The next 11km is fast downhill running to Leura creek (with a few pinchy climbs thrown in along the way). Approaching the creek is a steep fire-road descent and my quads complained a lot down there. On the other side of the creek there is a couple of km uphill again before dropping down to the river and beginning the huge climb back out.

It’s a cruel joke to finish such a long, tough race with a 7.5km/650m climb. Last year I faded badly and lost the lead near the bottom to Vizey. This year I was on my own and I had no idea whether I was being caught or catching someone. I just settled into “granny steps” climbing mode and put my head down. To my surprise, halfway up Kedumba I spotted Andrew moving slowly up ahead and ever so gradually closed the gap. It was a great relief when he didn’t put up too much of a fight and I moved into 2nd place. Not long after passing Andy I started getting cramps in both quads. I managed to run on them gingerly for the remainder of the climb – about 4km, but it was touch & go with the cramps coming and going in waves. Very happy to finish 10 mins quicker than last year in 4:57 (I guess it would have been about 18mins quicker without the detour). Matt Cooper stormed to a big new course record in 4:41! Even without my mishap there’s no chance I would have got close to him.


  1. 2012-08-08 at 7:18 pm

    Great effort Tony. Was really pleased to see you do well after your detour. I know what it feels like and it can be a bit demoralising.

  1. 2013-01-01 at 12:43 am

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