My new favourite trail race!A week after the City to Surf I drove down to Wagga for a small family gathering. As luck would have it, the Wagga Wagga Trail Half Marathon was being held on the Sunday so I entered with the thought of using the race as my weekly long run. This turned out to be one of my best ideas ever! What a fantastic race. Loved it!
In my early running days (1980s) I ran during the week with a small Sydney group in the Lane Cove River Park. On Tuesdays we ran the road, out and back to the top gate from Fullers Bridge. Friday afternoons in summer we'd run 'both sides of the river' using an old timber footbridge to cross it at the northern end of the park. The trail was mostly single-tracks, broken by occasional grassy picnic areas (BBQ smells in the air as we ran past, with calls of "want a beer or snag?" from friendly locals). Al would manoeuvre himself to lead on the narrow rocky section, slowing things down before Steve would push ahead down by the river. Jenny would then scamper ahead over the sandstone outcrops. After an hour or so we were back at the bottom carpark. It was fun running!
The course at Wagga (from 4.5k to 9k) brought back vivid memories of Lane Cove. We were on well formed single-track mountain bike trails, zig-zagging through the woodland, up and down gullies, along contour banks, having a great time. All the runners were courteous, stepping aside momentarily to let us overtake (if we were faster). I was generally catching people and eventually fell in behind a group of two ladies and one bloke who encouraged each other along the tricky course. I followed them over the top of the hill, down along the edge of the golf course to the flat dirt roads on the outskirts of town. My steady pace took me ahead of this group (the bloke came flying back past at 17k) and up to other single runners. I was enjoying the flatter going, which at 13k switched from roads back to single-tracks beside the river. There were about five fence stiles to negotiate and one memorable section of soft sand (thankfully only 100 metres or so). My Hoka Bondis were performing brilliantly — legs were feeling good! I can only recall being passed by one runner in the last 5k — a young woman in black who said from behind "sorry, I'm a slow overtaker."
The half marathon distance is a slight stretch for me (especially on a hilly trail course), so I was happy to be back near the familiar part of the river, not far from the finish at the Wagga Beach. I heard a cheery "Go Ewen!" from Speedygoose Sarah-Jayne, who'd won the half in an incredible 1:32:38 (8th overall) as I 'sprinted' up the final bank to the finish arch. My time was 2:00:16 for 50th place in the field of 120. I'll be back next year for sure — see you there!
Sarah-Jayne: all smiles before the start
Half course is the second half of the marathon. Start bottom left, finish top right. My friend Rachel's full marathon report is a good read.
Top of the hill, with most of the single-track running nearly over. What a beautiful day!