My friend Jim has been running 'The Nail Can Hill Run' for many years, more often than not driving myself and sometimes other runners the 360k to Albury for the event. As we approached our destination on Saturday 6 May I was watching in awe the live stream on my phone showing Eliud Kipchoge running the quite incredible time of 2:00:25 for the marathon distance at Monza. On Sunday we'd be running a quarter of the distance at almost double the pace. We must be snails! I first ran the 11.3k trail race in 1981, finishing in 50:40. The course is a good one for mountain goats, being gently uphill for 2k then steep for the next 2k (quite a bit of walking for me). Following this 'warm-up', runners enjoy beautiful gently undulating to flat sandy trails before a steep down after 8k and more gentle undulations from 9k to the parkland finish.
I first accompanied Jim to the race in 2006, running 60:56 in muddy conditions. Ever since then, the conversation pre-race has revolved around 'age-breaking'. You see, the folks that organise Nail Can make a big deal about running the course faster than your age (women receive an additional 20% on their time). A page on the website lists the 'Age Busters' and shows course record holder Steve Moneghetti running 34:57 at the age of 40! Age Busters receive a commemorative T shirt and those achieving this five times are presented with the Max Scherleitner Medal. Age Master status is awarded to anyone who can achieve Age Buster on ten occasions. Age Masters are awarded lifetime entry into the run, a permanent number and a commemorative singlet with race number. Jim is an Medal Master and next year will become an Age Master.
For myself, I've never been old enough! In 2015 at the age of 58, I ran 59:15, so I was getting close. Last year I didn't run due to the calf injury. This year I finally did it! After ten starts I placed 179th in the field of 867 finishers with a time of 59:03 (59:08 gross). Along with other Age Busters I was presented with a commemorative T Shirt after the race. I was one very happy and relieved runner. I was also happy with how I ran. My pacing at the start was good, passing Jim (who ran 66:57) around the 1k mark. I kept up with other runners climbing the hill and ran strongly along the ridge line. Seeing John Kennedy 100m or so ahead helped keep my mind on the job beyond the 4k marker. I slowly pegged back the distance, catching John at 8k "We'll break 60" said John confidently — I was happy to hear that as we negotiated the steep downhill section. Then it was the old 'running scared' process and keeping fingers crossed there'd be no late calf cramps or other dramas. All good as I ran onto the oval, hearing my name announced and seeing the digital clock ticking up to 59 minutes and beyond. Afterwards the Canberra contingent sat in the sun on the grassy bank, all age-busters except for female race-winner Elizabeth — she'd run the fabulous time of 45:05 but as Jim was quick to remind her "You didn't break your age!"
One for mountain goats - dips in the blue line showing where I walked
The famous Age Buster shirt - on the back it says "First they broke the four-minute mile; next came the 2:10 marathon; now the mountain goats of Nail Can Hill are busting the age barrier."
Happy Age Busters!