Giles Moore, a dirtbag ambassador from down under, ran the super gnarly Six Foot Trail Marathon, described as “the toughest marathon in Australia, if not the world”. It has about 5,013 feet of elevation gain and 5,866 feet of loss. Giles takes us on a journey from signing up for the race while on vacation and not in peak physical condition to pushing himself beyond his comfort zone during the race to finishing strong and way under his goal time. He reminds us how fun and driving the spirit of friendly competition can be. Thank you for sharing your story Giles (and also, thanks for all the shirtless running pictures).
Six Foot Marathon by Giles Moore
The race for me started four months ago. I sat on my brothers couch in Drammen, Norway nervously checking the time back home. This race sells out fast they said and it did! I was one of the lucky ones. My entry went straight through with the other seven hundred and fifty odd other general entries to make up the full nine hundred. It was sold out in less than six minutes.
I returned home to Brisbane three weeks later in a much worse condition than when I left- an extra 5kg that would stay with me throughout the Christmas period and a distinct lack in fitness. New Years was out of the way and the countdown to Six Foot began. 10 weeks to train for what’s reportedly Australia’s toughest trail marathon. With the help from some great training partners, plus 30 degree sessions and a vertical challenge month in February, I started my taper feeling that I was peeking at exactly the right time. I am very much a goal oriented person which is why the vertical challenge works so well for me. I can keep track of my vertical gain against the other athletes which in tern pushes me out the door. I finished the month with 21664m of gain (or a half Marathon in to the sky) and 26 runs in 28 days.
A week out from the race I managed to pick up a cold which would stay with me until the night before. This is soul destroying to have something completely out of your control dictate your future after so much hard work. It was only around 7pm on the night before the race when I started to feel a sense of normality and began to think that I could give 100% in the morning.
I’ve lost count over the last 6 months how many times I’ve been told “you can’t prepare yourself for how tough Six Foot is. You just need to run it and then race it next year.” This makes deciding on a race strategy hard and adding how I’ll i have felt recently almost impossible. I decided to throw all goals out the window and just run to how I feel at the time.
Now almost as big as the race in the rivalry that goes on within our running club. This has gone on since the day after race day last year and includes secret training, misleading messages from all sides and hysterical banter. Twelve runners from the club made their way to Katoomba including first timers like myself and a few with a wealth of experience.
After a great nights sleep the alarm went off at around 4:30 and a breakfast of bananas and hot cross buns were consumed before making our way to the start line. Feeling much better than I had for the last week but unsure how I would feel once running still didn’t assist me to conjure up a race plan. This was my idea prior to illness, I’m not fast on the flat and I’m slower on the descent. I’m strong on the hills but that’s not enough for a quick time. Six Foot is basically 15k’s down, 10k up, 18k undulating and a steep 2k down to the finish.
I started two rows back in wave two alongside a handful of runners from my club and some that I would have loved to beat to the finish. The problem is, they are fast on the downs and flat. My idea was to try to stay as close as possible on the way down, push in front on the way up and go as long as possible on top until they reel me in. The first wave full of some of the countries best trail runners sprinted off out of sight and we were given the five minute call. How do I feel? And more importantly how am I going to feel 15 or 30k in to this exceptionally tough race.
The sound of the gun echoed through the trees and we were off, quickly funneled into a three wide downhill path with plenty of rocks and roots. Instantly I felt light on my feet and wanting to run fast. Two of my rivals, James and Ben, were next to me as we began to settle. Quickly came a long, wet, technical staircase to descend. Every step, a different size and depth with wet roots and slippery rocks to navigate. I lead our trip down before hitting a flatter section. James and Ben eased away and beckoned for me to follow but their pace was outside of my comfort zone and I knew I would pay the price later on. I should probably say that there were three runners from our club ahead of our trio, two of which are considerably better runners than me and one (Benson) who I would like to think I could at least push on a good day. During the rivalry shinanigans I had placed myself 6th out of the 12. Currently watching 4th and 5th slowly pull away I was starting to feel that my bet was on the money.
After 10K’s the track opened up and during a couple of small climbs surprisingly I caught up to Ben, James and 3rd place Benson. I passed all three and started a narrow winding final 5k down to the river. I did not see Benson for the remainder of the race. James being so fast on the down negotiated the many rocks, roots and turns quicker than I could and it didn’t take him long to pass me.
I hit Cox’s River with James not far in front and almost immediately after started the 1000+ meters climb over the next 10K’s with a 2k down in the middle. I quickly passed James as we began to climb and pushing hard was foremost on my mind. I had not expected to be in third place at this point but knew that I had to get to the top as fast as possible. The climb felt good, running around 75% and hiking the steep parts. I ran the two k down faster than I had ever pushed before with the knowledge that there were three people, probably not too far behind that all wanted to be in front of me and were quick on the downs.
I hit the top checkpoint (pluviometer) and although the track continues up its a lot more gradual. Just after the checkpoint I passed the 2nd place club runner looking rather worse for wear. After checking he was ok I continued on giving myself a high five on the inside. Now came 18K, of undulating fire trail along a tree covered ridge line. From this point on I began to take water to top up my handheld and to pour over my head. I tried some watermelon but struggled to get it down, which isn’t usually the case.
There were 17 checkpoints along the 45k course so you were never far away. I was finding a gel an hour, Skratchlab fruit drops and Skratchlab hydration drink were more than enough.
During a short downhill section Ben came past looking fresh. He powered on up the next hill at a pace I couldn’t match. This left me in third place (for the club) with around 15K’s to go and the thought that James and Benson were probably not far behind. This pushed me to lift again, running beyond my comfort zone.
The race finishes with a 2k very steep and rocky downhill. The pain in my quads and stomach were so intense I had to limit my breathing as much as possible. The last three hundred meters are on a concrete path zigzagging its way down to the final 20 odd steps and finishing Shute.
I went over the line in 4:38:47, twenty two minutes faster than my uneducated goal time. 3rd for the club and 94th out of the nine hundred odd starters. I had been told multiple times, if you can go top 100 at Six Foot your going good, so I’ll take that. I was met straight after by Ben, Shane (club Winner) and injured runner Steve who came to support at this amazing event. We spent the next few hours cheering runners over the line, everyone with a story to tell.
Later found out that it took 300 volunteers to makes one of Australia’s premier event happen. Thank you to everyone of you. All twelve runners from Bayside Runners finished the course under the allowed time which led to a night of celebrations. Thank you to everyone from the club, especially Steve for the cold beers at the finish line.
Six Foot Marathon is an event not to be missed and I will definitely be back next year.