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  • Writer's pictureJessica Jones

The 2020 World Marathon Challenge, Part 3

I ended the last post talking about the race strategy planned for Australia, but I want to take a step back for a moment and mention just a bit about the trip to Perth. Boarding the plane in Cape Town, we entered the comfort of the chartered 757. All rows were business class seats. Drinks and snacks to grab on entry. So, a good amount of room to settle in. It was a good thing… since we’d basically be living there for the next five or six days. Since Ron was with me this was extra comfortable. I didn’t have to worry about getting in someone else’s space! As we took off, I had the opportunity to watch a final sunset over South Africa. I had downloaded some shows to watch (WiFi was the one missing amenity), so I did so until dinner. After eating, I decided to get some sleep. And, I pretty much slept to and through our first fuel stop. Woke up at the second fuel stop in Jakarta and was up for the rest of the trip. Got to see a second sunset of the flight. You know it’s a long flight when you can say that!!

Off the plane and in the airport, there was an announcement over the PA system welcoming the WMC group to Perth. Super cool!! I mean, we were really the only ones there as it was late at night but a genuinely nice touch. A quick pass thru customs (without a passport stamp – so disappointing!) and down to bag pick up. Then we saw the Australian welcoming party!! A local running club, who set up and volunteered at the course, sent a few people to the airport. So cool! They had an inflatable kangaroo, Australian flag, and a poster with pictures of everyone from the event. Doubly cool!! Loaded the bus to the race site. A fantastic sports facility. Nice big room for everyone, plus bathrooms and showers!! There was no time for a shower after Antarctica, so I hadn't showered in nearly two days. Was really looking forward to that after the run!

We had a little bit of time to settle in and get ready for race #3. The weather was great! Upper 60s and low humidity and already in the dark of night. A slight wind, but the course was a nice out-and-back, so a mix of head and tail wind. As we were gathering around the start area, the ladies gathered for a group photo. As I said, we had bonded in Antarctica. Then we lined up. Ready to race! We took off. The planned 3:20-pace group two-by-two down the path. About a half mile in, I checked my watch. A little fast, I said. They agreed. We backed down. A nice pack of four pounding out the miles, or kilometers, for the non-Americans. The group chatted some. Joked a bit. We switched up wind blocking duties. The first half went by so quickly and easily. At around halfway, I decide to try to make up a few of the minutes Antarctica stole from me. I let the group know and then pulled away feeling strong and looking for the lead (one lady was ahead of us). Eased the pace down with the wind and just a bit slower back into the wind. Still, stayed fairly consistent. And feeling good. Caught the lady in front! Tried to keep the pressure on to shoot for the 3:15. Didn’t quite make it, finished with 3:16:55. But, the win!!

It was nice to celebrate with a shower, even if I forgot to bring a towel and had to use an extra shirt to dry off. And, even better than the shower was the food! The Aussies had made a breakfast spread for us! Cereal, yogurt, fruit, bread, eggs, sausage (smelled great, even though I didn’t partake), juice, and more. So amazing to have a full, hot, fresh meal!! As the sun came up, I realized what a beautiful place it was! The course was along a river with beautiful city views and plenty of trees and green space. But, didn’t get to enjoy it too long. Time to get moving to the next stop.

Slept most of the plane ride to Dubai, even through the fuel stop. Once we arrived and got off the plane, into the routine of collecting luggage, and heading through customs. Again, we arrived late in the evening, so there weren’t many other travelers in the airport. Quick trip through customs and onto the bus. A trip through the city. Tall buildings, neon lights. Then, through the “warehouse district”. I’m sure this is not at all an accurate term, but I don’t know what else to call it. Miles after miles of big brand store distribution centers. Then, on to the beach-front resort where we’d be racing. There we had a “villa” reserved for the women. Two stories of bedrooms and bathrooms with two living areas and a kitchen/dining area. Super nice!! But, not much time to enjoy. We dropped our bags and final prep for race #4. I had already put my race gear on in the plane, except for the hat and shoes, so I was quick. Wasn’t long before we were collected to head to the start.

Same game plan as the day before. A 3:20 pace pack, with four or five of us. Texts from coach before race reminded me that the concrete was the fast surface. At the time, I didn’t really know what that meant, then we walked to the start. It was a little warmer, but another night race. It was in the low 70s, with a good southern-style humidity. Another out-and-back, this time along the Persian Gulf. This was an interesting course because there was a green track-like surface on one side and a faux-wood decking on the other side. Both a little bouncy and slick from the heavy dew. Down the middle of the two was a single row of concrete block. This was the best running surface. The fast surface. So, that was the path we worked as a pack. The group of us single file on that concrete. I’ve never really worked with a pack like that in races before. It was fun! I felt good and started to ease away from the pack around mile 15-16, as planned. Just a slight increase in pace (5-7 sec/mi). Was able to keep that until mile 23. Hit a wall. Hard. Legs started to tighten up. Stomach tightened up. Was afraid to try to get anything else down. I struggled to hang on to pace. Just held on for the last few miles as I got passed up by most of the pack. That was the final mental straw.

I still finished under 3:20, which was my goal, by the standards I had set. However, I cried a lot after that finish. I did the photos and all, then I sat on the edge of the boardwalk and stared out at the dark of the Persian Gulf and cried. Why was I doing this? The idea was to win. If not win at least get the record. I was nowhere closer to either of those things. Again, thinking, realizing, my mental toughness is not there. I went back to the villa. Thoroughly enjoyed a real shower, in a real bathroom. Snacks, but no real food available!! Shared my self-disappointment with a couple of the ladies. Of course, they were super supportive. I was on this journey with the best group of women in the world! After I pulled myself together, I walked back down to the race to check on those still out there. Once everyone finished and cleaned up, loaded the bus and headed to the airport. The show must go on!

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