I have run the Fitzroy Falls marathon three times before and thoroughly recommend it to anyone who likes off road running. The course winds through the Morton National Park in the Southern Highlands of NSW and is almost entirely on four wheel drive track with some single track sections. The race is not for the faint-hearted, it does not have any really tough climbs, but is constantly undulating. In the dozen years it has been held (prior to this one), only ten male runners have broken three hours and the belief is that your likely time is twenty minutes on top of your road marathon time.
This year, I was keen to break my PB of 2:59 but my training was hampered by a few problems in my legs. On race day though, I was raring to go and hopefully aim for a top 3 placing. The weeks before this race had seen a lot of rain in the area and the night before the rain was constant and torrential. As a result the course was heavy to say the least, with ankle deep mud in places threatening to suck off the footwear. Within 100m of starting I knew my PB was not in danger and anything under 3:10 would be good in the conditions.
The runners at the front of the start were a bit of a who’s who of Australian Off Road running with Australian Ultra representatives, former winners of this race and top runners from the Six Foot Track marathon. Top 3 was going to be a stretch. The normally pedestrian start was a frenetic as people tried to find their own way through the mud without getting splattered from runners in front. I was in 15th or 16th place after the first 2 km and decided to run my own race. My pace was fairly consistent and I went through half way in under 1:30 – so was not far off the three hour goal. However the last ten km is a gradual incline so I started to struggle as I reached the end. I had been slowly picking off runners and was 9th with about 5 km to go. There were two guys that had been 100m in front of me since the ten km point. By this stage it was really frustrating me that I could not catch them so decided that now was the time to put in a big effort. Inch by inch I pulled them in and passed one and then the other and then a couple of front runners (one of whom won the race the previous year) who were walking.
The last 2.5 kms were tough as the track was very chopped up from the 5km and 10km races that had finished before us. I splattered through the mud as hard as I could to hold my now 5th place and finished in 3:02 something. Overall I am very happy with the time and placing given the conditions. The first four went well under three hours which gave an indication of the quality in the field. I was a bit of a mess at the end – covered head to toe in mud and legs completely shot, but I’ll be back again!