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  • Writer's pictureThomas Alexander

John Forrest Trail Run 13km 2023 - Race Report

Not so long ago, I would have thought twice before I shared some very mediocre reports of running events. Not through any fear of judgement or anything like that but because I suppose despite saying the right things, in my head I didn't place the same value on not doing so well - silly, huh?

Well, that's going to be different this year, like it or not because my current fitness isn't giving me many alternatives at the moment. Since I'd bumped my brunch with Obama and my scientology initiation with Tom Cruise until Tuesday afternoon, luckily I had Sunday morning free for the West Australian Marathon Club's, John Forrest Trail run, a 13km (or 5km option) race through John Forrest National Park.

7 o'clock starts can be warm in the Aussie summer but the weather was literally perfect for a run, warm but not burning, without a cloud in the sky. Probably the most stressful part of the pre-race ritual for most was seeing the countdown clock ticking away at the start line whilst standing in the very long line for the portaloos (is that an Australian term?). Luckily for those of weak bladder, the race start was deferred for a few minutes until those in the 13km event had shed some pre-run weight and the line had disappeared.

I had to chuckle at the very detailed race briefing which described the below map and turns in intricate, yet impossible to comprehend, detail. Such as turning left at the third brown stick past the tree with the crooked branch before making sure not to go past the second rock next to the other rock that looked the same as the one on the right of the one on the left, E = mc2 etc. Long story short, fairly open and undulating fire trail in an anti-clockwise loop.

I know it's blasphemous to many, but I always run with music (or a podcast) unless it's banned for specific events so, after failing to pair my earbuds with my watch for 15 minutes, I was glad I stayed up so late compiling the perfect race-day playlist on Spotify. After forgetting the earbuds for the last race that's two in the row of heavy breathing and footsteps as company, argh!

Then, before you knew it there was a 10 second countdown and we were off. First km ticked by in, as always, too fast a pace to maintain but was feeling pretty good, albeit had borderline caught a cold the day and a half before. The first few guys literally disappeared in no time, and I was running pretty comfortably in 4th or 5th place as we headed up the first, fairly long but not steep climb. As the heart rate and adrenaline settled, I did find that I was slightly short of breath, and this was obviously linked to the near miss with the cold/flu. My asthma is usually asymptomatic when healthy, but the slightest illness always causes respiratory issues for me - there's something to look forward to in old age!

Breathing hard.. or hardly breathing?

Up and over the climb, was passed by a few other runners and I set in to enjoy the scenery and fun of being out in the trails again - first time on the dirt in a year and couldn't have picked a better day for it. Also enjoyed the banter with other runners, although some were a little bit selfish and declined my offer to share my water in return for a piggyback up the next climb, poor etiquette, I thought!

From there, was passed by a few more people, then passed a few of them back again. Half of this occurred on the uphills and the other half on the downhills, I'll leave that to your imagination in relation to which was which but needless to say I haven't run a hill in a very long time and my legs reminded me of that for the last few kilometres.

Taking the race very seriously

The last couple of kilometres were almost all downhill, and part of a trail loop I used to run every week a few years ago. It probably was a little frustrating not being able to push fast enough on this section as I used to love flying down there but that will come as the fitness builds. Then there was the last little kick up to the finish to put the heart rate back up into the clouds.

As I started this update with, I do miss being competitive in races, but can't expect that to happen with almost a year without any training (but maybe the brain still does), BUT I do enjoy not looking at my watch, focusing on splits or caring about finish times. It will be nice to find a nice middle-ground between the two but will see what happens later in the year. I do have some bigger bike events I'm keen on so the priorities may shift and that in itself feels good, with flexibility there is no pressure or self-expectation to take away from the enjoyment of being out there with likeminded people and having fun.

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