The more races I enter the more I find that the most memorable runs are not the ones where PBs are broken but the ones that are defined by the people I share the adventure with.

Flinders Tour 52km was always going to be a training run for me and so in all honesty I went into the race underprepared. The day before at an RMA’s baby shower, another RMA had given me a wonderfully accurate race briefing: lots of sand, lots of fun and no need for drop bags. She also mentioned that the course had changed and to check the website. So with these bits of wisdom I went home and rearranged my pack and bag situation.

After a very late night, the alarm went off at 4am. I was exhausted and I hadn’t started running. When I arrived, I was beyond thrilled to see my Caboolture Road Running friends were the volunteers for the race. I was instantly relieved to know they would be at each checkpoint and I knew I had some RMA angels in my corner looking out for me. It was a small field for the Ultra and we were very well organised and efficiently briefed, weighed and before I knew it, standing ready to go.

The race actually started at a very fast pace, the lead runners took off at sub 5 minute pace and I had to remind myself after a couple of kms that it was an ultra and I needed to pull back a bit. I found myself running in a group of 4 girls who were experienced ultra runners and were kind enough to give me a Surf Coast briefing as we ran. The course lead us through the beautiful pine forests of the Glasshouse Mountains and the soft sand underfoot reminded us that the day may turn out to be deceptively hard.

The course was undulating throughout the race. There were no steep climbs or descents and it was not overly technical. Uneventfully I crossed through the first checkpoint and hit checkpoint 2 without much thought. I was delighted to find some beautiful RMA friends manning the station and of course I had extra special help filling my bottles and grabbing food. Off I went to checkpoint 3. In this section I found myself slipping in mud and having a couple of slides. I was unhurt but wet and muddy. I persevered to checkpoint 3 and then headed off to the halfway mark turn around. It was in this section that I took a few wrong turns and had to back track as well as coming face to face with two snakes which always makes the heart race.

Despite being lost and the snakes, this was the best part of the race for me as I could cheer on the 26km runners coming past as well as the 12km and the lead Ultra runners. For me, running is about community and it’s at times like these when I see so many friends out there kicking goals that my heart is most happy and I feel most fulfilled in my running.

Finally, the turn around and half way mark where I ran to the cow bells and cheers of Nadia, Kelly and Tina and I stuffed my face with awesome checkpoint goodness. It was very hot by that time (27 degrees) and I was dreading the second half. Tina eventually pushed me back out there and off I went.

The course itself is quite exposed. There was not much protection from the heat and with the sun beating down and reflecting off the sand I soon realised it was going to be a very long 26km home. Somewhere after the first checkpoint in the second half I caught up with my friend Alan who had had a nasty fall and was texting his wife. He looked shaken up. I checked in with him and he reminded me how deceptively hard the terrain was, especially the soft sand. I agreed whole heartedly. Most people I came across from this point were walking. I couldn’t bring myself to walk so I kept going at a slow jog pace with the sun beating down. I could feel my wet muddy feet blistering but still I went forward.

My friend Erica who had been ahead of me popped out suddenly and explained she had been lost and sick. We continued on together, with her comforting me that I would in fact be ok when I turned up on the start line at Surf Coast (I was quietly panicking about doubling the distance in 5 weeks). Finally, I knew I was getting close. The beautiful Nadia popped out amongst the trees on a bike and road next to me for 2km assuring me there was not much further. She dashed ahead and let the girls know I was coming in. Then there it was, the finish chute at last, and Tina’s beaming smile.

How lucky I am to run into a friend’s arms at the end of a long day! So many encouraging words and so much love. I am forever grateful for the community that RMA has given me. This is what running means to me: friendship, community, adventure. Flinders Tour you humbled me and taught me life lessons that I could never learn any other way…