Events on a Saturday always throw me a little. They come along so infrequently I half forget to organise myself – at least that’s what I am blaming for my unorganised prep for this event. The Western Sydney Trail run just snuck up on me after a busy week at the end of term.
Held in Lizard Log at Western Sydney Parklands the event had near perfect weather for its inaugural event. After forecasted rain, which had a few of us imagining the mud fest it might turn out to be, there was barely a cloud in the sky and the temps were cool but bearable. I wore full length tights and even ran in a long-sleeved top as out of direct sunlight and with a breeze it was cold.
Lizard Log is a nice central location for lots of those living in the Sydney suburbs, and with a relatively “late” start time (8.15am for the 19km and 9am for the 11km) I had a lovely cruisy morning with no pre-dawn alarms to get to the event on time.
One of the things which always makes me anxious, is getting to a start line on time, particularly when it involves public transport. Luckily there was plenty of parking close by the event hub and I had no difficulty finding a park and walking the few hundred meters to the start.
2019 was the first running of this event, and there were 225 runners who completed the 11km event with additional events available in 19km, 4.5km family run and 1km kids dash. By the looks of the assembled runners – well over half of whom were female, at least a quarter of those registered were RMA. There is nothing so amazing as arriving at an event, walking up to someone with an RMA buff, hat or shirt, introducing yourself and instantly being among friends.
The small field gave a really great feel to the start line, people mingling and chatting and catching up with friends. There was a toilet block; which, while better than porta loos still had a massive line for the ladies. Because the event is new, it was relatively low key, bibs had to be picked up on the morning of and the bag drop was pretty much self-service. But the smaller numbers also gave a “family” type feel to the whole thing.
I watched the 19km racers set off and milled around with fellow RMAs until the briefing for the 11km event at 8.50am and we set off with an air horn blast right on 9am.
The course itself was just gorgeous, Western Sydney Parklands is truly a gem in the suburbs. We started on a slight uphill slope and crested the top of the first hill to views across the whole of Sydney right through to the Harbour bridge.
The course was more cross country than trail, wide open grassy fields with a mown track through the middle, and more hills than anyone expected. I can’t remember a time in the event when we weren’t going either Up or Down – and apparently the 19km course had some even hillier hills.
Running through the fields was lovely but the grass had been mown to clear a path and the result was a really uneven surface from the thick cut grass stems. You did have to be very careful where you put your feet, my first 2 km were my fastest by far and then I slowed down as the hills kept coming.
There were a variety of different surfaces, minimal road, dirt track, and a few sections through bushland, none of it very technical trail. The varied terrain and the great views did make the kilometres tick past quickly. And I have never before seen so many photographers out on course!
There were two aid stations on the course at around 4km and 8km. The 4km one was advertised as being at 4.8km and I had set some of my mental goals based on that and was surprised when it appeared earlier than expected. Despite me being in the back of the pack the aid stations were well stocked with lollies and chips, as well as hydration. My lackadaisical prep meant I forgot to pack the bladder for my hydration pack – so I ran without it and was rather parched by 8km. The event was cup-less but thankfully for me someone supplied paper cups at the 8km aid station and I gulped down some fluid before heading on – note to self, buy a collapsible cup for events.
The hills were constant, the good thing was, they were all quite compact. The grading on one particular hill at 6km was a killer but generally they were only up for short periods of time before you went down the other side, which made the whole process mentally easier for me. I knew I could power on up the hill as I would soon get to the top and get to coast down the other side. However, being that we were generally in open spaces meant you could also see across the paddocks to the next hill which was less encouraging.
I did think the course could have been marked a little clearer, there were relatively few markers compared to other events I have participated in. There were relatively few volunteer marshals on course and in a few locations if I hadn’t of been able to spot the shapes of fellow runners up ahead, I might easily have veered away.
Around 9km I started to look around at my fellow runners and try and set targets to stay with a particular runner or reach another one by the top of a hill to prevent myself from slowing down as I generally do towards the end of an event. My longer legs sure did help as I was able to hike the hills quickly and stay in touch with the other runners.
The great thing was that near the end of the course runners from 11km and 19km converged and ran the last few kilometres together. It was great to be able to cheer others on and lend encouragement up the last few hills and I even ran into a friend coming around the final bend.
Thankfully the finish line arrived just as I started to flag, we ran across a bridge and on a slight downward slope towards the finish arch which allowed me to finish feeling strong.
There was a timing mat a few meters before the finish line which meant my name was called over the mic as I came around the last bend – which always gives you a boost. The finish line was a very casual affair with runners and the few spectators milling around in the sunshine chatting as we gathered our medals and relaxed. I did find it a little odd that there was no aid station or water at the finish line (apart from the sinks in the bathroom) and so headed back to my car and drink bottle sooner than I might have otherwise.
I didn’t set out with any goals in mind for this event. As a single Mum, I don’t get the chance to run outside as often as I like and this winter even my treadmill running has taken a back seat to life. So, my goal on this day was just to enjoy a new course and have a great day with fellow runners. I am definitely a back of the pack dweller but I really enjoyed this course and finished with a smile on my face.
That said, I was pretty proud of my efforts. Hills really are my nemesis (most of my training is done on a very basic treadmill which doesn’t have the ability to incline) so I was especially pleased with how I powered up the hills. I had hoped to finish under 2hours and at a stretch 1:40 so was glad to come across the line in 1:40.
I am constantly amazed that I am a runner, that I choose to do this and that I love it so much. I run for enjoyment, to clear my head, to explore new places and to challenge my body and brain and Western Sydney Trail Run provided all that and more.
For more information visit westernsydneytrailrun.com.au