Going into day 3 of the Wildcoast Wildrun I had a lead over second-placed Andy by just under 14 minutes. While I only needed to finish within 13 minutes of Andy to secure overall victory I decided that I did want to achieve a clean sweep of victories. Plenty of people asked me what my race strategy would be for the final day, and my response was that it would largely be determined by Andy. He had set a fast pace from the start on the first two days, and if he did so once again, then I would simply run my own pace. The added challenge for the final day was that it featured the most complex navigation of the three days, and our finishing location was beside Andy’s hometown, so he had a distinct home field advantage.
We set off at a relaxed pace and two other runners joined me and Andy out front. The day would feature the most climbing of the three days, so when we reached a short climb before reaching the beach I maintained a firm pace to demonstrate my comfort on the climbs. I pulled ahead and put a bit of a gap back to the other three on the climb, and was then left with a decision: drop the pace to reform the pack and play out a tactical race or continue to push ahead. I had raced aggressively for the previous two days so I decided to continue on at my own pace, and hope that I could successfully navigate the route.
When I reached the first major river crossing I turned around to see that the gap behind me was not very significant. Then, after two days of great navigation where I continually seemed to pick good route options, I proceeded to make error after error for the remainder of the day.
On two occasions I found myself traversing around increasingly steepening sea-side hills and had to scramble with hands and feet to regain the top. At one point I was lost in my own world when I refocussed my attention to realise I was on a road that was slowly turning its way inland, forcing me to cut through a village, ducking clothes lines and jumping fences to return to the beach. In an attempt to climb to the top of a headland I instead found myself traversing for a long period, forced to either wind my way around the ravines that cut across it or to descend and re-ascend each ravine. Cresting a sand dune I was unable to spot the path that should take me through to the major trail behind it. I navigated my way into a dead-end clearing, and opted for the quicker but more painful approach of bashing through the thick undergrowth to locate the trail. As a result of these numerous mistakes I reached the final few kilometres with Andy not far behind.
I climbed away from the sand dunes and reached a village at the top of the hill. Numerous children would ask for sweets, and failing that small change, as I ran past. Then two young boys set off running beside me. When they were still beside me after a couple hundred metres I opted to explain what was happening. I told them that I was running a race in first place, and that if I stayed ahead of the guy behind us all the way through to the finish at the Hole-in-the-Wall then we would win.
When I spotted a potential shortcut behind a house I asked the boys whether we could take and they responded that we could. From there they started directing me as I ran, pointing out the best routes to help me avoid any more costly mistakes. After over a kilometre of running with the boys I pulled out a PowerBar, split it in three, and explained that it wasn’t a sweet but was instead food for runners, and that they were running really well. We finally skirted our way around the last major headland and gained our first view of the Hole-in-the-Wall, as well as the finish line on the other side of the race’s final river crossing. We raced to the river and I stopped to give a big high five to both boys, and then I turned around and entered the river.
I entered the river with Andy not too far behind, but even with my less-than-stellar swimming I managed to reach the other side first. I then struggled greatly to climb out of the river over slippery rocks, but ambled my way across the finish line to claim my third straight victory. Andy and I had both been in the water at the same time and I had finished just 14 seconds ahead.
It had been an amazing three days of running. I have said little about the amazing Wild Coast that greets runners in this fabulous race, hoping that the photos I have attached will each speak their thousand words. The coast line is an idyllic location of long sandy beaches, rugged rocky shores, tidal rock pools, sweeping headlands and epic river crossings. Spectators to these views are also greeted by the native inhabitants of breaching whales and frolicking dolphins. Anyone looking for a destination race has just had the opportunity to read about three days of destinations all in a single race. The race is brilliantly organised by the entire Wildrun crew and I must acknowledge Dylan Haswell for the official race photos, a number of which have been included in my race reports.
You can check out stats, graphs, and charts, plus the map of my not-quite-perfect navigation on MovesCount.com here.