The Darlington Half, WA. by Rich Pryor

A race report, but it’s one I guess not many will get to do. Entry costs around 20 bucks to the Western Australia Athletics Club, then small matter of £650 flights via Dubai, (others are available) free family accommodation in the Perth Hills, if you’re lucky enough to have family there…

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With a holiday planned in March for a family wedding, not looking to do too much running while I’m there, (probably at a cost to my Brighton plans) family time is a priority, I thought I’d try and get one official race in whilst there and would you Adam and Eve it, the nearest half marathon to my in laws in the Perth Hills happened to be on the weekend I arrived. I took that as an omen, so I quickly booked, an Aussie friend Stu quickly invited to run with me, what could go wrong at the Darlington half? 

Race day arrived 36hrs after a 20hr flight, a 7am start to avoid the worst of the heat, an out and back course, 6.5 miles up 850ft worth of hills and 6.5 miles down, around 350 runners, the route snaking up the Perth Hills, partly on a beautiful historic heritage railway trail, dry and dusty, the rest on roads. With 38 degrees forecast for the day I smothered myself in sun block, donned my flyers singlet, and got my finely tuned MAF honed fat burning machine ready for the off.

start

Pre race organisation, no frills, efficient, very friendly bunch of runners. Before I knew it we were off, haring up the trail in the dust. I love trails and the first few miles were glorious, everything I’d been looking forward to, there’s something almost magical being in a group of runners chasing through beautiful countryside, like Scott Jurek running with the Tarahumara through the Copper Canyon. I felt strong, moving well, below 10 min miles up and up and up…… and then it all started to go pear shaped. Turns out that this Mafmeister spent less than 1 minute of the 2hrs 20 minutes the race took me in my finely tuned aerobic fat burning zone. 

trail upI ran virtually the whole race in zone 5, which might have been fine, but having been on a low carb high fat diet since Christmas and being a fat burning evangelist (had i mentioned that?), and perhaps being slightly cocky on the back of St. Peter’s Way, I didn’t bother bringing any jelly babies or gels, kinda thought the CP stations would have some… Big mistake. My glycogen stores were dumped by mile 5 so I was running on empty before half way, in an oven, which was still being cranked up. How different this was from 3 weeks ago when I was christened ‘tigger’ for having so much energy when slow running the St Peters Way ultra (did we mention that 😉)

trail up 2My pre race planning had me heroically conquering the summit, nice and steady, and then flying downhill and bagging a decent time, around 2hrs.

road

Reality was when I turned to head home it really was a struggle to run downhill I was so empty. I spotted 2 jelly babies on the road which had been dropped around mile 9, or was that a mirage, was I hallucinating? I decided to let them go, by mile 10 I was cussing that decision….

trail down

Anyways, I managed to get home in just under 2hrs 20. My splits showed that I managed to run up the hills faster than I managed to run back down them, what the heck?!! Without question, it was the hardest race I’ve been in.

There was a healthy sugar rich brekkie at the end, lot’s of milling about chatting, a decent medal, which was a nice surprise. Stu (who made alike a gazelle into the distance on the down half) and Jon (bro in law) were at the line to cheer me home and take a few pics. Not my best jazz hands to be fair… and then I sat under a tree for a while gathering myself…

Then it was home for a rest!! My family were suitably impressed as I joined them at the pool, my daughter welcomed me home calling me a “crazy MOFO”, I’m going to google that, I think that meant she was proud of me…..

The day after my quads are burning and as I type this I’m suffering dizzy spells (bro in law is a doctor and he thinks it’s a combo of heatstroke, dehydration and effects of the glycogen depletion) a reminder of just how punishing the hills and heat was for me. 

Good thing is I’m on holiday and so recovery quickly is guaranteed (hopefully) and a valuable lesson learnt that proper preparation for an event is always required, no matter how many races you’ve done, you should never take one for granted! I guess I took this one for the team #flyersontour! 

Looking back I think loved it, did i? yes.. I really did, and if you happened to be in the area in March, I thoroughly recommend it, a really scenic race, very demanding whatever the weather, perhaps even a PB course if you can charge up the 6 miles of hill and fly down them quicker, just make sure you pack some jelly babies 😂

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