Contributed by Stephen Wright, AURA member
Adelaide 6 Day
Thorndon Park Reserve, 27 September to 3 October, 2019
Stephen Wright finished the Adelaide 6 Day race with 423 completed. Category position was 1, Gender Position was 3 and Overall Position was 5.
Why was I there? Well in 2018 I ran my first 48hr race there on the back end of the 6 day, I met and talked with some of the runners, the awesome race director Ben and the effervescent leader of volleys Michele. All of these and the level of care given to the runners gave me the confidence to commit to my 1st attempt in 2019, something I have wanted to do for a very long time.
My wife Meli came with me to crew as well as Anthony, Kris and Robert coming with me to compete in the 6 day run too. We all arrived the day before, remarking on the coolness in weather compared to the Gold Coast…bbbbrrrr…
Day 1 – Twenty-five runners ready for the 10am start, which would see them circle the 1.4255km concrete footpath around the very pretty Thorndon Park Reserve, Paradise, Adelaide, South Australia changing direction every 12hrs. My first day had a very loose plan; run the flats and downs, walk every rise as well as drink every 2nd lap and eat at every 4th lap, run/walk until dusk, carry on until 10pm turnaround, then decide if tired enough to sleep. I had a 30 min rest at my 1st marathon distance to celebrate but mainly a pretty uneventful day, I got to the turnaround, felt okay so carried on through until midnight then went back to the tent for some sleep.
This is where the plan had no consideration for weather conditions and what seemed like a gale gusted continually through the next few hours assuring sleep was either minimal or non-existent, I actually felt I was inhaling the tent fabric with every breath, after nearly 5 hrs I gave it up feeling very cold too now, I may as well be back on the track.
I slowly circled through until 9am when Meli arrived with bacon/egg rolls and coffee which picked me up until the 10am turnaround. Very happy, three marathons done, 24 hours done, 93 laps, 132.57km covered.
Day 2 – Direction change, I had a shower and change of clothes, chilled for a small time then back to it, same pattern but today feeling a little fatigue from the lack of sleep. I ran well through the day enjoying some quicker loops to mix it up, played cat and mouse with ‘Ant’ and mainly had a good physical running day, even though mentally I felt pretty annoyed with the lack of sleep thing. I did go off track for a long sleep break at 35hrs in for 7hrs but even with that and my less than good mood, I still managed a good mileage day. Five marathons complete in 48 hours, another 64 laps, 91.23km a running total of 223.1km.
Day 3 – After that good sleep, I started day three in a positive mindset and the laps started to feel different, the pain levels had elevated slightly in my feet with the no give concrete surface, but could not take me out of my happy place. In the early hours I met the family of foxes, the blue-tongued lizard crossing the path hassled by magpies and the noisy resident koala barking at night, I absorbed the beauty of the park, acknowledged and exchanged words with other runners.
It was a different day for me and as I looked around I felt it may have felt that way for other runners out on the track too. One difficult part of the day was my friend John Timms falling over five paces ahead of me. Upon lifting his claret covered head to check he was still present, the 77-year young John hit me with “I’m an ultra-runner” as his first words. Medic Cherie and my wife Meli were soon there to take over while waiting for the ambo. John was in hospital for a couple of hours but back on track by end of the week, bloody legend you are John.
I then went through until the early hours, then took myself off track for a good sleep. Now just shy of nine marathons done in 72 hours, another 79 laps, 112.6km, running total of 336.4km.
Day 4 – This will be etched in my memories forever. Sometime that night I dreamt of my father, and during that dream he woke me. Very disorientated, I got out of my sleeping bag shaking with cold and dressed, I wearily made my way to the aid station and requested hot coffee. It was just what I needed. Then at the next lap I put hot food in my belly.
Head full of my dad, I travelled the track feeding off memories that had been hidden in me for years. I revisited my childhood and my teenage years. All morning I was with my dad and the raw emotion totally overwhelmed me until I caught up with Ant one lap and basically let it all out to him. Thank you for your words and arms at that moment mate.
About an hour later Meli arrived trackside and once again I fell to pieces as I relayed my morning, I cried like a baby, then Meli patched up my emotions and put me back out there. Day 4 was awesome, it got warm, I love the heat, I flowed, running plenty, maybe too much, I came in and retreated to miss the witching hour, having worked out my head does not enjoy dusk time. Meli brought me a big fish and chip dinner and a small glass of red to help me relax, then bed. Another good day with 10 marathons done, 96 hours, another 66 laps, 94.1km, running total of 430.5km
Day 5 – I had a sore knee and every time I ran it hurt. Every time I walked, it hurt less. After four hours of trialling different running styles, it was apparent my knee was having none of it, so Meli taped and strapped my knee cap. This enabled me to run up but not down, which I got away with for a good hour, then accepted running was not an option.
I moved to a fast walking style. I kept with this for the rest of the race and did okay, the only downside being the blisters accumulating in my heel area due to the new movement. It did allow me to stay on track longer with just 30 minute to one hour naps trackside rather than my previous tent/sleeping bag breaks. I spoke with lots of lovely people on the day including runners, crews and volleys. I offered and received constant encouragement throughout the day. Nearly 12 and a half marathons done, another 64 laps, 91.23km, a running total of 523.73km
Day 6 – The Glory mile, a day filled with happiness. For some the end was needed sooner as you could see many were done and had enough of the relentless circling of the park. Others were fired up trying to get to that magic number; I could feel the energy from crew and volleys as they willed on every competitor to their personal goals. I was feeling calm as I walked my laps absorbing all the positive vibes given so freely by all, this day was bittersweet, it felt easy, and the constant foot, shin, and knee pain had given in to my happy place mindset and was no longer present.
I did and did not want it to end; I proudly celebrated my Queensland family of runners pass and surpass their landmark goals, finish lines. Outstanding Kris, Ant and Robert, thank you for letting me be a part of your victories. The finish came; I stopped walking, 14.3 marathons done, another 57 laps, 80.6kme with an official race total of 604.269km.
I wanted to run this race to celebrate 30 years of running; 30 years of moving forward from a lifestyle that was physically and mentally killing me. This has been without a doubt the race that will change everything for me, I now feel at peace with my demons. Thank you Adelaide I will be back, and thank you all the runners who gave me their kind words and ears throughout, remember the teddy bear tree peoples. Thank you Ben, Michelle, volleys, crews and supporters with a special mention to Hannah and Bernice for your smiles and sense of humour every day and night.
My biggest thank you is to Meli Wright, without you I am not complete, this one I could not have done without your support, you kept me positive, lifted me up physically and mentally, patched me up, and even lanced and cleaned my heel blisters as I slept. This time I listened to your every word, this time was perfect.
Pictured: Stephen Wright at the 2019 Adelaide Six Day Ultra Race. Photograph – Supplied.