With its retro, glow in the dark theme, it would be easy to classify the Afterglow Half Marathon as little more than one of those novelty runs that are all the rage these days, but make no mistake, this is a serious, and seriously beautiful twilight trail run event.
For me though, a race is usually just an excuse for a bigger adventure, so I turned a relatively straight forward trail run, into a four day road trip filled with fun and adventure. And waterfalls.
With airfares lower than they’ve ever been, flying to Melbourne from my home town of Adelaide would have been relatively easy, fast and inexpensive. But not much fun. Instead, I decided to jump in my 17 year old convertible (that no longer converts, or keeps the rain out), and drive over. The direct way, bia the main highway, would have taken me a little over 8 hours, and naturally I decided that wasn’t nearly enough fun either. I cast my GPS aside and busted out the actual hard copy road map. I wasn’t looking for the fastest way there, but the funnest way – and I found it passing through the Southern Grampians where I stopped for a quick twilight hike, followed by some waterfall chasing the next day in the Otway Ranges. I eventually rolled into Angelsea, my final destination for the race, but not before I’d had a tonne of fun! (I can highly recommend ditching the GPS and taking the backroads if you’re more about adventure than efficiency!)
The race itself, run in the twilight hours, was really something. I have to say, for me personally, fancy dress just isn’t my thing when I’m running. I have enough trouble making it to the finish line as it is without wearing a tutu or a superhero costume. But for this race, I made the slight exception of at least wearing a brightly coloured top and pair of shorts. With the day drawing to a close, a rainbow assortment of runners gathered at Torquay, one of Australia’s most famous surf beaches, to be bussed off to the starting line further up the coast. There was an early start time for the slower runners, with the speedies starting a little later. Being pretty out of shape after spending almost six months out with a serious ankle injury, I opted for the early start time. To be honest, the longest run I’d done in the lead up was 11kms and I’d traveled to this race planning to do do the shorter 12km distance, but at the last minute, running fever took over and I went for the half even though I wasn’t even sure how I would go for the full 21kms. My plan was to run the first half of it, and then if I had to walk the second half, I’d still have some company as the faster runners came through later. Seemed sensible enough.
The twilight timing makes for one pretty spectacular run. The coast line is stunning at the best of times, but throw in a decent sunset and your biggest problem on this run is likely to be keeping your eyes on the trail ahead instead of taking in the sights. More than once, I forced myself to stop and just soak it all in, (and take a few pics), for a few seconds, before going on my merry way.
For most of the back half of the race I managed to keep pace with a runner rocking out some serious retro tunes on her portable speaker which would usually annoy the crap out of me, but on this day, for this race, the 80s and 90s tunes I’d grown up with were just what I needed to keep me upbeat and moving. She also served as an unsuspecting pacer until she stopped at a drink station leaving me with more than a few earwigs to keep me company for the rest of the race.
As it happens, my run went really well – better than I ever could have expected, (perhaps it was the music?) and I finished in a respectable enough time. And I have to say, this event has an incredible vibe and sense of fun. Sure, there are plenty of fun runs out there that are, well, fun, obviously, but this is the perfect combination of decent trail run combined with a party atmosphere. The few and far between people who didn’t dress up were the ones who looked most out of place, with most us at least choosing an appropriately ridiculously colourful piece of clothing or two to keep with the ‘Glow with the Flow’ theme. And the before, during and after race vibe was easily one of the best I’ve ever experienced, and I can highly recommend doing it if you ever get the chance.
The Great Ocean Road makes for an awesome road trip as well, and I chose to drive home that way, taking in the sights along the way. What can I say? Sometimes you have to put a little effort in to turn what could be a regular trip, into a more awesome adventure.