(Posted - 14 Sep 2012)
When we read the entrant list for the Surf Coast Century, and then the ages listed against the names, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Fourteen to sixteen years old? Solo entries? Eight of them? Surely they’ve entered incorrectly. Surely they are a relay team entry? Even that in itself would be impressive... a group of 14-16 year olds knocking off up to 30 kays each! So we checked. And rechecked. Rang parents. No mistake.
A group of schoolgirls from Geelong will be competing in the Surf Coast Century next weekend (Sept 22) and while they will stick together as a ‘team’ for moral support, they are all attempting to run the entire 100km. And they say we should worry for the future given the youth of today? If this group of inspirational girls is any indication, the future’s burning bright... We caught up with the girls while they were traning:
1. Tell me a little about how a group of students (all aged between 14 and 16) came to sign up for the Surf Coast Century?
We all took part in a class called Fit4Action. This class was run by our teacher Michael Tong. We are a very determined group and at the conclusion of our semester we were looking for our final challenge, something that could test us both physically and mentally. The strength to do an event such as this 100km comes from both. So from the end of our semester to now, we have been training every week, maintaining our fitness and dedication in lead up to the 100km.
2. How do you feel about the fact that you are more than half the age of most other runners registered?
“It’s not the age, it’s the mileage’ Indiana Jones. The thought that we are a lot younger than other competitors doesn’t really affect us. In Fit4Action we were taught that it doesn’t matter if you are the fittest or most experienced it is about the mental toughness and determination you have.
3. Ultra running is considered by many to be as much about mind as body, many noting that the mental toughness needed to complete something of a 100km magnitude is generally not something people develop until middle age?
I guess we see it as a driving factor. The development we have achieved over the past 8 months wasn’t singly just physical; it was the mental strength as well. It was a key component of Fit4Action. It was completely unique and when we went to your first lesson you’re warned about it. Our teacher told us that if you weren’t prepared to be fully committed to this subject and to yourself that you had to leave, it was one of those things that if you were on the fence with your decision, you’d leave as that kind of attitude and indecision would slow you down. Not many people dropped out, and this showed us what we are capable of doing, even when in the unknown.
4. What role has your teacher played in taking on this challenge?
Mr Tong (more fondly known as ‘Tonga’) was our driving force. He has always believed 100% in us, right from the beginning. He has put in lot of his own time and energy into making this happen and supporting us all the way. His motivation and commitment to us is what makes him such a unique and rare teacher. He was willing to do anything to get us through training and the race. He has taught us qualities and information that no other teachers would have been able to, things like mental attitudes and training programs he has taught us about nutrition and the importance of believing in yourself. Without him, we doubt that we would be here ready to compete today.
5. What kind of training have you undertaken to date?
We have had an entire school semester of Fit4Action, run by Tonga, which essentially was an intense fitness program. When that stopped and our class finished, a few of us decided to continue with training outside of our classes and school time. The type of training change however from intense fast-paced workouts, to more focus on endurance and slow release of energy.
Most of the classes were circuit/interval classes similar. To give you some idea of the intensity and need for mental strength, we completed two key workouts during the semester that involved running the beep test 4 times in a row. The first time we did it our scores fluctuated dramatically between tests. The second time we did it, not only were scores higher across the board, they were also more consistent between tests. This showed that we had not only gotten physically fitter, but mentally stronger as well.
6. Longest run so far and how the group fared?
Our longest run would have to be a 7hr walk/run. As we are walking most of the distance of the race our training had to reflect that. There was a bit of fatigue but overall we did that fairly comfortably.
7. Many would consider it a great achievement if you entered as a relay team, given your ages….but you are all running solo – what prompted you to take the hard option?
Fit4Action was never about taking the easy road and really none of us wanted an easy challenge, what is the point. We want to prove that we can all do this the hard way, together. Our challenge wasn’t about finding the easiest way to do something and so “There was no other option…"
8. And why trail running (as opposed to a road event)?
Trail is harder than road. Once again we aren’t looking for an easy test.
9. Is your teacher running? And if so, how’s his running aptitude?
Our teacher Michael Tong will be running with us every step of the way, although he is also really keen for beer stein which is quicker than the group's projected finishing time.
10. Will you all try to run together or is the plan for everyone to run at their own pace?
We start together, we finish together.
11. Will you have a crew to cheer you through each checkpoint?
Absolutely! Our families will be at different check points along the way, cheering us on. We also have additional support crews in case we need something urgently.
12. Have you run any of the course yet? Thoughts?
Over our long sessions we have gone through most of the course. It’s beautiful; the gorgeous cliff faces that we will be running alongside during the first leg will be amazing. When we come back along the trails, we’ll be able to look out and see the amazing scenery of the ocean and land ahead of us. We are all very excited about running along these trails.
13. Have you gone through the scenarios in planning – how hard it will be…done any research into 100km running and what to expect?
We expect it to be hard. Really hard. We wouldn’t have it any other way for The Ton.
Information and entries at www.surfcoastcoastcentury.com.au