Being the twentieth anniversary of this race, the organizers decided to make it a memorable race. The offering of $10,000 for the winner was supposed to attract the best ultra runners from all over the world. It certainly did the trick. 36 runners from 12 countries entered the race and when Yiannis Kouros’ name appeared amongst others it became clear that we are in for a big race.
I had not done as much training as I would like – something like 15 - 20 km per day, mostly in two sessions. Running most of it with my ageing dog Asta it was at a very comfortable pace – hardly to be called sufficient training for such a race. However, I was not too concerned about it. I told myself that I have fresh legs and optimistically hoped for a place in top ten. That was all I expected.
Arriving in Colac on Saturday – the day before the race – I was hoping for good sleep after spending the previous night on the ship unable to sleep at all. Last year we had a caravan which we did not use much so we decided to do this year with the tent only. This proved to be a disaster. It was so noisy around all night that I spent another sleepless night.
Now here I am on the starting line feeling pretty tired knowing that the next six nights will not offer much sleep – how am I going to survive? How will I perform?
Weather was perfect for running – no excuse. I started slowly. After few hours of running I was in 15th place when something clicked I could pick up the pace and started looking like a runner. My original plan was to have no sleep the first night – after all by midnight we will have done only 12 hours of running. But due to lack of sleep the previous two nights I changed my mind and decided for one hour sleep. Same as the previous two nights I did not get any sleep at all – this was already the third night without sleep! Strangely enough when I was back on the track I started running really well and when comparing my distance with that of last year I started getting well ahead. Encouraged I kept going and the next night decided for two hours sleep. I dozed off a couple of times but still no solid sleep. But my running still was not affected and by the end of the second day I covered 281 km – 20 km more than last year. It was also about 10 km further than existing World record for age 65 – 69. I just could not believe it. Never in my wildest dreams I hoped for breaking World Records!
I was cruising and expected to go well past 700 km after six days and breaking another record.
But it was not to be. Just like every single runner in the race went through crisis at times, it was my turn too. The track was very dusty and some runners dragging their feet on the ground created huge clouds of dust we had to run through. I developed a bad case of bronchitis and breathing became a problem. Eric Wright from South Africa came to my rescue and offered me a face mask which I had to use most of the time for the next two days. Few drops of Eucalyptus oil regularly into the mask helped to ease the condition, but running was not so easy any more – my breathing was very restricted by the mask. By the end of day four I was 20 km behind last year’s distance for the same time and any chance of another record was completely blown away. So I decided to change my priority and stopped worrying about my result. I was happy with the outcome already anyway. Yannis Kouros was on the track to break the World record for Six days and needed some support. I discovered that I had enough enthusiasm, determination and energy left to provide it. I have to stress that I was well aware that Yiannis had already ran more than 300 km more than I did so I did not consider myself to be any hero for being able to run with him for the rest of the race. But I enjoyed every minute of it – how often it happens in life to be able to run with the best ultra runner the world has ever seen? I felt extremely privileged to be able to offer my service. Running with Yiannis brought enormous benefits to me. I learnt a lot from him. I also could see that even a superman has to dig in deep sometimes to keep going. On Friday afternoon I noticed that he started to slow down. I brought it quickly to the attention of his crew so they started to feeding him some quick energy releasing food. He also needed to be re-hydrated quickly. He mentioned to me that his knees and bones were aching. Looking at his shoes – he had about dozen pairs in his tent – they all seemed to be racing shoes with very little cushioning. I had been running in Asics Gel –Nimbus with good cushioning since day one and felt very comfortable. I offered him to try them for a while and was very surprised and pleased when he accepted my offer. He ran in them all afternoon and I would like to believe that it helped him a bit. I will keep these shoes for ever – they have been worn by a real champion! Friday was also a very hot day. I have some experience in running in hot weather after running through Simpson Desert in temperatures up to 51 degrees C so I was well equipped for it. But perhaps the opportunity to run with him produced so much adrenalin that I could cope with the heat easily so I could offer him my neck sponge which was soaked in icy water and also my cool west my wife bought for me last Christmas. To my great joy he accepted both of them. I was amazed how well we worked together.
When the storm hit Yiannis disappeared in his caravan and I raced to my tent to get some wet weather gear on. I wondered if the organizers were going to stop the race but was told that “Kouros would run anyway” so by the time any decision was made the storm was over. Yiannis was already on the track so I joined him again. Rudolf kept us informed about the targets we had to achieve – if Yiannis could reach by 4.17 am on Saturday 1,000 km it would be a new world record. To break his age group world record he needed to have 1000 km completed by 6 am. By 11 pm on Friday we knew that he could not complete 1000 km by 4.17 am and had to settle for his age record. It would be no problem but we had to take into account the world record for 6 days as well. We were both getting very tired, Yiannis made comments that he could hardly see the track so the decision was made to go to sleep. How much time we could afford? The whole 30 minutes!
Back on the track even the short break made a big difference. Rudolf was working closely with Phil Essam and kept us informed about Yiannis’ progress towards the world record. At this time he brought up the idea of not only breaking the record for track outdoor- Yiannis’ own record of 1023 km about 20 years old - but to run the longest distance ever run on a track – over 1033 km which was run indoor. At that stage even Yiannis did not believe that he could achieve it so the aim was to run 1024 km. It soon became clear that he will achieve that target comfortably. Breaking the record brought standing ovation from large group of Greeks who arrived for that occasion from Melbourne as well as from all other spectators. But what happened after was almost unbelievable and I can understand even better why he is such an exceptional champion. He started to take off some of his gear and I could feel that we are in for something very special. Yiannis’ determination to run the longest distance ever in 6 days which seemed impossible even short time before that brought a new life to the whole race. While there were many other individual achievements in this race nothing could match the last hour. It was great! It looked like the start of the race, not the finish after six days of running! The greatest ultra runner has done it again. Yiannis is now again the man who has run the longest distance in six days. I have a great memory of the moment we crossed the line with Yiannis breaking the record. He was so excited that he gave me a huge hug and a kiss on my cheek. We almost fell over! This was the most satisfying moment of my running carrier. I will treasure it for the rest of my life. How many runners can ever experience such a special moment alongside the greatest ultra runner the world has seen. I was very lucky indeed.
After that I dropped back. I thought that he was entitled to enjoy all the cheering by the crowd on his own. I knew that I have just completed the most rewarding and exciting race of my life. I was very happy.
Yiannis’ crew member Rudolf summarized the last two days very well on the Cool Running website. When I read all the discussions on CR I was amazed how did Rudolf managed to look after Yiannis, did all the calculations and statistics, planned the rest of the race, helping other runners as well and still found time to write so many well thought articles.
The final result was very satisfying. Yiannis broke the world record and finished clear winner. I finished in 6th place which was good enough considering my age and the age of all the runners finishing in front of me.
I must not forget to mention one very special runner – Dr Andy Lovy from USA. Not the youngest on the track (70!) Andy had to work hard to meet the daily requirements. Yet it was never trouble for him to assist countless runners during the race. I was one of them. On the last night after only 30 minute sleep I had a problem to get up – my back was killing me. Andy did not hesitate to send me to his tent and when finished his lap he checked my back. He discovered that my back was a bit out of place as a result of some perhaps 40 year old injury ( most certainly while parachuting -no wonder I had sore back for as long as I remember) . Within a couple of minutes of manipulation I was back on track with no pain at all! Amazing man Andy. He warned me to keep going as the injury would need further treatment and stopping would be a bad idea. However several hours later I had no choice but to sit on a toilet and could not get up again! Andy promptly repeated the manipulation again and I was pain free again to run the rest of the race. No wonder that the runners initiated a fund to pay for Andy’s next year airfare to make sure that he will be back.
It was expected to be a big race. It was not big – it was GREAT. The number of world records speak for themselves.
I learnt a lot from this race and gained even more confidence for future races.
Cannot wait for Colac 2006 !
This was written on the Cool Running website
Member # 5952
Crew member for
The runner of the race is Vlastik Skvaril.
48HoursWorld Record in age category( 65+) and that was only as a
split to 6 days race, than illness (dust - bronchi, bronchi medicine,
running with face mask in the hot afternoon than running with
inhalator,he could not sleep,because of coughing,..the last 2 days
he knew, he could not do 6 days WR in age category (the lost km in
days 3-4), so he committed himself fully to Kouros records, and was
running with him at the pace Kouros was capable of at any stage,
going to sleep last night only when Kouros hit the caravan and
strictly requesting that the referees would wake him up, as soon as
Kourous is back on the track (trail haha).
Vlastik would often run with bottles for Kouros,
holding food, stopping to talk to me, to slowly explain what Kouros
wants or needs, or to do with me the pace calculations etc, listening to
my calculations and instructions for Kouros, than sprinting, catching
up with Kouros and explaining during the lap...(the area for crew runner
contact is restricted).
It was really similar to Tour de France situation, when the leader of
the team has riders helpers.
So the runner of the race is Vlastik Skvaril.
You had to be there to see it to fully get what was going on
The fact that the runners did PBs, age WR, national records, asian
6day record, is unbelievable considering the track and the weather
last 2 days.
Friday afternoon was bloody hot, The storm was hanging around, but cool
Change not coming for 6-8 hours, exhausted Kouros was limping
Around desperately trying to replace the fluids and cool the body.
Swallen legs could not take the pounding any more. Vlastik gave for
few hours h1s own shoes to Kouros and was running in his training
spares, Vlastik gave Kouros the neck sponge, which was soaked all
the time in ice water, Vlastik gave Kouros his expensive cool vest
which was his wife's Christmas present and he never had a chance to
try it. I did take out from the original packaging,...
The storm finally hit around 8 pm. We had the warnings Claude
Hardel just came back from short trip to GOR, telling me the storm
was very violent, and is coming quickly. The second it hit, our tent
was on the tree, only the back wall remaining on the ground,
everything was in mess, Everybody running to our rescue, while we
were trying quickly to dress Kouros into some rain proof clothes in
the caravan, He was out running in the storm within 5 minutes. The
cool change and rain save his pace, since all afternoon he was doing
something like 4 km per hour.
Vlastik came to ask if Kouros is hiding in the caravan, whenI told
him is out back running, he sprinted after him to help his pace.
So, as much as it was Kouros and his records, it was
Vlastik and his true sportsmanship.
And I feel so much grateful to have the chance to be so close to it all.
More details later,