The Choo-Choo run was an idea of Simon Coates a few years back. Basically we all drive to North Dandelup Station (and I use the word ‘station’ in the broadest sense of the word, it is actually a small raised platform and a car park.) and run to Serpentine train station to catch the only train back to the start. Miss the train and you are faced with either a 10k walk back via the road (and in the country running on the road is suicide due to the drivers all believing they are Michael Schumacher, before the skiing accident !) or worse, repeating the 35k trail run in reverse. (Now there’s a thought ? )
It’s not a race as such, more of a man versus train type run with friends. Everyone leaves at different times with the idea being you’ll all arrive together at the finish, a handicap run I suppose. There was talk of a prize for the last person to leave North Dandelup and make the train but this, for this year at least, was shelved. As it was I have attached a photo of the runners who left last @ 7am, this was 30 minutes after last years leaving time so we’d given ourselves little margin for error . Its a 35k testing trail run which should take around 3hours and the return train leaves Serpentine @ 10:20am.
So off we went full of the joys of spring bounding up the first 6k which is all uphill and on road. As I mentioned earlier this is testing for two reasons, one, the hill is large , unforgiving and long (as all good hills should be) but there is also the threat of getting cleaned up by the ‘country drivers’. In the country life may be slower but the driving is anything but. There’s a reason that even Kangaroos get wiped out on a regular basis. Faced with slowing down country drivers decided to speed up and fit ‘bull bars’ to their cars, so rather than avoid Kangaroos(or runners!) they accelerate into them . Bless ’em.
We managed to get to the top of the road section intact after one close call when three cars cut a corner and we happen to be on it, you certainly feel alive when that happens trust me. Once we regrouped a quick headcount indicated we were one short (literally!) . Bart’s , who had driven me down to the start, was missing so I volunteered to run down the ‘hill of death’ and find him. After a longer run that I had wanted to take on at such an early stage of the adventure I found Bart’s ‘huffing and puffing’ up the road in a world of pain. This after 6km’s into 35k challenging trail run , racing a train. Not a good start and I indicated the best thing he could do was return to the car and wait for us or at least give me his car keys (as my bag was in his car, it wasn’t about the bag though , honest ?) Bart’s insisted on carrying on and asked me to come back and check on him during the run. Due to the time constraint we had set ourselves I told him in no uncertain terms this was not going to happen and once I left him he was on his own. Surprisingly he was ok with this and, with no prior knowledge of the route and less than 3 hours to run the remaining 29k, was happy to take on this adventure , alone. So Barts was dropped quicker than Hilary Clinton endorsements after the American Election, never to be seen again, or so we thought ?
After dropping Barts like a bad habit I caught up with the back markers and eventually the main group. We continued on our merry way commenting how enjoyable trail running was and how we should do it more often. Please note this is the same conversation we have at the beginning of every trail run, unfortunately our views on trails can sometimes be a tad different by the time we finish; and that’s be nice about it ! Anyhow we made it to the 21k mark where our ‘race director’ Simon Coakes had dropped water and gu’s, it was the least he could do after DNS’s the previous evening due to umpiring his son’s footy game and pulling a hammy. (He’s getting old Si, bless him.)
The last 14k after the drinks stop is the best part of the Choo-Choo run as you run off the scarp which means some wicked descents into Serpentine. Last year I was able to take advantage of the terrain and put in some seriously fast splits but this year, due to it being 2 weeks after the Perth City-to-Surf marathon, my hammy’s had tightened up so every step was painful as I hobbled (and that’s being nice) down the hill. No worries. reached the Deli and tucked into my first Brownes Mocha for probably 6 months, man did that taste good !!
We had 20 minutes until the train arrived so just enjoyed telling tales of the day when all of a sudden who comes into sight, walking the wrong way to the Deli, but Barts. ! Unbelievably he had somehow managed to get to the finish in time for the train, albeit running 3k less , somehow ? At the time of writing this post it has to be noted we have not seen any Strava evidence ( http://www.strava.com) of Barts and whatever trail he did run but assuming he said he did what he did I am in awe of the man.
Funnily enough the train was graffitied at the main depot so was cleaned before it set out on its journey, resulting in a 45 minute delay. We could have started at 8am, not 7am, and still made it easily. When the train did arrive at the station there was no sign of any graffiti and maybe next year this could be a cunning plan for a lie-in, just got to persuade someone with a spray can to get the train before it leaves ? That’s wrong, right?
The photo below is all the crew who made the finish including a few runners who left before the 7am sweepers. There has already been lots of talk of leaving even later next year but we’ll see; no one has actually missed the train yet so there will be a first. One thing for sure it won’t be Barts, if he can recover from near exhaustion at 6k and then still finish less than 3 hours later after running 32k I reckon the man could fly if he wanted to. Running gives you so much and on that Sunday it allowed me to witness a miracle, how does one go about nominating someone for a sainthood ? Saint Barts of lost causes, it has a nice ring to it, if only he was taller…..