Sleepless runner calls on her adventurous heritage
IT took 24 hours and 28 minutes but 66-year-old Judy Murray successfully completed the internationally renowned 100km Ultra Trails Australia race last month through rugged Blue Mountains terrain.
Described by another participant as "worse than childbirth", the Terrigal Trotter said she was amazed to have not just completed the course but to have finished second in her 60-plus age category.
Over 200 of the roughly 1000 people who started didn't make the end, with the last person being pushed up the final steps at 11am. Judy had finished at 7.30am.
The first male home took just 8 hours 52, the first woman 10:52:35.
"I went into it saying I'll just go as far as I can," Judy said.
She had no sleep throughout the race, which included a rope ladder descent down a cliff face, with her longest break being just 30 minutes.
Her strategy was to eat and drink every 30 minutes and to keep moving, whether it was running, power walking or just walking.
It's an amazing feat for a bushwalker who only became interested in running about eight years ago to improve her fitness for an Everest Base Camp walk.
She reckons she's probably got a bit of the adventurer in her, with her great uncle Frank Wild having been right-hand man to Shackleton in his Antarctic expeditions.
But it all started simply with Judy's son suggesting that instead of just listening to everyone else talking about races at Trotters training she should "give it a go".
She did, running the 12km Bay to Bay in 2010, and in 2011 exceeding all her expectations by gaining a podium finish in her age group against people who had been running for years.
That gave her the taste for her first Sydney half marathon, at which she just remembers thinking ... "it has to end soon".
But the following year she came third in the Bay to Bay half marathon, and that could lead to only one thing - a full marathon, this time in Canberra, running with her son.
Ultra-Trail's North Face 50 in 2014 was next in the build-up, followed by the 62.9km Tarawera Ultramarathon in New Zealand this February.
It all takes a lot of training, including three runs a week; one short hill or stair repeats and the other two longer runs. In the lead-up to the 100km Ultra, her longest run was 50km.
She also does yoga most days, which she said improves her flexibility and prevents injury, and takes part in two seniors weights classes each week.
As well as loading up on carbs in the lead-up to long events, Judy get lots of sleep, going to bed at 7.30pm in the lead-up to the 100km Ultra to "bank sleep credits".
"It must have worked because I didn't become fatigued at all - never hit a negative space," Judy said. "I was quite surprised I had the endurance."
Running in the dark, Judy said, was not daunting but an unforgettable experience, with fluoro strips placed in the trees and along the trails and a ribbon of other runners in fluoro vests ahead.
"At the 78km checkpoint I knew I was going to finish, so it became really exciting. I just knew I was on my way to the finish line," she said.
Waiting to congratulate her as she ran across the finish hand-in-hand with another woman (in her 40s) whom she had met as part of the race and run the last 20km with, were her partner, son and a group of Trotters.
"I fell apart then," she admits. "All the tears came."
As for her next challenge, Judy is unsure, but said she would not return to the Ultra.
"I've ticked that box. It's the toughest thing I've ever done but I didn't have any problems and I had a really good experience. Next time it could all go pear-shaped.
"I'm still quite amazed that I did it. It's still surreal."