42 years ago, the first City to Surf was run, on a 14km course from the heart of downtown Sydney, out to Bondi Beach. Since then, the event has rapidly grown to become the largest event of is kind in the world, attracting in excess of 85 000 entrants annually.
Last weekend, I took on the City to Surf for the first time. At 14km long, it would not be my ideal distance… But as a runner, the biggest fun run in the world was certainly a run that I had to cross off my ‘To Do’ list.
Daunted by the fact that there would likely be 84 999 other runners also converging on Sydney’s Hyde Park for the start of the race, I arranged to meet my friends on George Street, outside Town Hall Station, at 7am. This worked a treat. We found each other easily, and headed towards the start line. As soon as we got there, I had to leave my friend Rachel, because she was in the yellow group, a different starting group to me. I would be running in the red group with Lucas, one of my new running friends.
The City to Surf starts in several colour waves, to give preference to faster runners and those who enter early…
Red: Elite and preferred athletes, and those who qualify in under 70 minutes
Green: Runners who qualify in under 90 minutes
Blue: Open entry runners
Yellow: Open entry joggers
Orange: ‘Back of the pack’ walkers
There is also a Gold ‘charity entry’ group, which departs after the red group.
I was in the red group. I used my time from last years Fernleigh 15 to qualify. I smiled a little when they referred to our group over the loudspeaker at the elites. Every bib was cheked as we entered the red start zone, so there was no way you would have been able to sneak into another colour group. The view from the start zone looking forward to the start line was pretty cool.
At 7.55am, the starting gun sounded, and the elites (and me!) were off on the 14km journey to iconic Bondi Beach.
It was not hard to tell when we had made it to the 1km mark… GPS watches started beeping around me everywhere. 1km completed in 5:29… Not too bad considering the congested start line, but I was going to have to get a lot faster than that if I wanted to finish in under 70 minutes and re-qualify for the red group again next year.
I was a bit concerned about how bad I was feeling only a few kilometres into the race. I had a bad week of poor eating and sleeping in the week leading up to the race, and was surprised at how much it really affected me. I also could not stomach my breakfast on race morning… All i could manage was some biscuits and a gel on the start line. Poor nutrition was definetly affecting my race. By the time we made it to heartbreak hill, the halfway point, i was feeling like I was going to throw up. At one point, Lucas asked what my heart rate was, and I glanced a my garmin. 193! That’s a bit high, considering the pace we were running (5:45). I drank a cup of water from every water station, which is something I would not usually need to do in a 14km race. Knowing the hill was over was a mental win.
With 3km to go, Lucas pointed out that we had 30 seconds to make up if we wanted to finish in under 70 minutes. Lucky there was a lot of downhill in the last few k’s. But with so many people on the course in front of you, it is really hard to just let go and charge down the hill without running into the back of people in front of you.
I crossed the line in 69 minutes 22 seconds (average pace 4.54) , just scraping into the red group again for next year! (And not far behind winners Ben Moreau – 41:47 and linda Spencer – 48:28) Big thanks to Lucas for pushing me on a day that I really didn’t feel like running at all.
I was pleasantly surprised that I ran into so many people that I knew at the finish line. With so many people there, I am sure I would not have been able to find them if I was looking!
All things considered, I think the City to Surf was a great event. It is well-organised and the atmosphere is fantastic. The course is challenging, and the event also welcomes walkers. To add to it all, the weather on race day this year was perfect! I did not even need to utilise bag check so I would have warm clothing for after the race. I definetly plan on lining up for the city to surf again next year! Sunday, August 10 2014.