For nearly 40 years, the Canberra marathon has been renowned as a fast, flat course. Last year, the old 3 lap course was changed to a 1 lap course. I was warned that it was not so flat anymore, but I thought to myself, “I just ran 6 foot. How hilly can it possibly be?” This year the Canberra Marathon was held on the 12th of April.
I had planned to do the Canberra marathon since about halfway through last year, when I found out that it was going to be Ray’s 200th marathon. I had met Ray a couple of years ago at the Hunter Valley Marathon, and since he does even more runs than I do, I usually end up seeing him about 10 times per year at all different events.
I only finally got around to registering for the race a few weeks beforehand, and hadn’t organised accomodation either. I ended up squeezing my way into a room with Kara, Tricia and Jenny, by offering to be the transport. So at 6:30 Saturday morning, I picked everyone up and we were on our way. We had a pretty good run through to Canberra, and squeezed in some shopping at the outlets (including a $5 race day throwaway jumper), some sushi, and some donuts, before Kara and I went on a little Jog for a few kilometres around Canberra. We had dinner in our room (risotto, chicken and potatoes for me) and went to bed pretty early. Race start was 6:25am!
i was the only one doing the marathon… The other girls were doing the half which started much later, so I snuck out and met Neil and Helen at 5:20am, and we all walked down to the start line together.
I was glad to have them, because I had no idea where I was going.
i was pleasantly surprised that it was not freezing cold either. It was crisp, but tolerable.
Richard called me to wish me luck. His advice was to ‘run tall’. Oscar wished me luck too, and said ‘I hope you win’. ‘I’m not sure if I’ll win’, I said, ‘but I’ll give it my best go!’
In the starting corral in front of Old Parlaiment House, I managed to find Ray and wish him good luck. Then we were off. The start was slow as 1500 runners made their way towards Parlaiment House. I found myself running with Nicole Elliot, in her first marathon. Helen and Neil were just behind.
We surged to make our way clear of the 3hr 45 pace group, and then to get in front of the 3hr 30 pace group. Being swallowed up by the pace groups can make it hard to get into your own rhythm and run your own race. I find it’s best to avoid them if you can, unless you plan on running with them.
After a few kilometres, I was running with Helen again, and Nic and Neil were just behind us. The first 15 kilometres went by pretty quickly. Helen and I were running a good pace, and not much talking was going on. Helen wanted to run as close to 3:25 as possible, and I had planned on pacing her for that. So far we were going well. Our first kilometre was 5:13, but since then we have been holding close to 4:40 pace.
I really needed to go to the toilet. I was wondering if I would be able to hold on until the end of the race. Damn caffeine, acting as a diuretic! I ran on, but soon I felt that it was affecting my race. I was starting to hunch over, definetly not running tall, as Richard advised. It was also affecting my nutrition intake, as I could not take on any gels or fuel while I felt so uncomfortable. I was going to have to stop. As soon as I found a toilet.
At the 19km mark there was a turnaround, and we headed back the way we had come for a couple of kilometres, before turning right.
We went through the (almost) halfway point of 21km in 1:39:29, well on track for our goal time of 3:25. The race marshals told me there were loos about 500m ahead, so I ran ahead of Helen, anticipating a pit stop. 1km later, still no loos. I asked every marshal I went past, and finally got old there were some at the bottom of the next hill.
I dashed in as quickly as I could, and when I emerged, was pleased to see Helen was still in sight. Now I had to catch her. But I was running uphill. Kilometre 24 was my slowest of the day, at 5:26, but with a toilet stop and a hill, I don’t think that’s too bad.
I finally caught Helen, and we were starting to realize the back half of this course was much hillier than we had anticipated. Over the next couple of kilometres, our average pace had dropped by nearly 15 seconds per kilometre. I lost Helen with about 10 km to go.
I was feeling much more comfortable, and concentrated on getting some fuel back in.
There were a couple of big hills in the back end of the course, which is quite unusual for a bigger city marathon, as these are usually the courses that are IAAF certified, so people run them to get qualifying times for other races, so they are usually pretty fast courses.
There were quite a few turnarounds too, which I quite enjoyed, because I got to pass my friends throughout the race and see how they were going. I was pleased that Nic and Neil stayed together for most of the race, and Alissa was doing well too. Nic’s husband Tom did a stellar job of appearing all over the course to cheer her on, and because I was just in front of her, I felt like I saw him about 20 times!
With only a couple of kilometres to go, I felt like I was in the bush in the middle of nowhere. As I made my way back towards Parlaiment house, I encountered some of what I think is the best spectator encouragement I have experienced to date. On a path by himself, with no other spectators around, was an Asian man cheering for the runners passing by, yelling to look up, and when you saw the flag up ahead, you only had 1.195 kilometres to go! It really lifted me.
Much more encouraging than the people who yell ‘not far now’. At Kilometre 15.
The marathon course merged with the half marathon course, and all of a sudden I had a lot of people to run with. As I came around the last corner, I passed a sea of cheering Night Striders, who were great to see. I entered the finishing chute, and somehow found the energy to sprint the last 200m home, crossing in the goal time of 3:25.
I waited for Helen, who crossed in 3:30, proving that she is very consistent at running a 3:30 marathon. Neil finished near Helen, and Nic was not far behind either.
Soon, Ray also crossed the finish line, completing his 200th marathon. An amazing achievement. I was unable to find him after he finished to pass on my congratulations.
Congratulations to all the runners, especially Neil Adams and Nicole Elliot on completing your first marathon. I hope it’s not your last!