Last Sunday was the 15th running of the Sydney Marathon. It was the 4th time I signed up for the event. It remains one of my favourite races every year. Running across the harbour bridge is pretty special.
Rich and I did parkrun on Saturday morning, and then headed down to Sydney. We would stay at his apartment in Surry Hills. From there, we walked down to Town Hall to pick up my race bib. We had lunch, got a few groceries, and walked back. It was probably more walking than what would have been ideal, but I didn’t mind.
Dinner was pizza from a nearby local Italian restaurant. It was the good kind, with just a couple of really good ingredients. We went to bed pretty early, agreeing that to get there in plenty of time for the start in the morning, we should leave by about 5:30. That would get us to the start with over an hour to spare before the marathon started at 7. I set my alarm for 5am, and went to bed.
At 4.30am I was woken up by Rich’s alarm. ‘Why so early?’ I asked.
‘Because we need to leave by 5’ he replied.
‘No….’ I said, ‘We leave by 5.30…’
But he was already up and getting ready. I was forced to do the same. I threw on my clothes, and pinned my number to my shirt. I quickly packed a drop bag to check in, with some clean clothes, then put 4 Gu’s into my pocket (8km, 15km, 25km, 35km)Apparently I was taking too long, so I grabbed my apple muffin and started to eat it as we walked out the door. at 4.50am.
Rich was worried we were running late. He made us run to the nearest train station, museum, but it was on the wrong train line. No problem… the Town Hall station was only a couple of blocks away. We ran there too. Past other runners who were walking in the street. runners who had half marathon bibs on. (The half started at 6am.)
As we arrived on the platform, a train was just leaving. No problem, the next one was only a few minutes away. We were only going 2 stations… Wynyard, then Milsons Point. As we alighted, it was about 5.15am and the sun was just starting to rise…
Wow, we were there early. About 1 hour 45 minutes early. Half the half marathoners had not even arrived yet. We wandered around looking for other people we knew.
We found a few, including Renee and Justin, who were doing the half. After awhile, they ditched their jumpers and moved into the starting corral. We wandered around, looking for other marathoners. Eventually, after the half marathon had started, we dropped our bags into the bag drop. This meant that I had to give up the nice warm jumper I was wearing. There were plenty of warm jumpers lying around that were left behind by the half marathoners though, which was just as well, since our race start was still an hour away.
We sat near the entrance to the start corral, and were baffled as runner after runner turned up to start the half marathon, 20, or almost 30 minutes late. Eventually, the volunteers had to shut the gate, and any runners who came after that were told they could do the 9k bridge run. I couldn’t believe how many half marathoners missed their race!
We also had a good laugh at the number of people who stuck their clothing sticker to, ah, well, their clothing! I guess some things just get lost in translation.
Soon after, they opened the corrals for the marathoners. As we were standing there with nothing to do, we thought we may as well get into the corral and get a spot. The spot we got was almost at the front. We stood there for about 20 minutes, watching the corral fill up. The anthem played, and the wheelchair marathon commenced. Finally, the starting gun went off.
I said goodbye to Rich before we even crossed the start line. He was aiming for a Boston Qualifying time. I already had one from Canberra. If he got it, we would be able to do New York as a honeymoon, and add on a trip to Boston while there. If I ran under 3:25 I would better my qualifying time. But I had run hard in Dubbo 2 weeks before and wasn’t sure how I would back up. I had no real incentive to push hard. While I thought I would run close to 3:25, If it started to hurt I’d just slow down and enjoy the ride.
Running across the middle of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is always amazing. The worst thing about starting at the front of the A corral is that people were flying past me all the way. It was good, because my first 5k flew by in 22 minutes. Sonia passed me a few k’s in, and she was looking strong. she said she was aiming for around 3:19.
We headed down Macquarie’s chair, and back up again. I had my first GU. There was a lady running just in front of her hair out, and it was driving me crazy! I just wanted to hand her a hair elastic. I don’t know how people do that! (If you are a runner who likes to run with your long hair out, please fill me in on the advantages!)
15km in, I was still feeling good. I was on my way out to the Labyrinth, otherwise known as Centennial Park. Here, the course twists and turns back on itself a number of times, and you make several hairpin turns. I like this, as I got to see my friends just in front of me and just behind me several times. Sonia was running strong up ahead, and I could also see Rick, who is a ‘Blue Line Legend’, having run all 15 Sydney marathons. Nic Elliot was just behind me, running with the pace group. I saw lots of other Striders, and a few Wooters too (Woot Woot!)
I went through halfway in around 1 hour 40 minutes. That put me in a pretty good spot to run the hilly back half of the race and still get close to my goal time, if everything went to plan.
At 27km, I turned a hat and started to head back towards the city. I had a gel at the next drink station. At about the 30km mark, you get a nice long downhill run down Anzac Parade. Then, you enter Hyde Park. A temporary footbridge is erected over the road, and it’s quite bouncy. I like running across it.
As I exited the park, the rain started to fall. It was only light, but the wind had picked up, and was blowing strong.
At the 33km mark, I ran through Circular Quay, and saw a whole bunch of Striders cheering on the sidelines. It is really cool to run through the city with the roads closed. In the next section of the course, there are a few short, sharp, pinchy little hills. I didn’t mind, as it seemed the tables had finally turned in my favour: People had stopped passing me, and I was finally starting to pass others.
Coming around the corner and seeing the Opera House in the distance is always a great sight to see – It is deceiving, because you still need to run all the way around the water to get there. The finish chute feels like it is never going to end! Finally I crossed the line, in 3:24:38, pretty close to my estimated time of 3:25.
I was feeling a bit sick after the race, but all they had at the aid station in the finish area was water, isowhey sportsdrink and oranges. The last thing I wanted to do was add more sugar or acid to the mix. It was a little disappointing, as this race has recently been given IAAF Gold Label status. It seems that all you need to do to get that status is have a handful of international competitors run under 2:15, because this race is no where near being comparable with some of the big city marathons I have done, or even smaller international races.
Despite this, I’ll definitely be back next year to run my 5th ‘Blackmores’ as I enjoy the challenging course, and never have I ran another race where I have had more friends on course or out spectating to cheer for me along the way, and that’s just the icing on the cake.