The Melbourne marathon is one of my favourite big city Australian events. Last year, I was sad that I missed out on it because I was in Hawaii watching Rich race Kona (Don’t feel sorry for me) but I was really keen to do it this year.
I scored a free entry from Steve, who won one at the runners’ ball but could not use it. I would also stay at my friend Becky’s house, so all I really had to pay for was flights. This was a huge bonus, as it was my 10th marathon for the year… and they really start to add up.
I flew to Melbourne on Friday night. Conveniently, Becky was on the same flight, as she was returning home from visiting her brother for his baby shower.
On Saturday morning, we got up and went to Albert Park parkrun. Becky had never done parkrun before. I ran with her, and she did a damn good job for a first timer! I spotted numerous other runners from Newy who were obviously down for the marathon festival too.
The rest of the day was spent breakfasting, picking up my race number, lunching, shopping and snacking. For dinner, we went to a little Italian restaurant at Port Melbourne. I had the most delicious foccacia and gnocchi, it was so good!
Usually, I like to be at the race at least an hour before the start. As Melbourne starts at 7am, arriving at 6am would have been ideal. We left Becky’s house at 6:20am.
Road closures foiled our plans on the way there, and we had to take an alternate route. Race organizers encourage you to catch public transport to the race, but the one major flaw in this is that it won’t actually get you there before the start of the marathon, as the Sunday timetable does not start early enough. I arrived as they were announcing 10 minutes to start time… but I still had to get to the other side of the MCG and into the starting chute!
I wanted to go to the bathroom but the line ups were way too long… I would have missed the start. I had already given up on finding my friends. The national anthem was playing, and the start was near.
I walked down the street, to where I thought the 3:30 pacer would be. I decided to jump the fence and get into the corral. As I did, I heard someone call my name. I looked up, and saw Helen. Among the thousands of people here, on had practically walked straight into my needle in the haystack, with about a minute to spare!
Soon, we were away.
Quickly, I realised we had made the same mistake as previous years, starting too far to the right. The first 2 turns are left hand turns, so we were forced to run really wide. I am surprised that Helen, Jen and I managed to stay together through it.
As we entered Albert Park, I decided that I regretted not going to the bathroom at the start of the race. I started to scan the park for my options. A couple of kilometres later I spied one, but it was a bit off off course. I called out to the girls that I would try to catch up with them, and dashed off course.
I was glad when I had them back in sight again, but it took me a good few kilometres to catch up. Soon, we turned on to Fitzroy St and headed for St Kilda. On this section of the course we run 2 out and back sections, making a ‘T’ shape. I enjoy it because you get to see the people in front of you and behind you. As we turned right onto Beaconsfield parade, we saw the lead girl, Jess Trengove, run past in the opposite direction, looking strong.
We ran another 3 and a half kilometres down to the turnaround just before Bay Street, and made our way back down the road, passing many other striders as we went. Somewhere near the halfway mark Jen and I lost Helen. We were on a good pace to get Jen the 3:25 she was aiming for though.
We ran down Ormond Esplanade, to the turnaround at St Kilda St, approximately the 26km mark.We passed John Doyle and Jess Stabler (both ahead of us and running in the other direction, looking really strong). It was time to head back into the city. It was another 4km until we turned back on to Fitzroy St, which is where I think I lost Jen, running through a drink station. One minute she was there with me, and then she was not. About 800m later, at Lakeside Drive, the half marathon and the marathon merged.
It was really crowded all of a sudden. Crowded and slow, and I still had 11km to go! Whenever I could muster the extra breath to yell, I’d try to shout ‘Halves, keep left!’ This would allow the faster marathoners space to get by on the outside. However, half of them had headphones in, or were not even listening to the marshals who were telling them the same thing, so I was not very successful at trying to get a clear run through the crowd. It was another 5 or 6 km before our paths split, in the Queen Victoria Gardens. one minute the Marathoners are being told to keep right and the Halvies are keeping left, and then all of a sudden the path splits, and the marathoners go left, while the Halvies go right. It would be really easy to miss your turnoff if you were not paying attention… There are a lot more half marathoners, so it would be easy to get caught up with their crowd. I know a few people who this has happened to, and they ended up finishing the marathon a couple of kilometres short!
From here the marathon course followed the Tan Track, and then back onto Domain Road. There was not far now! I turned the corner onto Flinders St at Federation square, and there was just over a kilometre to go. Here, I saw a familiar runner just in front of me. Kathleen, the girl who had come 2nd in the Dubbo Marathon just over a month ago. I encouraged her to stick with me and finish strong.. I could not wait for this run to be done! There was not far to go.
Running in to the stadium was awesome, It did not take me long to spot the sea of pink that was the Night Strider crowd, cheering everybody on as they all came home. I ended up crossing in 3:21:34, my fastest time on this course to date!
Helen was not far behind me, coming in within a minute of her own PB, set on this course, but just outside it. Jen had faded and ended up a few minutes outside the time she was looking for.
I couldn’t hang around for too long, because Becky and Bronte were waiting for me outside to go to breakfast! It was just after 11am by the time I found them.
We did lots of eating for the rest of the day, before me and all of my Melbourne shopping boarded my Jetstar flight back to Newcastle that evening.
The Melbourne Marathon is a great event on a good course, and I look forward to running it again next year.