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August 15, 2013


So we come to the big dance for those that aren’t capable of completing marathons, the near ultimate test of those best suited to the 10km journey or for those once a year weekend warriors who build themselves up for the single purpose. Sure there are many who would use this run as a launching pad for bigger and better things, after all the overall race record is held by a marathon specialist and the man with the second quickest time is mentoring a wave of indigenous marathon athletes with a view to competing in marathons in New York amongst others. But for many it is this day where they are pitting their skills against the clock and testing their fitness in front of a nationwide, even worldwide audience.

Personally this is a realisation of a goal that I had set at the beginning of the year. This was not a so called New Year’s resolution, that’s something I fail to see the point in making. Instead the organised events that I entered and finished throughout 2013 were all a small step towards this goal. These events also eliminated any doubts about being able to handle the strain of the event. It’s easy to ask yourself questions such as how am I going to cope with running in big packs? Or a simple am I able to cover the distance without stopping?

Race day began for me at 5AM, at least 3.5 hours before my wave was due to begin. It may seem early enough for many but it would take about 40 minutes of motel preparation with showers, dressing, zinc application (and as it turned out, re-application) and the pinning down of the race bib. After throwing on the extra shirt and trackpants that would store my items in storage (easiest way to beat the restrictions on what I could store in baggage) it was a brisk walk in cool conditions to the starting point in Hyde Park.

Probably the challenging part of the pre-race was actually trying to find the baggage drop off point for my wave. Unlike the City2South that was able to use a single area for all waves, the sheer numbers participating in the waves let alone the whole event meant that there were separate areas for different groups. After a 7:15 drop off of my clothing and belongings, it was time for a last minute pit stop before the usual warm-up and stretching routine. It didn’t matter that this was the biggest occasion in my time in running, the routines still needed to be followed. Finding space for the dynamic warm-up proved to actually be easier than anticipated, possibly because the first waves and the elite wheelchair athletes were starting just as I was finishing.

There were 6 waves that comprised the starting procedure for the City2Surf, 5 of which were loosely based on a prospective theoretical time that a competitor would cover the course and the other based on being able to raise substantial funds for charity. I started in the 4th wave which seemed to comprise the majority of starters, which didn’t require qualifying times to enter. This wave catered for the runners and joggers, with those behind basically for joggers and walkers and for the bulk of those dressing appropriately for the occasion. My attire was conservative, long sleeved skins top with the premiership jumper over the top, running shorts, ankle socks and the recently acquired adidas footwear. There was no way I was going to wear anything outlandish such as a morph suit or any other costume, I’d leave that to the desperate types who’d do anything to try to get on TV or have the mass media take their photos for the next mornings’ publication.

The waiting for the starting gun is always the most difficult part. Sure the time taken to actually position myself in the starting area seemed infinite but judging from the queue snaking into the park it may well have been so much worse. It was probably lucky that there was only an 8 minute gap from the time the gun was sounded to start the wave till the time I actually crossed the start line to activate the timing mechanism. There would have been plenty behind me who may have waited closer to a quarter of an hour, so I can only imagine the anxiety some may have felt.

Part of the outfit and bib number, certainly a one of a kind

Part of the outfit and bib number, certainly a one of a kind

It wasn’t exactly a lightning flying start either, although experience had taught me that slow starts are part of the game in mass starts in such events. There was a slight difference to this run as opposed to Perth though, as I was at least able to make decent forward progress without feeling as though I was in rush hour traffic. That said the bulk of the opening kilometres were spent dodging traffic, apologising to others for making contact with them, and trying to to flatten the next generation of runners who were either dragged by or were dragging their parent/significant adult along for the journey.

After 6.2 kilometres came the signature part of the course that often would intimidate the first time runners. I was warned several times by past competitors to watch out for Heartbreak Hill, and it would be unwise to suggest that this was just another hill. The bulk of the 1.6km section comprising Heartbreak Hill seemed to be uphill and of a constant grade, although the reality would likely suggest otherwise (I have a history of misreading things like this). The challenge was big enough, but what frustrated my efforts for a reasonably quick ascent was traffic. I would produce a burst for a number of metres before having to either alter course or slow down to avoid those who let the challenge not quite totally defeat them but reduce them to a slow walk. Still I’m sure that the 9 minutes that passed from the beginning of the ascent to the conclusion of the descent was at least a half decent split time.

The major issue I had during the run was not the course itself, there were more than enough hills and ocean view teases to provide a tough enough challenge. The problem was the comparatively small number of drink stations and the fact that they were only positioned on a single side of the road. The local Rocky River Run had as many drink stations for their 10km course as the City2Surf did, and the City2South in Brisbane in fact probably had one or two more stations. It also didn’t help that it was almost impossible to be able to take a cup of fluid (gatorade on some stations, water at all others) being caught behind about 10 others who all wanted to be at the same spot at the station. The mist tent provided by sponsor Westpac was also a little too early and didn’t provide enough relief for runners, certainly compared to the Brisbane event. To offset this, credit has to go to the couple of kids who used hoses and even old school water soakers to at least try to lend physical assistance to the runners. If anything it did bring a smile to the face

So to the finish, where the last kilometre was largely flat coming off a sharp downhill run. Once again I failed to learn from past mistakes in timing the all important final kick to the finish line. In Perth I was carried away with running on the harness racing facility my timing was well and truly off. This time I thought using the downhill section to launch a final sustained burst would have been sufficient. Problem was by the time I made the final turn into the finish chute the energy had all but subsided, and if it wasn’t for the sight of someone dressed up as Elmo, it may have taken much longer than it should have to finish.

In the end it was almost mixed emotions as I crossed the finish line and started the walk to receive the traditional finishers medal. There was some disappointment given that I was looking to break the 1:10 barrier and with a positive training run on the Thursday prior to the event (12.7 in just over 1:02, albeit on a relatively flattish route). However there was also a sense of joy with completing the distance without resorting to walking, an achievement that even 12 months ago would have been wishful thinking. Plus compared to the City2South where I ran whilst not at near full fitness, my finishing time of 1:13:07 ensured that my personal best time for the distance is now 3 minutes lower than my entry time. With a little luck, perhaps it can get lower and closer to an hour in 12 months time.

P10203410Thankfully at the end of the day after figuring out I was heading in the wrong direction to retrieve my gear, my choice of footwear did pay off. Because I was wearing the Adidas runners I acquired several weeks earlier (and thanks to the timing of the purchase, I completed the run blister free), I was seconded into an area where like minded participants were able to get a free juice (which to be honest tasted less than ordinary, but it may have been the flavour rather than the brand of juice) and a 10 minute massage. There was only one other area that I saw that runners would get a nice rub down and that involved a $10 donation. It did give me more than enough time to at least recover for a while before the wait for the shuttle bus to the connecting city bound train to put a final full stop on the journey.

So where to from here? Certainly a return trip to next years City2Surf is already locked in with goals not quite set at this stage but almost in mind. This year there are at least 3 runs left, and perhaps a fourth is on the cards pending transportation. It all started 12 months ago with the Bridge2Brisbane’s 5km event, and this year in just over a fortnight I return to complete the full journey. After that is a trip to Adelaide for the 12km CityBay Fun Run which at least will mean I have had runs in 4 out of the 5 mainland STATE capitals. By the end of this week, the final run will be determined on November 17, and that decision will be posted here next week. Then there’s the Spring Classic in Yeppoon which is half an hour from where I am based, which I will participate in should I be able to confirm transport to and from the event on the day of the NRL Grand Final.

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