Blackmore’s Sydney Marathon – Sydney, Australia
Race Date – 16/09/2012
Goal Time – 3:45
Finish Time – 3:38 (PB)
Course Profile: Mostly flat with a few inclines, particularly during the final 10km. Quite a few loops during the middle part of the run.
Temperature: Sunny, average 21°c
Pre-event organisation: excellent, although race kits were not mailed out so participants could only collect their kit at the event expo in the CBD
On the day organisation: Excellent – course was clearly marked out , KM markers clearly visible, plenty of aid stations and volunteers. Baggage collection was a good 1km walk from the finish line which was quite poor.
Drink Stations: Excellent – plenty of Gatorade, GU gels and water provided
The Sydney Marathon promises to be ‘one of the world’s most scenic marathon courses, taking in some of Sydney’s most spectacular and historic landmarks’. With a course that starts across the iconic Harbor Bridge and finishes at the steps of the infamous Opera House, it doesn’t fail to deliver.
0km – 10km
The race starts at Milsons Point, just under the Sydney Harbor Bridge with expansive views overlooking the CBD; from the office skyscrapers to the sails of the Opera House, which seem to glean menacingly back in the early morning sun, almost knowing that you have to endure 42.2 km before you reach that finish point.
The first 2km of the course takes runners up and over the Harbor Bridge, which forms the highlight of the race. With all eight motor vehicle lanes closed, the only traffic across the bridge on the morning of the marathon belongs to the runners.
My marathon plan was to run in negative splits; the first 14km at roughly 5:35 min/km, with second 14km at 5:15 min/km and the final leg at 4:50 min/km. It was a battle to fight the adrenalin which was making me want to stretch out my legs and sprint across the bridge during those first few kilometers.
It was almost demoralising seeing hundreds of other runners race past you, especially when some where coming from the group behind. Still, it allowed me to soak up the atmosphere and take a moment to enjoy the unique opportunity to run over the Harbor Bridge with 3,000 other runners.
Coming off the bridge, the race loops around to take runners over Circular Quay, with fantastic views of Sydney Harbor.
Coming into the city and toward Hyde Park, the early support from the thickening crowds is momentarily appreciated before the 1okm mark takes you towards Moore Park via Oxford Street, Sydney’s infamous nightlife strip.
Lined with bars and nightclubs, the few spectators along this part of the course were mostly made up of punters from the night before, drunkenly cheering runners on and sometimes attempting to join in.
10km – 21km
The scenic route around Moore Park and Centennial Park can help to forgive the lack of crowd support during this stretch of the race. It was throughout this part of the run that I started to increase my pace slightly. Still feeling pretty fresh, it was hard not to surge that little bit more, especially as I saw the 3:45 pace marker group pass me on one of the many loops that this part of the race throws at you.
Crossing the half-way point at 1:53, I knew that if I stuck to the negative splits, I was more than on target to catching the pace marker and making my goal time.
21km – 30km
I knew from the 2010 Sydney Marathon that I may start to hit the wall from the 28km point, especially with the lack of crowd support and the never-ending loops around Centennial Park.
Luckily, my race plan pulled off and it was at about the 28km mark—just as I came into the final loop that leads runners out of the park—that I caught up with the pace marker group. I held back with them for the first few minutes, before deciding to push past them. The feeling of leaving the group behind gave me the strength I was going to need during that last 10km.
30km – 40km
The worst part of the Sydney Marathon route is those final 10km when the course takes you so close to the finish line, only to loop back away from it, taking you in the opposite direction. You can hear the crowd shouting and see the other, faster runners making their way to the finish line. You can see the finish line barley 100 meters away.
Having ran this marathon a couple of years before, I was familiar with the demoralising feeling this part of the course creates. To mentally prepare, during my long training runs I always made sure I had to run past my house for another 5km before I finished the run. Did help much on the day? Well, I still felt like throwing Gatorade over the runners who were coming up to the finish line, so probably not.
Moving away from the finish line and out towards Pyrmont felt like entering the ‘end of the world’. All of the things you don’t want in a marathon is served up to you on a 10km platter during this part of the course; limited crowd support, an uphill route, boring views and more loops (damn you faster runners on the other side!)
It was during this part of the race where I began to see people really hit the wall. One guy who was running in front of me suddenly stopped dead in his tracks as if there was literally a huge solid wall in front of him. ‘Only another few kilometers to go, we’re almost there!’ I tried to shout back in encouragement. He looked up, muttered something (I think it was something about being chicked, but I couldn’t be too sure), and he started moving again, in a half hobble/half dragging fashion, but at least he was moving. And so was I. In fact, I think I started flying.
40km – finish
The final few kilometers of the race brings runners under the Harbor Bridge and into view of the Opera House. The iconic sails became like magnets, pulling me closer to them. My legs took on a life of their own as I started to surge past other runners. I checked my Garmin; 4:38 min/km… 4:35 min/km… 4:24 min/km.
As I raced through the final 200m with the crowds cheering on, I let my legs loose into a full sprint (well, as much of a sprint as I could manage after 42km), and felt myself surge across the finish line. 3hrs, 38 minutes.
It took a while for the adrenalin to subside and for me to get any feeling back into my legs, but until I did, I felt like I could have run another 42km. I’d say this is a good and a bad thing. The negative splits helped me to pace myself and crack my goal time. But I sometimes feel as though I should have believed in myself to pace for a 3:35 time.
Maybe next time……