A few weeks back we travelled up to Sydney for the City to Surf. For many years I've been meaning to get around to running this race, but for whatever reason, haven't pulled it off. This is a fourteen kilometre road race, beginning in Sydney City and ending at Bondi Beach.
This year I had a training program that I found online and I stuck pretty closely to it. It was a fairly hard training program - with a long run on Sunday, 30 minute run on Monday, intervals on Tuesday and medium run on Wednesday before I finally got to a rest day on Thursday. I found it tough, but always seemed to find the energy when I needed it, and didn't get sick at all, even when running about 50km in a week. (I used to get tired, sick, or sore when I went over 30km in a week). I tried to include some hills or mountain running in the program in preparation for the dreaded "heartbreak hill".
We stayed at a hotel in Sydney and hooked up with some friends who were also running the race. We went out for dinner together to load up on carbs and then hung out for a while at the hotel before crashing for the night.
On race day we met up for a hotel breakfast - something to sustain us but not overfill us - and headed down to the starting line at Hyde Park. There were people EVERYWHERE! With a record 75,000 competitors it was the world's biggest running event. Once in position we did a lot of waiting before we actually got to move anywhere, and even once we started to move, it was quite slow. As it was my first year running, I was in the 'blue' group which is made up of the masses - the slow people and the first timers.
For the first five kilometres I focused on running and weaving. I found that I couldn't go more than about ten strides before having to weave around walkers. I tried to use the footpaths as much as possible, but didn't want to be seen to be cheating either! Please understand - I'm not blaming the walkers, just expressing my frustration as a runner.
The weaving continued for most of the race and I don't feel I ever actually found my pace group. Usually in a race I find a point in time when I'm not overtaking people any more - when I'm with people of a like pace. I was feeling unusually strong throughout the race and was running well. I didn't stop for hydration as it was an opportunity to make greater headway through the crowds. I was listening to my run playlist on my iPod, which always helps to put more speed and power in my pace.
Heartbreak Hill didn't end up being so heartbreaking after all. I ran the whole thing and found it quite a non-event given my prior preparation. There was a great atmosphere with people along the sidelines cheering and runners in crazy costumes. The weather was perfect for running and I found the kilometres were flying by.
As I came to the last stretch along Bondi Beach I felt a tingle go through my body. I was almost there, and all these people were cheering us along. Crossing the finish line was a real let down. I felt almost disappointed. One moment I was running this race, enjoying the music and mood, and caught up in the weaving. The next moment it was all over. We walked through a couple of gates, picked up our medallions and then the weaving through crowds continued as we tried to get to the water stands to rehydrate.
I met up with the others from my group at our meeting point. It took awhile for everyone to find it and none of us were really sure what time we had run due to differences between race start time and our actual time. I had started my stopwatch at the beginning of the race, but was slow to press it at the finish line. I had run it in a good time - good enough to get me into a better starting position for next year. You can see photos of me running and a video of me finishing here.
We decided to cab it back to the hotel as the lines for the free buses were ridiculously long. We showered and ended the experience with a great steak lunch down at Darling Harbour.
Can't wait to do it all again next year, but training for the Canberra Times Fun Run in the meantime.