Marathon Morning

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I had an uncommonly good nights sleep, only a light to moderate night sweat, and felt good when I awoke. This was a relief after the previous fortnight’s lurgy, which continued to make it’s effects known the day before. Although coming into Sydney I was excited at the prospect of meeting up with Lucky Legs and going for a walk on a glorious Sydney day, not long after I arrived in the room I virtually collapsed in a heap on the bed and soon slept for quite a few hours. As Lucky Legs and Wombatface were staying in the same hotel, they got together with Bob for an early pasta meal at North Sydney. I continued to rest in the room, and tried to carbo load on FortiJuice. We watched some of the Test Cricket on TV before having an early night.

As Bob was competing in the Half which started 45 minutes earlier, I wandered down with him to Bradfield Park (clutching a drink). It was already warm, and standing around in a Cool Running Singlet was comfortable. In the marshaling area I saw a sea of blue and yellow caps, and met up with Horrie and Belinda; Tesso; Eagle; The Owl and Jen_Runs. We chatted for quite a while before I realised that I needed to head back to the room and get organised for my run.

The time disappeared quickly, and by the time I put my bag in and found the access to the start line it was nearly time to start. I saw Johnny Dark and another Cool Runner, Dave. Soon we were off with the gun, with the usual slow shuffle before the start. Up on the approaches to the span of the Harbour Bridge, saw CJ up ahead and moved over to her side of the lane to catch up. We ran together up until Art Gallery Rd, however she did not feel so flash first up that morning, and started to struggle. Reluctantly I went on ahead; however this was to be radically reversed after the half way point.

I took water for the first time at the station at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, and then at least one cup at each drink stop thereafter. It was particularly fun for the next few kilometres: I saw a young woman in her speedo’s running with large devices on each upper arm covered in plastic bags, and a strange bandanna headpiece in College Street. Then up Oxford St to Taylor Square the real fun started. First the stragglers emerging from nightclubs bleary-eyed doing a double take as a stream of marathon runners jogged past. Tempting cafes lined the strip reminding us of what we needed to wait some hours for. At Taylor Square, a couple of drag queens competed for cheering duties with an odd collection of drunks and clubbers attempting to High-5 those passing by.

Further along Flinders St and Anzac Pde, another guy suffering from the night before lay on the grass verge on his back, naked and waving his legs around. A mat for the 10k split preceded the turn into Centennial Park. It was an interesting figure of eight route and I became conscious here of a number of other runners who I parried with throughout the remainder of the event. Nearing the Alison Rd U-turn I saw another Cool Runner ahead and quickened my pace to say Hi. It was RockDoctor and I remember that he had a goal time of around 3:30:00. Far too quick or me, I bid farewell and let him speed off. A small cheer-squad of “Go Cool Runner!” was at this Alison Rd/Anzac Pde/Dacy Ave set of traffic lights. Moving up towards Kingsford, the urgent need to find a toilet struck. This caused me to slow right down and I lost a great deal of momentum as well as pace when I finally got going again.

After the Dacy Avenue dogleg, I found myself very hot and overheated. It had been raining lightly at the start of the run, with a heavier fall at one stage, however now the humidity was oppressive and I broke out in a sudden cold sweat. CJ passed me at this point, looked like she was doing it easy, and sped off into the distance. Back through Darlinghurst, we passed clients waiting for the Methadone Clinic to open. Stretching out the lane and onto the road where we were running, each group was equally surprised.

Winding through the city was fun until a spread out group of us ran down Liverpool St. and was collectively horrified to see a steady stream of traffic being “managed” along Elizabeth St. I saw CJ ahead of me cross with a small group, although as I approached a policeman and another marshal put their hands up in an arrogant “STOP” motion, whilst signalling for the Elizabeth traffic to flow through. With my momentum established on the sweeping downhill section rudely interrupted, I was impatient and grumpy with this unexpected delay. A fellow runner arrived about 30 seconds behind me, and started to cross anyway, muttering under his breath the sentiments that I too felt. A similar scenario occurred at the Park and George St junction, although the six lanes of traffic being motioned to travel across our path did not allow any attempted heroics. To add insult to injury, when we finally did get the nod to cross, a clueless couple of (American? I bet!) Tourists walked into my path, knocking me sideways and denting my confidence.

A further traffic intersection at King St was marshaled by someone far more “runner friendly” and this crossing went smoothly. Onto the City Link freeway, a few people had started to walk as the roadway rose to an incline and the 27km mark came into view. A reasonable headwind greeted us, and I slowed right down even on the descents fighting against this invisible force. I thought at least there would be a tailwind where we needed it on the way back. (I was wrong).

At least this was now familiar territory for me, as I had done the Half Marathon last year on a similar course. More people were walking, or stretching on the median strip. The field had spread right out, and I was passing a few people (mainly blokes it must be noted. They seem to be the ones who are over confident about their ability and go out too fast and die), but being passed by at least as many (frequently women who had paced themselves more appropriately). My legs felt great, and I was full of beans, however I still had a bit of abdominal tenderness which caused some discomfort. The earlier rain had soaked my shoes and socks, causing a blister to develop on the outside of my left foot. My singlet also weighed a tonne, a combination of the humidity and sustained sweating with frequent cups of water.

I kept an eye out for Plu along this section, he had indicated that he would position himself on this patch of road, and ever reliable, and “always a Cool Runner first” I knew that he would be there as a cheery Blue, Yellow and Green one man cheer squad. An ambulance travelled into view, slowly travelling along the return section of the course. As it slowed to a stop, I saw a vision in Cool Running colours, camera in hand assisting the Ambo’s. I yelled a greeting and waved, then continued along the route to find the elusive turnaround. I kept thinking that I should break the run into sections; with the marathon beginning at the 32k mark. Nearing Plu’s vantage point again, the ambulance was still in place and I saw a bloke looking fairly poorly. As I crossed the Glebe Island pedestrian bridge, a friendly cheer alerted me to Horrie coming in the other direction. With my reflexes slowed somewhat, I didn’t see Belinda and was concerned that something had happened to her en route.

Up through Pyrmont and Ultimo onto the city Link again, the wind continued to provide a buffer rather than assist. The field had really spread out, with some people continuing onto the outward section of the course, walking and stopping periodically. Many of those around me (in an ever widening diameter) were those close by in the Centennial Park Figure of Eight. (Man with Swedish Flag pinned on his T-Shirt; Girl in Pink Top; Bloke with grey shorts and Felt Belt). I had started to miss some of the kilometre markers at this point, and whereas the foot pod of my Polar S625x had been short at the 5, 10, 20 and 21km markers by a small, but increasing value, as we rolled into Sussex St and along the Piers. This was the business end of the run, and my watch indicated 39.2km had been covered. Given the under recording of the watch up until the midway point, I surmised that I had merely missed the 39 k marker. However, as an aid station loomed into view, the 39k marker lay beyond.

The great unknown – the “speed hump” – a.k.a. Observatory Hill – was still to come. This wasn’t too bad after-all, a steady, but gradual climb, with some ‘helpful’ people saying “nearly there now”, and “all downhill from here” as we turned off onto the tunnel leading to the Cahill Expressway. Along the deep stone cutting (I always marvelled at this as a kid), a deep, but subtle fragrance of jacaranda blossoms permeated the closed arena. I enjoyed the steady downhill flow, however this came to an early end and a rude shock as the tunnel inevitably climbed it’s way up onto the Cahill. Now it was exciting! At just the right moment, a sea of blue and yellow pom poms came into sight, with a pod of Cool Runners cheering and supporting us on our way. This was undoubtedly the highlight of the day, and made me swell with pride. SuperFlake, Gronk, the wonderful CR gals Lulu, The Owl and Jen. Now it was only a matter of finishing. Past the Con and into Macquarie St, the noise of supporters on the roadside became deafening, with one section being simultaneously exciting and a little frightening as they formed a tunnel through which one ran, yelling loudly and clacking noise making plastic ‘hands’.

I had been constantly reassessing my target time as the morning had progressed; with a ‘short’ (by my watch) first half done on target pace, I was secretly optimistic. The later section, particularly from the stop-start road crossing had seen me slow considerably and this made me more uncertain as the distance on my watch did not correlate. I had earlier dismissed a dream of a 3:40 run as unachievable on this day, and reluctantly realised that even my stated, and seemingly reasonable aim of bettering George Dubya Bush’s PB (3:44:52) was going to wait for another day. I could tell that I was in better ‘form’ than when I was at the same point in Canberra, with my head and shoulders relaxed and although slow I felt that if there was an option to continue for another 8 kilometres I could do so without horror. The clock however was indicating a time later than my debut of 3:47:56. I had never considered that I would not be faster than this. Although still awaiting my formal results, I crossed around 3:48:25. I saw Tesso and Queen Bee just beyond the finish line.

To be continued . . .

8 Responses to “Marathon Morning”

  1. Blogger Cirque 

    Congrats FD...well done!
    I'm sorry you didn't make the time you'd hoped for but given the delays and the difficult course I can understand why. I'm waiting for the next instalment...does it have a happy ending?

  2. Blogger Jen_runs 

    What a great race report Flash. Although you didn't get the time you wanted, you looked really comfortable as you ran past the cheersquad - unlike a lot of the blokes ;-).

    A great run under really difficult circumstances. Well done!!


  3. Blogger strewth 

    Congratulations FD! I think that's a fantastic time. Do hope your recovery is good and you have a massage like CJ who informs me that the Sydney Marathon is much harder than the Canberra one so you should be really happy with that time. See you Sunday. Thoroughly enjoyed the race report - makes me want to run it one day! What a great cheer squad.

  4. Blogger Gronk 

    Well done FD. Good report too. I recall LL & Action's conversation after the C2S. They agreed that the goal should be to have fun first, time second. Very wise me thinks. Sounds like you had a fun weekend. Good on you. See you soon. Gronk :)

  5. Blogger plu 

    Epic Weekend. Great Report. It was so good to see you out on the course.


  6. Blogger Horrie 

    Great run FlashDuck. Not surprised that your goal time was not reached as the tough second half of the course and the rising heat, humidity and headwind took its toll on quite a few. The main thing was that you ran well and enjoyed the run. That PB will fall on a kinder day and an easier course.

  7. Blogger Ewen 

    ... of course the 'continuation' will include a mention of lunch at Kirribilli?

    FD, that was a great detailed report and an excellent photo by Plu - it looks sunny and hot. It was a fun course, not a fast course.

  8. Blogger Tesso 

    FD, thanks for such a descriptive write up of the course. How do you manage to notice so much? I can't even remember the rain really. Must take a leaf out of your book and stop and smell the roses ... or the jacarandas :-)

    I reckon George Dubya would be shaking in his boots if he knew how close you came to his time in those conditions.

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