The ‘City to Surf’ is an annual event in Sydney which starts at Hyde Park in the central city and ends at Bondi Beach. Billed as the world’s largest fun run—with 80,000 entrants—I decided to give it try, but not for fun of course … It was a perfect day for a race with a temperature about 10-15 degrees C. Or at least perfect for a Canadian. I noticed a lot of the Australians were shivering with cold before the race. Then again, they can handle heat while I wilt.
If you are able to run the distance in under 75 minutes you qualify for to start before the masses. I used my time from last year’s Boston Marathon which more than met the requirements so they put me in the ‘Red’ group which was the second to do. I’m glad they did because there were so many people, even in that group, that the start was very slow.
I was surprised that they sang the Australian National Anthem before the start. I thought only the Americans did that. However, unlike Americans most of the Australians did not show much respect, continuing to chat through the rendition. The photo to the left shows us waiting for the start.
The gun went off and we shuffled towards the start line. While I thought I was pretty close when I crossed the timing mats I realized that there would have been at least 5,000 people ahead of me. There was little room to run with a solid phalanx of runners stretching as far as I could see. Bother.
The run went downhill and then up through the tunnel under King’s Cross. I was continually cut off and it reminded me of the swim session we do at the start of a triathlon: people everywhere and no chance to get clear water.
One aspect of the run is hills: there are a lot of them. I’m grateful that I was taught how to run hills by my coach in the USA—lean forward, increase your turnover rate and let momentum help. Even with so many people I was able to make up time on the downhill sections.
There were musicians along the route. Just before the tunnel there was a group of Hari-Krishnas with their drums and cymbals, jumping around. Probably from the restaurant the run in the cross. Later on there was rock band on top of a hotel, dressed very outrageously. In fact, quite a few people, including runners, dressed for the occasion. The best was the guy dressed as Fred Flintsone-complete with club.
They have this hill called “heart break hill”. This seems to be a common name as there is also one in the Boston Marathon. While the hill here is difficult, it happens mid-way through the race, unlike Boston which is much later and when your legs are totally trashed. I had run the route on the previous two Sundays so was well prepared for it. I even paused and took a photo! It’s about a 6.5% grade for 1 kilometre which you can see on the elevation plot below.
From there it was up and down for several km until we approached Bondi when we had a great downhill run to the beach. Unfortunately, there was another kilometre to go and my legs were feeling the results of my efforts. And go figure … the road went uphill again. I had been told that the last kilometre was a tough one, I should have listened. Anyway, eventually I turned down the final chute towards the finish line.
I was glad to cross it in something like 59:30, which was 4:10/km. I had hoped for sub-64:00 so this was much better than I had hoped. And I didn’t even get an asthma attack after the race. Good thing since I had forgotten my inhailer before the race. I even got a post-race self-portrait. You can see the blue sky—it had turned into a very fine day.
I wandered over to the baggage area to collect my warm up jacket which I had deposited in one of the trucks before the race. I didn’t need it, since it was so warm, but yesterday was so cold that I didn’t want to risk cooling down too much after the race. Big mistake.
For a well organized race the baggage drop off was a debacle. The bags were piled up in no order with people randomly looking through them for your number. The photo to the right gives you some idea of what it was like. The baggage people were cubs and girl guides who were doing their best to help out. I was surprised how many people got stressed out by the delay. I commented to one fellow to cool down, these people were giving up their Sunday morning to help us out. One ‘skill’ I’ve developed over the years is to not sweat the small things, especially when it will not affect the final outcome. They simply could not find my bag and I chatted to the people around me. They then realized that two trucks had not arrived! Of course my bag was on one of them.
I wandered up past the beach along Bondi Road and up the hill to where my colleague from work, Milina lives. She had kindly invited myself and a work colleague Ginny who was also running to lunch. I had a delightful time and was a very civilized way to end a race. After lunch I jogged down the hill back to the baggage area to retrieve my jacket. There were long lines of people snaking up from the beach to where the buses were to take them to the train station. As you can see, there was quite the queue. Being the impatient type I decided that it would be just as fast to run home so after grabbing my jacket had an easy 9.5 km run back to The Rocks. It was a good race, but I don’t think I would do it again. I don’t like running with such crowds.
Postscript: My official time was 59:36 which put me 1,386 across the line. A much better placing than I had expected. OK, there were 1,385 people ahead of me, but some 69,000+ finishers behind me 🙂