There are a billion reasons why I want to love the Sydney Marathon. It’s in my home town of Sydney, it’s the only time in the year that one is allowed to run over the Sydney Harbour Bridge and it finishes right over at the Sydney Opera House. An absolute slam dunk of a race, right? Not quite….
So this year, for me, after running my first race in April and running about a race every month after that, I decided to finish off the year with the Sydney Marathon. I have bittersweet feelings about my training this year. By far, it’s been the easiest in terms of getting out and going for runs, as I’ve basically done all my runs (especially long ones) with my club NRG. However for the last 4 – 6 weeks of training, I was feeling pretty exhausted and drained. Then right on that last week leading up to the marathon, I was floored by a virus and bug, that left my energy levels sapped 😦
However, I decided to attempt to run the marathon (not really recommended advice). I recalibrated my goals which basically meant going for a finish instead of time.
Day of the Race
Great thing with this race being local is the amount of people that you know running it or supporting it. So straight away on the train, I see some fellow NRGers. I strike up a conversation with Roger who tells me about his goal of attempting to qualify for 6 ft (which he did mind you, go Roger!). At Milsons Point, I see familiar faces Chantelle, Tim and Robyn. Before we start running, I also see Neal and Joe. I think this really helped me calm my nerves as it absolutely felt like a normal Saturday run with my normal running buddies.
And we’re off
Slightly overcast and the clock moves past 7:20am, and the runners are off. Mentally and physically I knew my body wasn’t right. I was struggling initially to run at 5min/km so I knew that this would be a LONG day. I gave myself 5km and told myself to re-evaluate it then. Circular Quay station is at the 5km mark so I could easily go home then.
Straight away, I see Neal and Joe fly off after Chantelle. I know that I’m here to run my own race so I nod and wave each time I see them running back as I run out. They’re already way ahead as I run over the bridge and head for Lady’s Macquarie’s Chair.
5km goes by and I’m continuing along. I’m going around 5:15-5:30 min/km now and I switch my watch to focus on duration and HR as opposed to pace.
Out to Centennial
I see Chris and Daniela overtake me and they both look strong. As I head out to Centennial Park via College and Flinders St, this is the start of the run that I dread the most. Basically as soon as you enter Centennial Park, it’s around 15km and you exit at around 30km. And you run around, back and forth, around and around, and lose all your bearings, and eventually get spit out again when you’ve got no energy left.
I’m struggling here for sure. I try and keep my heart rate below 170 bpm and take in water at every stop and gels every 9-10km. Philip runs past me. I’m happy to see him running, as I recall two weeks ago, leading up to the race, he rolled his ankle. It’s also his first marathon, so I know how special that can be.
Back to the city
Eventually Centennial is done and I’m heading back to the city. Going back through Hyde Park, I see Matt, he’s on a bench, looking like he has finished. I looked at my watch, it was 2:55 and as he shouted some words of encouragement to me, I said “Damn, you’re fast!!!” Afterwards, at the pub, after the race, I realised he had popped his ITB and had to stop running.
At this time, I know that I’m well outside of PB range but I have a chance of still going under 4 hours.
At about 33 – 34km, down Macquarie St, I see some NRGers cheering me along. I pretty sure I saw Rocco, Doug, Gillian, Simon, Adam, Raki and Tony (sorry if I missed anybody else). As a sign of my appreciation, I did a little twirl and remained upright in the process!
Pyrmont and back
The last twist in this marathon is heading back to Pyrmont and then running back to the city. This is where you get to see the people who are way ahead of you running back towards the finish as you go out. The first person I saw was Robyn (finished in 3:12) who absolutely looked in cruise control. Then Tim (finished in 3:16) comes past. Then Chantelle (finished in 3:20). Then Joe (finished in 3:34) who I shouted his infamous ‘Hills are fun, they’re good for your bum’ line to. Then Daniela (3:36) who looked well and truly in the zone. Then Neal (3:40) zooms by. This also made me quite happy as I knew at the time it was Neal’s first marathon and he was well and truly on his way to finishing.
Opera House Finish
At 40km, I get a good cheer from Brett. He said something along the lines of “You’re doing it easy” and I responded with “I’m totally F’ed”. Which is basically how I felt at the time. As I was running near the Overseas Passenger Terminal, I see Andrew Lovett shout out with his megaphone “RICKY RUN FASTER”!. This did actually make me laugh. I also recall when he shouted words of encouragement to me when I was racing Mini Mos this year. Something along the lines of “C’mon Ricky, the ballon (i.e, pacer) is catching you!”.
At the 41.5km, I hear a “RICKY RICKY RICKY” shout and it’s my family. I was well and truly touched by this gesture as they’ve never seen me running in a race before. I turned back and as I knew I was going to finish within 4 hours and being way outside of my PB, I had minutes to spare. I turned back, said hello to my family, attempted to carry my daughter with me to have her cross the line with me. She didn’t want a bar of it, so I left her there and turned down the final stretch towards the opera house.
More support in the form of the NRGers I saw earlier. I also hear Coach Steve,Alan (who had just run the 1/2 earlier) and Aileen shouting support for me. Finally I cross the line in 3:53:10. I’m relieved.
So what did I take out of this experience.
- Running a local race, especially the Sydney Marathon is AWESOME because of the support that you get. I’m never, ever received as much support in ONE race as this one. Thanks to everybody for supporting me!
- The Sydney course is tough and relentless
- I struggle with being fit for Sydney if I start training for events in January and constantly race between April and September
- Everyone in NRG is an awesome runner
- When the sh*t hits the fan, I can still keep on running
- I’ve run SIX marathons!!!!
- I have unfinished business in Sydney in 2015
Thanks for reading!