City2Sea – race recap

We were blessed with an absolutely perfect morning for today’s City2Sea, very different from the rain-fest that was last year’s event. My friend and I were dropped off at the MCG about an hour before and, soon enough, joined the inevitable queue for the portaloos. This ended up killing 1/2 hour of our time – there were clearly not enough for the thousands of runners who were waiting. We were lucky that we managed to get in and out in time to join the other ‘blue start’ runners.

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I’d forgotten how far it was from the shute to the start line & there was no confetti for us this year to kick it off so the start actually felt like a bit of an anti-climax. The downhill stretch makes up for it – perfect way to start a long run and made me feel like I was doing ok. We caught up with another friend, got a running selfie, bid our goodbyes and focused on our own races. My friend was on fire today and sped ahead while I dropped my speed to ‘run comfortable’.

There seemed to be a lot more people this year although that didn’t result in having to duck and weave too much, just made me feel like I wasn’t out there on my own. Soon enough, we were dropping underneath the Arts Centre and back around onto St Kilda Road. By the time I got to the 5km mark, I was feeling tired and, while I was enjoying myself, wasn’t feeling like I wanted to keep running for another 10km. I wasn’t quite at the point of seriously considering dropping out but was definitely feeling like I would rather be somewhere else.

My saviour came in the form of a running friend I’d met through parkrun, Brendan. He’d run the first 6km fast and was happy to have an easy run/walk for the rest so we ran together and our chatter distracted me perfectly. So much so that my 10km time was within a minute of my yearly PB. I’m not often lucky enough to run with to others as it’s rare that I find someone at my pace (or willing to slow down to my pace!) so this was a bit of a novelty and really helped with get me to the finish. Even the slog around Albert Park lake was quite pleasant and felt a lot quicker than it did last year.

Turning out of Albert Park, we only had the short run along Fitzroy Street to go and then the finish line was in sight. My achilles was grateful and happily carried me there, even managing a spurt of speed for the finish line. My time overall was 2 minutes slower than last year but I was really happy with it – from not wanting to be there a 5km to a relatively fast run at 15km was definitely a big shift 🙂

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Overall, a good run. I’m happy I did it and had a lot of fun with my running friends. However I suspect, unless some of the points below change, I won’t be doing it again next year…

Summary:
+ Great course. Being a point to point course, you don’t have to traipse past the same place twice and you get both the beauty of the Melbourne skyline and the fun of finishing at the beach

Bib pickup. Yes, you actually have to go and pick it up, even though this is 2015 and we’ve had a reliable postal service for years. This is basically so you’ll be forced to walk through the ‘expo’ (hence placating sponsors) but, to be honest, it’s not much of an expo. The opening hours for it are also not particularly convenient nor is the location.
Lack of toilets. Despite knowing how many registrations they had, there was still a complete lack of toilets at the start, made worse as a block of them didn’t appear to be working (with no water attached). Not a great start to a 15km run.
Cut off times. I got grumpy about this last year so at least I knew it was coming. The overall cutoff is fair however if you don’t make it to the 10.6km in time, you’ll be diverted onto the path. This cutoff time is completely at odds with the pace required to finish the course in time. I understand that they have to have cutoff times but I paid the same money as the first person over the finish line and I deserve to run the same course. Because of this detour, I didn’t actually get to run the 15km I’d paid for (only managing 14.85km)

A letter to event organisers – what I want from a running event

I recently ran in Melbourne’s City2Sea. And it got me thinking about all the different elements that go into making a really good running event. I appreciate the huge amount of work that goes into them, so am in no way undermining the complexity of staging such an event. However there are a few things that make it a bit more pleasant for the running public who enter.

1. Race bib collection
The fact I had to physically go into Melbourne to pick up my race bib the day before the event was pretty annoying. I live an hour from Melbourne – close enough to drive in the morning of the event but far enough way that I don’t want to have to go in the day before, just to pick up my bib. Having the option to either pick it up on the day or have it sent out beforehand makes life so much easier. And yes, I’m willing to pay for postage 🙂

2. Be fair with your cut off times
I’m not the fastest runner in the world – I’m at the back of the pack in most events I enter and I’m ok with that. Knowing my limits, I always check out cut off times for events and previous results to make sure I’ll be able to participate at my own pace and not have to be stressed about reaching the finish line before being swept.

At City2Sea, the overall cut off time was generous and easily allowed walkers – no problem. However there were other segment cut off times for different parts of the course that didn’t tally up with this – eg, the 10km cut off was 15 minutes before the 7.7km cut off. Reaching the 10km point late would see you diverted, rather than ending your run, but it still annoyed me. I’ve paid the same as everyone else and want to run the course that everyone else runs. If that can’t happen because of outside factors (eg, the need to open roads), think about amending the overall cut off to make that clear to those who enter, rather than making me read the fine print.

3. Aid stations matter. A lot.
This is something I have to commend City2Sea for doing well. The drinks stations were organised, efficient and, mostly importantly, full of drinks! I’ve been in events before where there was little left at the back of the pack so I appreciated seeing smiling volunteers and tables full of Gatorade and water for all runners, regardless of our times. The added bonus of Gatorade and a banana at the end was also much appreciated and not something you see consistently at events.

What are your tips for event organisers?

Race recap – City2Sea (Melbourne)

I’m feeling enormously proud of myself today, having just finished the 15km City2Sea this morning in a wet and cold Melbourne

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The all important bling!

Hubby kindly drove me over and dropped me off at the MCG and I was relieved to actually see other people there – I was worried that the rain had scared everyone off. Instead, they were all hiding under the roofs at the MCG. Standard porta-potty visit done, I joined them until it was time to join our starting group.

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Hanging out at the MCG….in the rain 🙂

We didn’t seem to have to wait long for our start and having DJ Havana Brown kick off proceedings certainly helped pump up the mood. Very soon, the siren was going and we were off, over the start line and through a sea of confetti.

The course started by heading towards Federation Square and then onto St Kilda Road and the kilometres seemed to whiz by. There were just enough people to build a good vibe but not so many that there was pushing and shoving. In fact, unusually for a large event, I had no trouble at all in the first few kilometres with having my own space.

Running along St Kilda Road again went pretty quickly, despite the long, straight road.It was broken up with a couple of drink stations and an opportunity to high five the Westpac crew. I also got a giggle out of people stuck in their cars in the traffic (that our event was causing) – I was sure they were thinking we were mad and not realising that we were thinking the same about them. I couldn’t think of anything I’d rather be doing on a Sunday morning – the rain had stopped but it was perfect, crisp Melbourne weather and absolutely ideal for running.

Turning into Albert Park was a little demoralising as you could see all the people who’d already done the circuit streaming out to their finish. And we still had a long way to go. However the crowd had thinned out nicely and it felt like a friendly, intimate run. I ran through the misting tent they’d set up in anticipation of hot weather – I was wet anyway so it didn’t make much of a difference, other than making me smile 🙂

I had been worried before the event of making 10.6km before the cut off as there was a diversion off the road and onto the path. I just made it. Literally. The woman was coming out with the tape to close off the course – I think that, after me, there were only 2 others let through.

The far side of Albert Park was a bit of a challenge. A wide road but with few people about and my legs were really starting to feel it. It’s almost as if I hit a mental barrier at 10km (the farthest I’d run previously) which prompted a series of small body niggles for me to worry about. It didn’t last long though – the kilometres really did seem to fly today and, soon enough, we were back out onto Fitzroy Street with only 1km to go.

I chatted to a couple of other runners as we saw the finish line – sharing the motivation and pride in finishing. My smile crossing the line was huge and I eagerly accepted my medal.

Summary
While it didn’t have the atmosphere of some of the other Melbourne runs I’ve done (Run Melbourne being the best), the course was good and the participant numbers were about right to make it friendly but not too crowded. Facilities along the course and at the end were good – enough drink stations and the Gatorade and bananas at the end were much appreciated.

So yes, I’d probably do it again. Especially if it’s raining 🙂