Run Melbourne half marathon – race recap

I'm home – installed on the couch with my medal still in sight so all that's left to do is tell you all about it.

Run Melbourne half marathon was on this morning, requiring us to have a ridiculously early wake up call at some time beginning with a 4. We headed off to Melbourne and were dropped near Federation Square then got ourselves ready to run.

As always, I started this one not knowing how I'd go. Training has gone well and I've done all the runs I was supposed to. I'm not sick. I'm not injured. No excuses. However you never actually know how you'll feel and how the run will play out until you're in it. (Or is that just me?)

I started this one in a very familiar way – with my amazing running friends. We hung out at the back of the start, letting all the faster ones go through. It was only as we snuck a look behind us as we walked to the start line that we realised exactly how far at the back we were – a mere handful of runners were behind us. "Good," I thought. "Less people to overtake me."

And so we began. I'd discovered a nifty trick to have both run/walk reminders and my kilometre pace screen so felt doubly in control of what was going on. Right on cue, it beeped at 2 minutes, telling me to walk. I used to find it hard to walk that early in an event but now I know better – if you follow Galloway and do it properly, it should let you be just as fast but not as fatigued. As long as you do it properly. So I walked. I had a momentary "hmmmm, I'm last and this is going to be a very quiet run" as there was no one else around but knew the course needed to stay open for the 10km runners and no one seemed to be hurrying me so I kept going at my pace. We ran along a bit of Southbank and headed along Spencer Street then up Collins Street (and the hill – actually not too bad) into the Docklands. So far, so good.

My friend and I chatted as we ran and were soon joined by another lady we'd met at the start line who asked if she could join us – absolutely. We introduced her to the world of Galloway intervals and continued on our merry way.

Coming back into Southbank, we were on track and feeling ok. I won't say 'feeling great' because, well, we were running a half marathon and were bound to be feeling tired. But tired was all – no injuries, no terrible soreness, no real issues. And keeping up with the intervals.

Running along towards the Domain was probably the only time I felt lonely out on the course – here was this wide stretch of road with no supporters, no cheer squads and few other runners to keep us company. Soon enough, we turned into the gardens for a loop and all of that was fixed – lots of other runners and an absolutely brilliant choir singing exactly the inspirational music we needed to hear. We took advantage of a bit of downhill and made up some time then did a u-turn and headed back up the hill, power walking it out.

Anderson Street hill was next – not my favourite uphill part but I do love that downhill and we definitely made the most of it. We also glimpsed our first person wearing a medal along here and it was a great reminder of the bling we would be getting for completing – all incentives were needed by this point as things were starting to ache a bit. We also had some smiles for a runner who came hurtling past us giving cheers (or possibly just grunts but we'll take it!).

Along the tan and around the corner and we saw the crew from Lalor parkrun who had, helpfully, written 'one parkrun to go' on the road – exactly what we needed to hear. We then ran alongside the 10km runners lining up to start although they were clearly nervous and in the zone as there wasn't much encouragement from them.

Running back along the river and over Swan Street Bridge, we were passed by the first 10km runners. I found the last few kilometres a challenge and power walked a lot of it with bits of running when walking hurt too much. The dreaded hill up to Flinders Street actually wasn't so bad (did someone flatten it a bit this year?!?) and, soon enough, we were running down the hill towards the turn into Birrarung Marr.

I was ridiculously pleased to see the finish line but also so happy to be crossing it with my great running friend, Jo and new running friend, Julie. And I was also absolutely over the moon to have beat my half marathon PB by over 2 minutes. (I had also managed to smash my 10km, 15km, 10mile and 20km PBs as well). My time, according to Strava was 2:49:33 – so proud of the work that has gone into training for this and feeling more positive than ever with the journey towards Disney.

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The (mind) games runners play

Tomorrow I'm running a half marathon as part of Run Melbourne. So, naturally, the anxiety and general freaking out started about a week ago and will continue until I cross the start line in the morning. Have I trained enough? Will the weather be ok? I wonder how far I can push myself?

These are the pre-mind games I play before every event and I don't know that I'm getting any better at reigning it in. Despite knowing that I've done this distance 7 times before, I've still got nerves. I have to remember the advice I give to my Grade 4 students – nerves about something mean that it matters. That you care. They're not a bad thing and we shouldn't try to quell or fight them – just accept that they're there and they're giving you a message.

However I know that, once I start, I'll be fine. Crossing the start line means a whole lot of other mental games come into it to get me to the finish. Here are some of my favourite tricks to make 21km not seem like, well, 21km….

  • run/walk intervals – I generally run my long runs at 2/1 or 3/1 (eg, 2 minute run, 1 minute walk) as I've found Jeff Galloways' training and techniques to really help me, mentally and physically. That way, I only allow myself to think about the next 3 or 4 minutes, never more. I do not, under any circumstances, think about the whole distance or time that I will be running. Get through this 3 minutes and the rest will take care of itself.
  • run the kilometre you're in – If I'm not feeling as tied into doing set intervals, I change the screen on my Garmin to show the pace per kilometre and I focus on that. This is particularly useful if I'm aiming for a time goal. I know what pace I need to aim for and I track that in the kilometre I'm in but don't allow myself to think of the next kilometre or any that I've finished. Just this one. Make this one good and keep it within the pace I want but don't think of the future or the past.
  • break it down – Thinking about 21.1km when you start a half marathon is a very, very bad idea. It's a long way. If you run at my speed, you'll be out there for quite a long time. Neither of those things will particularly inspire you while standing on the start line so I try not to think of it in terms of total distance, rather I think of chunks. A few kilometres to the first aid station. A few kilometres to a bridge or other landmark. A few kilometres to the half way mark or a turnaround point. A few kilometres to another aid station. Before you know it, the kilometres have flown by and you're counting them down towards the finish line. I only allow myself to count down once it's less than 5km to go – that's a parkrun. I can do a parkrun, even if I'm tired, sore and over it.
  • think about someone else – This one started for me while doing my first 'Run for the kids' where the kilometre markers were pictures of children who were in the Royal Children's Hospital, fighting all sorts of illnesses and conditions. Thinking about them made it very hard to feel sorry for myself and my pseudo woes. I also think a lot about my heroes and the tenacity they demonstrate – Turia Pitt, Kelli Roberts and Kurt Fearnley being 3 that spring to mind. The combination of thinking of those who would want to run and can't and thinking of those who show what strength really looks like is a potent one and always make me hold my head a little higher and run a little stronger.

Whoever said that running is more mental than physical was completely right – for me, it is definitely that way. My runs that are hard are usually that way because of what is going on in my brain and not my body. Here's to me winning the mental battles tomorrow.

Bellarine Rail Trail run – race recap

One way of making sure I stick to my training plan is to enter events, particularly long ones. I’m not super motivated when it comes to lacing up the shoes and knocking out my long runs (even though I always love them once I get the first few kilometres done) so events really are the only way to keep me honest. My event of choice on the weekend was the Bellarine Rail Trail run.

Despite it being fairly close to home, I’ve never run along the rail trail so was looking forward to a bit of new scenery. My husband delivered me to the start line and I met up with friends who had caught the train up from Queenscliff. This is quite a small event (about 300 runners) and very low key, in stark contrast to the mega event of last weekend. Before I really had time to think about it, we were being gathered and set off on our way.

I ran with my friend Maggi and those first few kilometres ticked by easily (read her blog of the event here). It was overcast with a suitably low temperature – perfect weather for running. We chatted as we ran and stuck together for about the first 7km then went off at our own paces.

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The scenery is pretty – running along the rail line with farms in the background (and friendly cows) although, as you get closer to Queenscliff, you start to get water glimpses. The surface is gravel until you hit civilisation again – very easy on the feet.

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I had, mostly, a great run. There were a few moments of ‘gee I’m tired’ on this one, possibly compounded by it being a small event and, therefore, me feeling alone out on the course. When I was passed by the 34km runners, they were all fabulously friendly and supportive however there felt like long stretches where I didn’t see anyone. Coming in to Queenscliff, I wondered whether I’d gone the right way but always had the rail line close by so figured I had.

The finish line snuck up on me a bit and I was very happy to be running across it, with my husband waiting at the end. I was pretty happy with my time – I had treated this all along as a training run so wasn’t out to set any records, just was pleased to have ticked off 17km from my training plan.

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My friend Maggi running over the finish line

City 2 surf – race recap

Where do I begin? This one is a truly iconic event that is beyond my bucket list. What I mean is that, while I was fully aware of it and frequently watched and admired those that did it, I just never actually dreamed that would one day be me. I remember hearing about it as a child, long before I learned that running was fun. I loved the costumes, the crowds, the sights….but it never, ever entered my head that I could run it. I saw some friends do it last year, watched the coverage on tv and still didn’t think about it. I wonder now why that was. The idea of flying off to far off events is obviously not completely alien to me but I just didn’t think about it. Too iconic. Too big. Too ‘out there’.

I don’t remember what changed my mind but I do remember, as a birthday present to myself, booking my flights and accommodation, without really giving it much thought at all. And being very, very excited.

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Goodies from the expo

That excitement only built as the event got closer and reached ridiculous levels on the morning itself. I slept well, jumped out of bed at 6, got ready then actually had time to kill. Meeting up with my brilliant running friends helped calm me down a bit or, rather, share the hype with them. After a minor delay due to a couple of friends who had managed to sleep in, we opted to skip the port-a-loo queue and use the facilities back at my hotel then joined the blue start group. I think the most overwhelming thing about this event is the number of people – somewhere around 80,000 had signed up, a number just too big for me to comprehend. And here many of them were, crowding around us and gathering to begin.

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Selfies and group photos done and layers shed, we began the shuffle toward the start line and after only the shortest of waits, we were off. Watching the crowds of runners streaming ahead made me grin and it was a grin that I don’t think left my face for the entire event. I had chosen to start off without listening to music and was well and truly kept entertained by the crowds of runners, on course entertainment and cheers from spectators along the route. The fact I knew nothing about the course or the places we were running through helped keep me amused – this was a real novelty for me and made the kilometres tick by.

The entertainment on course seemed to be timed to be there just when I needed a little pick-me-up. The Australian Army Rock band and NSW Police Rock band were great and could be heard long before they could be seen. I also loved the YMCA crew and couldn’t help but join in with the dance – fairly sure it did nothing to slow down my running 🙂

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NSW Police rock band, appropriately located at Rose Bay Police Station 🙂

Amidst all of this revelry, I knew that the infamous Heartbreak Hill was coming and wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I think ‘curious’ summed it up. I wasn’t scared of it – I figured it couldn’t be worse than the hill from hell I’d encountered on last week’s trail run and knew, no matter how big it was, it wouldn’t last forever. So I stopped for a selfie at the bottom and began the climb.

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And, it turned out, it really didn’t break my heart at all. Yes, it does go on a bit and tries to trick you into thinking its done when it isn’t. But it really isn’t that steep (clearly, as I actually managed to run most of it) and gives the reward of gorgeous views back to the harbour bridge to keep you going. In fact some of the short but steep inclines after that are actually more annoying as you’re not expecting them and don’t need them in the last stage of an event.

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Gorgeous views from the top of Heartbreak Hill

With about 3km to go, the descent into Bondi started in earnest and the crowd seemed to thicken even more, stopping me from hurtling down the hill like I wanted to. However this event is about so much more than your time – the atmosphere was incredible and the diversity of runners around me was magnificent. As I weaved and plodded along into Bondi, that’s what I thought about and was grateful for – the fact that we were all able to come out on a glorious sunny Winter’s day and run together on this great course.

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The last few kilometres as we headed down to Bondi

Lost in my thoughts, the finish line crept up on me – we turned a corner and were there, crossing the finish line, still surrounded by almost as many people as I had been at the start. Again, the impressive logistics were on display as we were shepherded along to collect our medals, grab some rehydration and head up to the spectator village. I met my friends in the Rebel Sport zone (thanks to handy wristbands we’d collected at the expo).

Post event, we quickly got the hungries and sought out whatever salty thing we could – fish and chips served in a slightly intimidating but very efficient shop fit the bill perfectly and we enjoyed them in the event village while we shared our running moments.

Clearly the whole event is a well rehearsed logistical exercise, as demonstrated by the buses to Bondi Junction which were fast (fast-ish or would have been if we’d joined the other queue) and efficient – we were soon on the train heading back into town. A quick change of clothes, collection of bags then I headed out to relax in the QANTAS lounge with a friend before the flight home.

So did this event live up to the hype? Absolutely. Having done a lot of different running events over the last 3 years and a heap of them this year in particular, it is a bit too easy for me to take them for granted and have the start line start to merge in my memory. This one is in no danger of that. The butterflies I felt before the start stayed with me as I ran and the smile really didn’t leave my face, even when I was sitting on the plane, still wearing my medal. Definitely an epic event, made better, as always, by having my fabulous running friends with me to share in the celebrations.

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Run Melbourne 2016 – race recap

I had vaguely contemplated not doing this event as I’ve signed up for heaps of events this year but it has become one of my staples over the years and, in the end, I couldn’t bring myself to miss it.

I met my friends on board the train and we had a very relaxed start to our day. Definitely the best way to travel to an event – no stress over traffic, no worries about parking, just time to sit back, chat and get mentally ready. We arrived at Southern Cross, caught a train around to Flinders Street and had a perfect amount of time to spare for all the necessary bits – photos, bag drop, toilet stop and, slightly traumatically, stripping off the layers to prepare for the start. Melbourne had put on a glorious sunny day but with a temperature in the single digits and occasional puffs of wind which felt like they were travelling to us straight from Antarctica.

We made our way to our ‘wave c’ pen then stood around waiting for what felt like a very long time. The crowd of bodies were actually quite a good way to ward off the cold but we all just wanted to get moving – nerves and anxiety was starting to bubble. Our wave actually started so far back we couldn’t see the start line and, once we were moving, we seemed to go a long way before we were finally running under our arch and onto the course.

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I got myself into a steady rhythm and managed to avoid the general ducking and weaving which tends to happen at the start. I hadn’t known what I would feel like – just running or run/walk intervals – so I didn’t have a plan. I ended up doing run/walk intervals – 3 mins/1 min. Most importantly, everything felt good. No twinges from my achilles, no dull ache from my calf, no tightness in my hamstring. My lungs were coping just fine and I was moving at a decent pace. I had a quick ‘can I keep it up?’ at the back of my mind then I pushed it from my head with a ‘who cares?’. I was out to run and enjoy the event, that was all.

The kilometres ticked by pretty quickly – the course is quite scenic, as city courses go and the twists and turns and little inclines and declines keep you suitably distracted. Drink stations were plentiful and well stocked, popping up before I had even started to feel thirsty. And still I kept plodding along at a pretty steady pace.

I ran over the 5km mat with a better time than those I’ve been achieving at parkrun and was really pleased with how things were going. I was getting tired but not unbearably so and nothing was hurting so I told myself to suck it up and keep moving. The pep talk worked. Soon enough, I was heading for the footbridge between Rod Laver Arena and the MCG and into the last kilometre. Probably the hardest bit of the course for me was the slight hill going back up towards Flinders Street – I ran it very slowly but very steadily. I’d looked at my watch and thought maybe, just maybe, I could pull off a PB so was determined to give it my all.

Thankfully, what goes up must come down and we headed down the Batman Avenue hill then turned in to the finish chute along Birrarung Marr. I didn’t have much sprint left in me but did my best and was so pleased to come in just under 1:20 – a 10km PB.

As always, the thing that makes these events so much fun is hanging out with running friends and we all met up then headed for breakfast before our relaxing journey home on the train (with some photography fun thanks to a competition being run by the event organisers).

So will I do this one again? Most likely. I kind of like collecting the medals which are in a series. The atmosphere did seem a little less buoyant this year but the volunteers were all friendly and efficient. I preferred the old course (and really, really miss the bubble bridge) but it was still scenic enough and full of ample distraction. And it’s kind of a tradition now, a quintessential Melbourne experience complete with crisp Wintery conditions – perfect running weather in a beautiful running city. What’s not to love?

Run for the kids – race recap

Run for the kids was my first ever public, out there for everyone to see ‘fun run’ so it does hold a special place in my heart. This morning, I ran the long course again – 16km of fabulous course, brilliant atmosphere and, most of all, dollars going to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.

It was an early start with my alarm going off at 4.45am and us leaving at 5.30am. The drive was kind and we arrived with heaps of time to wander down to Southbank for a toilet stop before heading over to the event village. It was already getting busy and the atmosphere was buzzing. We dropped off our bags, admired the sunrise and stopped off for another toilet stop before heading to our starting area. Selfies and group pictures done, it was very soon time to start. In fact, a bit too soon. Despite having been there a while, for some reason I wasn’t really ready and felt a bit rushed.

Regardless, the start had happened; we crossed the line and headed over the Swan Street bridge and along the river towards the Domain tunnel. I absolutely love this part of the course – even though you’re quite crowded, everyone is happy and moving well and there is an undeniable buzz as you enter a tunnel that is normally the realm only of cars.

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A blurry vision of running through the tunnel – quite eerie.

The gentle slope down into the tunnel is wonderful and I easily found a comfortable pace. Coming up the other side is equally as gentle but getting quite warm and stuffy which makes it more challenging. The breath of refreshing cool air as you exit is brilliant and makes up for the slightly steeper incline as you head along the freeway.

By now, I’d dropped back from my friends as I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up but didn’t feel at all lonely. I’m not sure if I started further ahead than last year or whether there were just more people but I felt like I had more company than in 2015. This was the point that the faster runners passed us, coming back in the other direction including 2 incredible wheelchair athletes.

Soon enough, we were heading around the bend and up onto the Bolte Bridge. It’s not a terrible incline but it does seem to stretch on and on, particularly once you get to the base of the bridge itself. However it’s well worth it for the selfie opportunities at the top, made better this year by Nova’s selfie zone with willing volunteers ready to take your picture with the stunning backdrop.

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Photos done, I headed back down the other side and did my fastest stretch of the day, taking advantage of the lovely downhill slope to make up some time. We then turned back towards the Docklands and zigzagged along roads and between buildings before coming out at Victoria Harbour to another favourite spot, running along the boardwalk.

Turning right, we headed along the back of Etihad stadium then onto Jim Stynes bridge which was quite fitting – it was just about this time that I was drawing on some of my mantras, one of which is being proud to run for those who can’t. Not a difficult mantra to say when you saw all the tribute t-shirts and signs around you, remembering children who were either taken too soon or having to endure all sorts of medical issues at far too young an age.

Back onto the freeway and heading quickly towards the finish. Up to this point, the kilometres had absolutely flown and there were only about 4km to go. This probably felt like the longest stretch but was seriously not that bad. I was thinking in parkruns (less than 1 to go!) which helped and realising how far I’d already come certainly made it seem doable.

As I headed off the freeway, there was a much needed hose being used as a temporary shower to run through at the drinks station and this gave me the boost I needed to keep going. We then snaked through the back streets of Southbank and under the Arts Centre before the final stretch along Alexandra Avenue. By this stage, I’d slowed to a walk (although a fairly fast one) and was saving energy until I saw the finish line – it still seemed a long way away! Turning right, the finish line was finally close and I headed steadily towards it, feeling incredible.

Summary: Brilliant event and an absolute ‘must do’, at least once

+ The course – You simply cannot get bored on this course and it really does make the distance fly. It is constantly changing and providing you with different scenery, as well as the excitement of running through a tunnel and over a bridge. Perfect!

+ Atmosphere – There is such a diverse mix of people at this event – serious speed demons, everyday runners, first timers, walkers, costume wearers – everyone! Added to that are those who are running in tribute to the little people who this event is all about – no wonder the atmosphere is so good.

+ Event fee – There is no medal at this event and I couldn’t be happier. The majority of your entry fee goes directly to the hospital through Good Friday Appeal and that is so much more important than adding to my bling. And, even with that, the event fee is very reasonable, encouraging more people to enter.

+ Event village – The event village has everything you could need – friendly volunteers at the bag drop (and an easy to follow, non-time consuming process), entertainment to divert you afterwards and delicious apples to start the refuelling process as you exit the finish chute. Yum.

No negatives. Seriously. It’s just a great event and I wouldn’t change a thing. Last year I commented on the start time, this year it was 7.45am which was perfect.

Race recap – Run for the kids

I really wasn’t sure whether I’d make it to the start line this morning as I’ve had a cold and been feeling pretty rubbish for the past week. I’ve been resting up for the last few days but still wasn’t 100% when my alarm went off at 6am and got ready with a ‘I’m not sure if I should be doing this’ kind of feeling.

I’m pleased to say that the excitement took over once I made it to the start area of Run for the kids and my sniffles were well and truly relegated to the back of my mind. It was a perfect, crisp, blue skyed Melbourne morning – gorgeous running weather.

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Hanging out at the start line

Despite all the people (the event attracted about 33,000 runners), it didn’t feel crazily crowded and, soon enough, the starting gun for our wave was going off and we began the shuffle forwards to make it across the start. I had my head down in concentration (and contemplation) when I heard someone say to me ‘Don’t look so serious – have a great run!’. Steve Moneghetti was standing at the start line cheering people on and these encouraging words instantly put a smile on my face and sent me off with enthusiasm.

I had previously worried about the number of runners and had heard lots of people say how crowded it was at the start. However I didn’t feel boxed in at all felt the crowd were mostly moving together, with very few people attempting to weave in and out. We ran over the Swan St bridge and along the Yarra before turning sharply for our descent into the Domain tunnel. It was definitely an experience to get to run through here – warm and muggy but pretty spectacular. The hum of traffic was replaced by the hum of breathless runners and excited bits of conversation.

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Running through the Domain tunnel

Coming out of the tunnel brought cool relief – I hadn’t realised how warm it was in there until we were out in the fresh air again and it felt divine. Not far out of the tunnel, I came across my friend, Jill, from my local parkrun and was so pleased to be able to share much of the rest of the run with her.

Running along the freeway then up on the Bolte Bridge wasn’t as challenging as I had imagined. I thought the hill was going to feel really steep but I don’t even remember it, just feeling really lucky to be getting to run over the bridge and see the views across the city and the bay. Clearly, I wasn’t the only one struck with the feeling as the majority of those around me stopped (or at least slowed down) for selfies and the volunteers on top of the bridge were kept busy with photo requests.

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Blurry but happy selfie on top of the Bolte Bridge

Once we were off the bridge and weaving our way through the Docklands, I started to find things a bit tough, with the usual bits starting to hurt as they tend to do over longer distances. The hill up Collins Street was probably the most brutal on the course – it might be small but it’s also pretty steep and, having already run over 10km, my legs were feeling it.

Soon after this, we were heading back over the Yarra and turning in to Southbank which was actually really good. The crowds eating brunch in the many restaurants and tourists out for a stroll added to the atmosphere and I felt really proud to be running in this event. And, with only a couple of kilometres to go, I knew I was going to make it.

Heading back along St Kilda Road, I saw the finish line and had a renewed burst of energy – 15.5km done! Just over the finish line, I caught up with my friends and was so happy to be able to share this event with them. I usually run events like this alone and it really does make a difference to have someone to chat to afterwards and share in the experience.

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15.5km – done!

Summary: It was my 2nd time running this event – my first was my first ever fun run back in 2009 and I had just as much fun today as I did then.

+ Atmosphere: The event volunteers are so enthusiastic and supportive and the crowd is a perfect mix of serious runners, those out there for fun and those who are there to celebrate and raise funds for the amazing work of Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital. That mix really makes for an incredible atmosphere.

+ The course: There is no other event in Melbourne’s calendar where you get to go through a tunnel and over a bridge so it’s definitely a winner from that perspective. Add into that the other fabulous sights of Melbourne that the course winds through – it’s the perfect snapshot of inner city life.

+ Entry fees: The entry fee for this event is a very reasonable $53, of which $31.60 is donated to the Royal Children’s Hospital. So as well as being a great run, you’re doing something worthwhile for others as well.

The late start. This one is a really, really minor point and I almost didn’t list it as I know some people might prefer this. Our wave didn’t start until 9am which felt quite late on an early Autumn day that was heading for 28C. However the late start also meant a lot of people could travel in by public transport and help reduce overcrowding in the city. So I guess there’s pros and cons of this one. And I’m just an early bird 🙂