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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.