Sussan women’s fun run – race recap

My favourite run of the year was on this morning – the Sussan women’s fun run – and I’m pleased to say it didn’t disappoint.

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This year, I was lucky enough to be at this event with some great friends – Jo, Jill & Maggi – which all just added to the fantastic atmosphere. We left home rather early but were rewarded with my usual easy and close car park and time to meander through the event village to pick up bibs and my prize (I won some Natio sunscreen, which will definitely come in handy over the next few months!). We queued for the porta-loos (clean and with real toilet paper – bonus!), browsed the stands and entered a competition to win some shoes then it was time to gather at the start. We wished each other all the best and set off at our own paces.

20151206_084515.jpgThe thing I love most about this run in the atmosphere and general camaraderie of all who participate. The looping course also means you’re never on your own as you get to see the same people multiple times and cheer on those faster and slower than you. The huge cheers for the fastest 10km runners were a great sign of this but there was equally large support for those at the back of the field.

The first few km whizzed by and I felt good. My foot was giving its usual twinges but I had energy and, most of all, felt happy to be doing this. I’d worried that I had lost my running mojo with City2Sea and the general flatness I felt at the start of that but it was well and truly back this morning. I even had a few vaguely teary moments at particularly loud cheers from the crowd – it’s that sort of event where you can’t help but be lifted by the generally positive mood.

I stuck to my 3 min run/1 min walk throughout and felt strong and happy. Coming in to the finish shute, Bastille’s ‘Pompeii’ came on my iPod which made me smile (brilliant song!) and felt like an anthem worthy of pushing me over the finish line. Hearing my friends cheer me over the line was great – so much more fun to be doing this event with others.

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It wasn’t a PB although wasn’t far off it and it was my 2nd best 10km time this year. But it really wasn’t about the time today (not that it ever is!) – it was about enjoying the run and I certainly achieved that. Most importantly, it reminded me how much I enjoy running and how grateful I am to have met some awesome running friends this year. Bring on 2016!

Lara fun run – race recap

The 5th anniversary of the Lara fun run was held yesterday but, despite being local, it’s the first time I’ve actually run it. I was convinced to join by some friends and signed up for the 10km, which is 2 laps of the beautiful Serendip Sanctuary.

The start/finish line in the grounds of Pirra homestead

The start/finish line in the grounds of Pirra homestead

Being a small event, it was all very friendly and low-key with around 700 participants overall (105 finishing the 10km). The conditions weren’t ideal – it was already 20 degrees when I arrived and starting at 9am meant the sun was up and at its relentless best.

From the first few minutes, I knew this one was going to be hard. The heat and the humidity made it such a challenge, despite the flat and easy course. It is also a two-lap course which is always a challenge and starting the 2nd lap, I was close to giving up. The only thing that kept me going was my friend’s voice in my head – “parkrunners don’t pay for 5km”!!!

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The 2nd lap actually turned out to be a lot better – there were no crowds left (as all the 5 km runners were now gone), the course was no longer an unknown stretch of road and I knew I was on the home stretch, regardless of it being a fairly long stretch. And I was last. You’d think this was a negative thing but it was actually a bit of a relief. I had known going into this that I was probably going to come last as I’d checked out times from last year and knew they were all faster than my best. Realising I really was last therefore took the pressure off – the worst had happened, the world hadn’t ended and I couldn’t come any further behind.

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This emu hung around a while after crossing the road in front of me

A big bonus of running after all the crowds had gone was that the animals came out to play and I was treated to an emu crossing the road and some wallabies stepping up to say hello.

I’m also really pleased to say that the volunteers were all absolutely lovely. In bigger events, you don’t always get treated well at the back of the pack but I was encouraged and supported all the way to the finish line and didn’t feel I was holding anyone up. I don’t think I’ve ever been more relieved to see a finish line – it was beautiful but a tough, tiring run.

Will I do this one again? I’m not sure. The course is stunning and the organisers and volunteers are friendly which are both huge pluses. However I really don’t like multi-lap courses and the late start time meant it was hotter than it needed to be. I can see this becoming one of those events which I enter on the day if I happen to feel like it 🙂

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 🙂

Race recap – Sussan Women’s 10km (Melbourne)

When my alarm went off at 5am, I surprised myself by springing out of bed without much convincing. This was despite the rain and wind that had persisted all night and was still lingering today. The Sussan Women’s Fun Run is probably my favourite event of the year and a bit of rain wasn’t going to stop me from enjoying it.

The race is held along St Kilda foreshore and is a flat, straight course along the road with very little shade so I had been more concerned that it might be hot (not unusual considering it is supposed to be Summer!). The rain was welcome but I had to stop off and buy a poncho on my way to keep me dry until the event started.

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The reason I love this run so much is the atmosphere – so positive, friendly and non-competitive. Despite the weather, there was clearly the same buzz there this morning. I chatted to some fellow runners while we were lined up to start – so different to other big runs I’ve done where everyone is in their own headspace and the only communication is furtive looks when someone’s space is encroached. Definitely none of that here.

Soon enough, the starting gun went and we were off. It was a crowded start and, with the wet road, I didn’t want to risk zipping in and out so I just cooled my pace and sat behind a couple of other runners at one side of the road. There was still some dodging as there were huge puddles left over from last night’s downpour. There is a good mix in this event of runners and walkers which is probably another reason it counts as one of my favourites – I don’t feel guilty or in the way for going too slow.

The first few kms flew by and, before I knew it, I was halfway. My first half time was about average for my 5km split so I knew I wasn’t in for a personal best but didn’t care – this one was really about enjoying the run and the crowd. It’s always funny once you settle in to a longer event, you find yourself running with/past/being passed by a similar group of runners. There were 3 or 4 runners who I saw at the 2km mark and who were still somewhere either just in front or just behind me at 7km. It was these unknown runners who helped when my feet had had enough – I shuffled along behind them and tried to keep to their pace so I didn’t have to think about setting my own. Because of the rain, my feet were absolutely soaked and were my most uncomfortable body part. It felt a bit like I was running in wet, concrete boots for the last km.

Approaching the finish brought its own challenges – the run down to the finish chute was through Catani Gardens and along paths which didn’t cope well with so much water. However I was still smiling as I ran towards the finish line. I only missed a 10km personal best by 30 seconds so I wasn’t unhappy with my run. More importantly, I knocked 5 minutes off my time for the same event last year – great to see my progress over a year of running.

wpid-20141207_090111.jpgI hung around for a short time afterwards to cheer a fellow five30runner over the finish line. It actually made me quite emotional to cheer on the women coming in – you could read on their faces both the elation at reaching the finish and the strain it had taken to get there.

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I wandered back to my car and changed into dry clothes for the drive home. Most entertaining was trying to get my compression socks on (a ritual for me after a long race). This is usually challenging enough with tired arms and limited energy but was even more of a contortionist act today with wet legs.

Summary: A great event with a fabulous atmosphere. My 4th year of running this one – I’ll be back!

+ a sparkly medal that can also be used as a keyring
+ great goody bag (both virtual and real) including jelly beans (essential after a run!)
+ the race village has a really good atmosphere both before and after a run – worth hanging around for
+ love the t-shirt – not a running one but will be a favourite to wear

the km markings were out. Doesn’t matter a lot to me as I run with my Garmin but it would be an issue for those without a GPS
the results were supposed to be up immediately but seem to be having issues. Again, not a big deal for me as I tend to go by what my watch said but would still like to know my official time

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 🙂