The Age Run Melbourne Half Marathon Course
After having had a really great week of training I was as ready as I was ever going to be for The Age Run Melbourne Half Marathon this past Sunday, 21st July. Truthfully I had spent the week feeling very anxious about the race. I was not so much concerned about the actual run as I was about the start. I knew this was going to be a huge event with competitors numbering in the thousands and I honestly had no idea how my anxiety was going to handle it.
Given that I had freaked out at the start of my one and only foot race up till now, the Moama Run 4 Fun 10K, I was convinced I was in for a massive panic attack at the start line. A couple of weeks before in fact, I had almost convinced myself to DNS (Did Not Start). But then I knew I had to start, I had to endure the nerves, emotions and anxiety, if only for the experience, to find ways to cope before my two big A races, Shepparton 70.3 and Ironman Australia.
As the day got closer my anxiety grew more and more. I also had concerns about the run, but I made peace with the fact early on that I would not be running at my ideal weight, around 10 kilograms lighter than I currently was. I decided to go into the event with no expectations, however I did make a couple of loosely sketched out goals. The main one was always going to be to finish and my other goals were to try and finish under 3 hours, and run the entire way.
Finally the actual day arrived. Mum and I had decided to head down in the morning and the city of Melbourne being approximately 2 hours drive from where I lived, meant a very early start indeed. The event itself was due to begin at 7 a.m. however it was advised you arrived around 45 minutes prior to your wave and I decided if I got there a tad earlier, it would be less stressful finding a parking spot and I would also have time to find where we needed to go.
I did it! I actually did it!!!!
So after a bitterly cold 3 a.m. wake up call and shower that hit me like a slap in the face, we gathered our things and headed off. On the way down we were pulled over by a police patrol. I was not aware, but one of my headlights had blown, my high beams were fine which is why I did not notice. Thankfully the officer I spoke to was one of the ‘good ones’ and just told me to get it fixed asap. I was very grateful to him for not ruining my day before it had even started!
I took my time getting down there because there was a thick fog and black ice over the road in some spots. After 2 hours and 15 minutes and one quick pit stop, we arrived in the heart of Melbourne and already I noticed the streets were blocked off. Thankfully we managed to find a really great park and a young women who parked directly in front of us gave directions on where to go. At this stage I was cool, calm and collected, but waiting for the barrage of nerves.
The minute we got out of the car we were hit with the freezing ice like temperature, again it woke me up. I started shaking from the cold and was ever so glad I had bought a new micro fleece and hat to run in the day before. I was going to need them! We had about an 800 metre walk to the start line and the finish line was over the bridge and about another 300 metres or so along. Federation Square was already packed out with hundreds and hundreds of people.
We walked back over to Flinders Street Station which was where the start line was situated and went to the loo. Thankfully the queue was not as long as it was in Federation Square. Still I was quite calm and I was surprised at my lack of ‘runner’s trots’, but I did not question it and just tried to keep the peace I was feeling. I knew that at Moama I had been okay up until waiting for the gun to go off and that was still at least 30 minutes away. Still time to freak out I mused!
My t-shirt, race bib and bling!!
I kept my warm clothes on for as long as I could and at about 6:50 a.m. I finally pulled off my track pants and my vest and jumper. Inadvertently I managed to rip my number off my top and had to re pin it with freezing cold fingers. The minute I took my track pants off my legs started to shiver. It was so bloody cold, I had run in rain and crappy conditions before but nothing like this. Still the sky was clear so at least that was one thing, we would avoid getting wet.
Mum and I walked down closer to the start line and said our goodbyes. Initially I was going to carry my iPhone with me to take some pics, but at the last-minute after putting my iPod on, I decided not too. In hindsight I regret that decision as I would have liked to have taken some shots around the course, but I will know for next year. I got a good luck hug and kiss from mum, and then made my way towards the start. I was beginning to feel some butterflies now.
I jogged up and down a few hundred metres next to where everyone was patiently lined up. I figured if I kept myself moving I would have less chance of having a panic attack. It was warmer amongst the crowd for obvious reasons and I enjoyed having the cold wind blocked by other entrants. I made my way close to the back of my wave. I knew I was not going to be as fast as most runners and did not want to get trampled. I put my music on and chilled out.
My iPod was something I did not have the luxury of in Moama. I actually was not sure I would be able to wear it, so I left it at home. This time however I made sure to read the event information carefully and when I saw iPods were allowed it was the first thing I packed! I think the familiarity of my music helped considerably. I kept bracing myself for a full on meltdown, but it did not happen. I had some ‘normal’ nerves, but that was it, then the race started.
Garmin stats for my run.
I do not remember much about the first couple of kilometres other than following a sea of people and trying not to get tripped up or pushed over. People were jostling for positions, so I tried to hold my ground but also not get forced into too fast a pace for me. I do remember that by the 3k mark I was already starting to tire, the course was a lot more undulating than I was expecting, a lot hillier than any of my long runs had been at home. I tried to settle into a pace.
I had a tonne of people pass me but I did not care, by the first big hill the field had spread right out and as I approached the second hill I was pretty much running amongst just a handful of people, some in front and some behind. At the top was an event photographer perched on a ladder. He was snapping pics of the runners ahead and when he pointed his camera at me, I gave him an enormous big smile and the double peace sign. I was having a lot of fun!
Now that I was pretty much on my own I could concentrate on my own pace a lot better. I tried not to think about how far I had to go and just take it one kilometre at a time. By the 5k mark, my goal of running the entire way seemed like a pipe dream, so I allowed myself to be realistic and changed it to just run as far as you can. I was already really happy. I had conquered my fears and I was running in my first half marathon, nothing else really mattered.
I was still on my first lap, when all of a sudden the pros started sprinting past me one by one. At this stage I think I had only run about 7 kms and these guys were only 4 kms from the finish. The really great thing was that a few of them as they passed were yelling out, “you are doing awesome”, “keep it up”, “you got this”, “well done”. To think that runners of that calibre had the time to encourage a lot slower runner was really quite amazing and just so uplifting.
At the 14k mark!
At this point I have to say the volunteers out on course were fantastic also. Being slow, I found myself running past a lot of the volunteers on my own and all of them were very encouraging and it was obvious that they were freezing their behinds off too. It was very much appreciated and made the run that much more enjoyable. On the stretches that I ran alone, I think that encouragement, as well as thinking of my family and friends is what got me through.
At the stages along the course where we ran through Federation Square, I kept an eye out for my mum. I had run past her at the start, but afterwards she said that she actually had not seen me. Finally at the 14k mark we eventually caught up. She took a picture and yelled out some encouragement. Since the 10k mark I had been running on my own, so it was great to see her. I did not actually stop, cause at that point I thought if I stopped I might not get going again!
From about the 9k mark I was starting to tighten up a little, not a lot, just a little. I was paranoid about cramps, so even though I had only taken in water at the first aid station, at the second I made sure to take in some water and electrolyte replacement (Dextro Energy) not too much just a few sips of each. It seemed to make a big difference and got me to the next aid station where I did the same. Thankfully it did not irritate my stomach and I had no GI issues.
After I passed my mum, I was joined by the 10k competitors for their first and only lap and was again engulfed by a sea of runners. It was actually fortuitous because their energy helped carry me up the first of the big hills on my last lap. I could not see the hill in front of me, all I could do was keep running, hold my place and try not to get tripped up. It seemed to work and I think I managed that hill a lot better than I would have had I been running it solo.
Running under Swanston St bridge (top right in pink).
When I arrived at the second, steeper hill which was quite brutal, I was really hurting, probably as much as I have ever hurt whilst running. My stride had tightened right up and I was barely shuffling. I made it to the 17k mark which was almost to the top and looked at my Garmin. My pace was so slow I knew I could walk faster, I also needed to stretch out my legs, so I dropped back to a walk, strode out over the top and started running again down the other side.
My brief ‘mobile stretch’ was only about 30 seconds or so, but it did the trick and I managed to stride out longer going down the other side. By the time I got to the bottom I had hit the 18k mark and was pretty amazed I was still going. My hammies were tight, my calves were tight, my knees were getting a little sore and my left hip was sending a tingling sensation down the outside of my thigh to my knee. I guessed this was my IT band objecting, but I kept going.
At 19 kms I was in a world of pain, but I was determined to see it through to the end. I had not run all this way to walk the last 2 kms. I started thinking about the finish line, friends and family willing me on, I also started thinking about Shep 70.3 and IMOZ. I told myself that these last 2 kms were all about mental toughness and enduring the pain. I told myself that a fortnight ago I did not believe I could do this half marathon and here I was doing it. I was actually doing it!
I reached the 20 km mark and kicked. I saw a couple up ahead of me walking and I ran hard to chase them down. It was the longest kilometre of my life, my legs were burning, my heart was racing and I was trying to dodge the idiot civilians blocking the entrance way to the finishing chute. Finally I saw it up ahead, a huge bright blue inflatable banner reading F I N I S H. I ran under the section that read Half Marathon and I have to say I had a tear in my eye.
With my gorgeous mum, post race!
Crossing the finish line was really very emotional for me. This was a huge challenge, especially considering less than 2 years ago when I decided to do triathlon, I could barely run 500 metres and now I have run a half marathon! As you can see by my Garmin stats I achieved my goal of finishing under 3 hours and apart from my 30 second walk reprieve up heartbreak hill, I ran the entire way. More importantly I did not have a panic attack! WOW, that is HUGE!!!!!
Once we crossed the finish line we were herded into corals and given bottles of water, a Dextro Energy bar, a bag containing the Age newspaper, and then finally we were given our finisher’s medals. I could not take my eyes off mine nor the smile from my face. My very first finisher’s medal, I was happy beyond words. After about 10 minutes of walking around I heard my mum call out, lucky I had worn my pink outfit as she spotted me easily amongst the crowd.
Mum was really proud of me and could not wait to tell me how I had beaten a heap of big burly, fit looking, younger guys. Bless you mum! We made our way out of the crowd and mum took a couple of pics of me with my bling, and I got a young guy standing nearby to take a pic of us together. We were both exhausted. My mum is 80 years old this year and she walked up and around the course the entire time, just so she could spot me and take some pics!
We still had a long way to drive home and decided to head off rather than wander around the sports expo, besides at this stage the adrenalin had started to wear off and I was seizing up real bad. I put some warm clothes on, even at 10:30 am it was still freezing cold, and we made our way back to the car. We had a bite to eat while the sun warmed us through the windscreen of the car and talked about the day’s events. We agreed it had definitely been the perfect day!
Very tired and very proud of myself!
As far as the race event is concerned. I do highly recommend it to anyone who wants to run or even run/walk. The atmosphere was just amazing, there were live bands all around the course and some sponsors even had cheer squads out cheering on the runners. Mum and I were both amazed as to just how big and how well run it was. The course was very safe with all roads blocked off and even during the times I ran alone there was no danger of ever getting lost.
Now that I have done it once I absolutely cannot wait for next year. I also cannot wait for the Melbourne Marathon Festival on 13th October, in which I am doing the half marathon as well. Of course there is also Shepparton Half Ironman in November and then the big one in May next year, Ironman Australia and I am super motivated even more now for the both of them. Life is good, training is good, nutrition is good and there are a lot of great challenges ahead!
“If you want to become the best runner you can be, start now. Don’t spend the rest of your life wondering if you can do it.” -Priscilla Welch