I went to Sydney to run the Blackmores Sydney Marathon 2017, thanks to slots given by the Malaysian Women Marathon. Ed Belcher and I were 5 hours pacers back in March for MWM, which is why when we were proposed to use these slots, we immediately agreed ! Preparation wasn’t very good and focussed (holidays, TMMT, one half marathon) and poor training in between (understand little proper LSD sessions). Comes Race day, the goal was to break the 4 hours mark. Mission failed with pace going down after 30km too much and a 4h03 timing. Nevertheless, a new PB for Full Marathon and a race ran as usual in Xero sandals. It was good progress as in the days following the race I was walking and running normally (unlike my previous PB race).
The Blackmores Sydney Marathon
The race is a very scenic one, starting from the north side of the harbour bridge. You start literally under the bridge, run north for few hundred meters to do a U-turn then get onto the harbour bridge. The race brings you across the CBD on the highway then U-turn to run over Circular Quay then head back south toward Hyde Park, then go up toward Centennial Park direction via Oxford Street. Before reaching Centennial Park, you go around the stadium then take a side entrance onto Centennial Park. There, you basically run the entire circumference of the park and head into it before U-turning and doing nearly the same in a slightly different way. From there, you go back via Oxford street, head into the heard of the CBD and reach the quay and run nearly along the quay toward Darling Harbour then Anzac bridge. There U-turn and run completely along the quay until Circular Quay and the arrival at the Opera House.
Before the race, the race pack collection was smooth and easy. Surprisingly they don’t even check your ID details before giving you your BIB provided you have the bar code. The race expo is tiny with just few booth to buy gels, gears, shoes, … As a comparison, MWM in March 2017 had more booths even though it was fairly small. Transportation in sydney is free on race day using your BIB (just showing it to controllers), which is practical. Temperature wise, it’s just the end of winter hence cold in the morning (8-10 degrees) but warm as soon as the sun is shining. It can be colder with wind and cloudy sky (the day before the race was like that !).
The race is going through all the nice places of Sydney, roads are very well closed, marshalls are everywhere. There were sufficient water station to my personal view, which were stuffed with water and isotonic (whey drink – the local 100 Plus). They were providing gels as well from High 5. The finishing after 30km is flat when you are on the quay/sea side. After the race, there is a small area for recovery under the Opera house with bananas, drinks, foam rollers. This is where they give you the finisher medal and t-shirt. For full marathon, there is another recovery area on top of the hill behind the Opera house. Not much to say here, the VIP and Corporate were there while for commoners like us there was many closed booths (11:30am only !), a coffee place (buy your own). There was a food option more like healthy food, which was clearly not to the taste of my partner in crime 😀 Best part of that area: the massage booth where they had 20+ physiotherapists to massage your legs after the race. A good massage for my calves, which were the ones that suffered in the last 10km.
Overall, great race to attend. It’s IAAF Gold label (quite rare, only big well organised and supported events get this). Difficulty wise, it’s certainly easier than a tropical country marathon due to the colder temperature however the course for the first 30km is actually a bit hilly (see course profile earlier), which does not make it the best place for a PB. Other places such as Gold Coast are flat like a pancake and better suited. The crowd is smaller than the big marathons like Tokyo, which makes the overall logistic of the race easier (toilet break before the race, during the race, …). Cut off time wise, it’s as follow:
- 8.3km in 1h20,
- 15km in 2h17,
- 22km in 3h17,
- 25km in 3h43,
- 28.1km in 4h09,
- 30.3km in 4h28,
- And overall race cut-off time in 6h, which is an average pace of 8:32mn/km.
One big disappointment was the quality of the Asics finisher T-shirt. The material is thick, reminiscent of the poor quality event T-shirt you could get in Malaysia 4 years ago. Any event T-shirt in the last 2 years are basically 10 times better than this Asics one. Poor choice from the organisers I think. On the positive side, the medal looks good and is a much better remembrance of the event !
I was set for targeting just below 4 hours… That’s basically running 5:40/km average throughout the marathon. Never done that !
The day before the race, Ed and I went for a short run to shake up the legs in the area of Artarmon. A bit of road then off into the trails ! We even got to see some parrots. Nice short run, with a massive uphill… which we happily walked 😀
Before the race, plenty of time to make sure the toilet break is done well 🙂 then off we start. The first half of the marathon was reached roughly at the entrance of the Centennial Park section. We were there in 1h 56mn, which might have been slightly too fast to finish well. On the return leg in Centennial Park, I had to stop briefly to adjust back the socks on the right foot. I could feel some chaffing on the right back side of the foot. I thought it was a loose socks but it did not seem to be the case. Nevertheless, I tightened a little bit the sandals. Arriving at Darling Harbour, I was still feeling good. Nutrition wise, I had a little bit of gas after drinking some of the isotonic. I was not eating any gels but just raw food energy bars bought in a local grocery and so far it was going ok. Before the race I had a proper breakfast (oats, almond milk) as usual.
Once we reached the U-turn beside the Anzac bridge, I started feeling tired and going slower kilometres after kilometres. This despite knowing exactly what was coming ahead (as I ran there many times in the past 2 years). Ed kept telling me to push but my pace went down to 6:40mn/km… By the time I reached Circular Quay, there were lots of people I kept pushing but I couldn’t. Ed was doing a Facebook live while I was struggling ! Crossing the finish line was the end and it was in 4h 03mn 15s.
Looking at my right foot, I had a big blister (the size of two big almonds) at the chaffing point. It was probably due to a too tight sandal on the right side. Nevertheless, it was quickly healed by piercing it and draining it at the hotel then putting some surgical tape on it (I had not bandaids at the moment). Later on, with all the walking in Sydney to go to work, some liquid came back and I had to drain it again before the skin healed and stick again. Don’t cut the skin and let it heal after draining the inside cleanly.
The next day, a short recovery run at night in the opened at night part of the botanical garden of Sydney with a slow pace helped. Funny thing, I was OK whereas after my last PB at SCKLM in 2016, I was barely walking for a week, had to ice my left foot and take it easy for few weeks. This time everything is good. I guess the training to strengthen ankles and calves at FitOrange helped a lot.
Some funny things I saw…
There were 2 male runners carrying each a Rhinoceros costume to raise funds for the Save the Rhino NGO. A quick google search and I realised these 2 are running all over the world marathons with their costumes ! Two other folks were racing in 3 pieces suit to try to break the Guinness world record. One lawyer from Sydney did it and finished in 2 hours 44 minutes and 29 seconds ! Obviously that guy is damn good ! These were the highlights apart from the usual Batman, Superman, Superwoman, …
Should you go there and run this marathon ? Definitely yes, Sydney is a nice city and the course is great. If you are hunting for a PB and cash strapped, then focus more on places like Gold Coast or any flatter course. A big thank you to Karen Loh from Race Director of the Malaysian Women Marathon for the opportunity to go race in Sydney under MWM colours.
The 2018 edition of the Malaysian Women Marathon is scheduled to be held on the 5th of March 2018. The registration will open soon in october 2017, follow closely the MWM Facebook or the web site of the race (not yet fully updated). MWM is a fun mostly women only event (mostly as male pacers are allowed for the 42km, meaning you can run the half and full marathon with your partner (in life or in crime !), which is great. Do expect as usual some great running clinics and events pre race ! And hopefully I’ll be pacing again this year !