Having already started my training for my entry to Ironman70.3 in November, I had a good base level fitness leading into City2Surf. An enormous event with over 80,000 runners starting from Sydneys Hyde Park all the way to possibly the most iconic beach in Australia, Bondi.
First things first, I achieved a PB of 53:38, so this was a good day. Last year I raced a 55:29. Awesome! Very pleased.
City 2 Surf – A 14km “fun” run, with plenty of hills that would make the most experienced of runners’ stomachs churn. Participants can walk, jog, skip, run, roll, or hop to the finish line. You can even stop off for a beer along the course if you really want. Parents racing with their prams – infants aboard, charity runners dressed as cartoon characters and superheroes, alongside athletes aiming for PB’s. This event has something for everyone.
If you live in Bondi, as we do, the roads alongside the beach are closed from around 6am (or earlier, I believe), which means buses cannot access the area to transport you to the city for your start. However, Transport NSW do provide bus transport from the south side of the beach specifically for C2S runners, providing you show your race bib, which you should all have with you, of course. A non-stop bus from the beach to Hyde Park, you’ll arrive at your starting paddock within 20-30 minutes or so. Very efficient, particularly when the roads are quiet! On departing the bus, it’s clear where the start of the event is, you can’t miss it. Easy.
80,000 people all in one park, absolute chaos, right? Not at all. Of course, you have to dodge people taking pictures, and you have to queue for your pre-race toilet stop in portable WC’s, which are never enjoyable, admittedly, but lets face it, you just get on with it, you’re not there to sit on the toilet for 10 minutes anyway. From what I could see, there wasn’t much in terms of sponsors/partners at the start line offering nutritional samples/drinks etc, but then again I feel that everyone is just raring to start. It would only slow the whole starting process down if everyone was messing around searching for freebies. The majority of runners at this point are in their starting areas. Red first, green, blue, yellow, the lot.
I felt I was very early this year. Jordanna and I arrived around 7:20am, I didn’t start until 7:55, with Jordanna 10 minutes later. We pottered around, no real rush, but as we wandered over to the red start I realised I should have just got straight into my group. Thousands of people already filled my paddock. I imagine I was near the back of the red group, lets say 6000-10000 people. Quite frustrating.
TOP TIP: If you’re wanting to achieve a PB, you’re a strong runner, AND you have experience in the race from last year – be sure to make your way to the front of your group to avoid being held up behind people for at least 2-3km’s.
NOTE: I am not an elite runner. I understand that in entering this event I am inevitably going to be held up, bumped into, slowed down etc by other people. It’s a fun run. I just think it would be interesting to see how my PB would be affected if I had open road to run down.
As soon as we started moving I knew I’d be dodging people for quite some time. The red group set off at 7:55am and as I crossed the start line I could already see people arriving at the top of the hill by the CocaCola sign at Kings Cross. William Street, from Hyde Park to Kings Cross is around 1km long. That means there are quite a few thousand people in front of me. I think all competitive runners know how frustrating it is to have to weave your way through people, but for this amount of time, it’s just painful. BUT, it’s my own fault, I should have known, and after all, this is a fun run. It’s up to competitive runners, like myself, to ensure we’re in a good position come race start.
Nevertheless, my first Km was 4:31, my slowest of the 14. All due to having to wait for others in front of me. This was the case for 2-3km’s until we reached Rose Bay, where the pack opened up, the roads widened, and I could see Heartbreak Hill approaching. Even at this point, there must have still been around 1000-2000 people ahead of me.
Before hitting the hill I needed a toilet stop, I just couldn’t run hard being irritated by needing to go. This also added at least 20-30 seconds to my time (annoying, but my own fault). Door open, out, and back on the road a few hundred meters to go before the ascent began; I was ready. I just ploughed past people at every opportunity, no mercy. Although I was frustrated with the number of people in front of me that I had to work my way through, it helps me psychologically. It’s part of my competitive nature that if there’s someone in front, I have to catch them – making me run faster. Result. 5-6km’s done before Heartbreak Hill. I was in a good position and still had a lot left in me.
Getting to this point was tough, there are hills to climb as soon as you begin the race, made that little bit easier by the support from spectators along the course.
SUPPORT & ENTERTAINMENT
As soon as you pass the start line there are spectators shouting words of enthusiasm and motivation towards every runner on the course. Whether these people have anyone running in the race or not, they’re happy to be part of the race day atmosphere. I think it gives everyone the opportunity to feel like a professional athlete for an hour or two, which is great.
Next are the live performances, the military brass band playing at Rose Bay, the Rock bands, the DJ’s, and of course the sponsors along the way. The entire population of supporters throughout the race are a credit to themselves for making the day what it is for so many thousands of people. Not everyone races to achieve a PB, some people race just to be active, some to raise money for charity. Having the support that C2S provides, gives those people with less enthusiasm to run, all the more reason to enjoy the day and dig deep on those hills!
Water stations seemed to be every few km’s too. Plenty of refreshments on course, toilet stops etc. I don’t think they’ve missed much here. One suggestion would be to have gel stations to supply supplements/food/sweets(lollies) for participants. But then again, its 14km’s, not 42, so do people really need this. I don’t think so.
All in all, I’d say this event is the best for overall course entertainment and support. It really caters for a spectrum of runners.
If you know the area, once you arrive in Dover Heights you have around 4km’s to go to reach the summit you’ve been searching for all morning. You are then instilled with a false sense of security that your finish line is all down hill. This is simply not the case and could kill your chance of a PB.
Fortunately, I learned my lesson on this one from last years event. As you descend down Military Road, the winding route gives you a glimpse of the finishers area giving you a false perception of where the course leads.
On arriving at the bottom of the hill you must then race up Campbell Parade to then take a U-turn at Beach Road traffic light, back down and round to the beach!
TOP TIP No.2: DO NOT SPRINT DOWN MILITARY ROAD WITHOUT RECOGNISING THAT ONCE YOU REACH THE BOTTOM, YOU STILL HAVE AROUND 1-1.5Km’s To go before you reach the end.
Now perhaps I’m missing something here, but I feel City 2 Surf organisers could do a better job with the end of race attractions. Whenever I’ve raced in the UK there have always been a diverse range of refreshments, you get a medal, a goodie bag with all kinds of things in it, supplement gels, bars and drinks etc. City 2 Surf had nothing (that I could easily see).
I imagined I would see a version of the pre-race expo at the end of the race too, but the best area I could see was a private area for West Pac bank account holders. Huh? I completely understand the break down of what kind of costs go into producing events such as this.. marketing, security, toilet facilities, participant packs, health & safety, timing systems, road closures, construction of event areas, and so on and so forth, but I just felt that once you had finished the race, that was it. Goodbye.
That being said, there are over 80,000 people filtering through a narrow lane in front of the beach, with the priority, I imagine, first and foremost being to get everyone finished and out safely, as opposed to clogging the area with bodies. What about producing 85,000 finisher t-shirts? 😀
A great event for everyone! I would thoroughly recommend getting involved in this race, no matter what your ability level. Personally, I need to have an event planned so that I have something to work towards. Aimless training just doesn’t do it for me. If you’re not into fitness, but want to get moving, perhaps you should consider planning ahead to this event next year. After all, you have to start somewhere.