This week, we go back to where it all (ie this blog) began!
2 years ago I ran the Barossa Marathon and wrote a little report about it, which I posted on my Facebook page. The positive feedback I received about this report (in some cases from people I hadn’t even met before) in the subsequent days, led me to create ‘Random Thoughts and Race Reports’ and I guess you could say the rest is history!
I am in the process of creating a new blog which I’ll share when I’ve finished playing around with some of the formatting (amid much swearing, at times!)
Anyway, back to Barossa. Some months ago, knowing that it was 6 weeks after Boston and 2 weeks after I got back to Australia, I volunteered to do the 2 hour pacing gig for the half marathon. I figured, I wasn’t really going to be in ‘race shape’ and I find pacing really enjoyable and rewarding, so it would be a great way to be involved!
Up until last weekend, I hadn’t run 21.1km since Boston, so I was actually a bit unsure if I could even run a sub 2 hour half, let alone pace one! So I went out and ran about 10 laps of the Uni Loop (2.2km) and came in about 4 minutes under the 2 hours. I wasn’t trying to push hard but by the same token I wasn’t trying to run ‘slow’. I was just running at the pace I was comfortable with. So that pretty much confirmed to me that I could do the pacer gig!
Ideally you want to be able to run about 15 minutes faster than the time you’re pacing. I don’t think I could run 1:45 at the moment but I was definitely confident I had this!
I bought a new costume to run in – ostensibly to make me easier to spot for those trying to run with me, but just quietly because I kind of enjoy dressing up in wacky outfits! This one was a psychedelic hippie dress, complete with belt and headband. I even found a pair of sunglasses which were left at my house a few years ago but never claimed, that fit the outfit perfectly – and my yellow Boston calf sleeves were a perfect match! Underneath was another brand new item, my new 2XU compression shorts.
The weather wasn’t looking too good! There was a lot of rain overnight (both at home in Adelaide and up in the Barossa) and more rain forecast for race day. I was not looking forward to the idea of running in the rain – mostly for the reason that it would slow me down, and I couldn’t really afford to lose too much speed!
I went up with Beck, who wasn’t running this year due to injury but was still happy to go up and cheer! She picked me up at 5:45am so we would get to Tanunda in time to see the start of the marathon at 7. (The half didn’t start until 7:45)
Fortunately, although it was cold (and colder when we got to Tanunda), the rain appeared to be holding off.
We made it with minutes to spare – just enough time to wish the marathoners all the best and see them set off! (One thing I like about Barossa and Adelaide as opposed to some of the larger marathons, is that, as spectators, we could actually get into the starting area literally minutes before the start!)
The next 45 minutes went very quickly – just enough time to collect my bib and pacer balloons, stand in a lengthy toilet queue, then attempt a contortionist routine in trying to change out of my warm multiple layers and into my race ‘kit’ within the confines of a small toilet cubicle. Once that was done it was pretty much time to go to the start line! Luckily I had Beck there to take my bags as I probably would not have had time to getto the baggage tent!
I was one of 3 pacers in the half. We had Bryn doing 1:30 (his first pacer gig) and Jim 1:45 (Jim’s a veteran pacer and pretty much has the 1:45 slot sewn up!) with me doing my favourite, 2:00. I wasn’t sure exactly where to stand, as I couldn’t see Jim. In the end I just chose a spot well behind Bryn, and behind a few people I knew were planning to run sub-2. It didn’t really matter that much – 21.1km gives plenty of time to sort out pace and position!
(As it turned out, Jim wasn’t there – he actually missed the start due to bib issues, and went flying past me a little while after the start! He did eventually catch up to the 1:45 group and expertly paced them to the finish!)
I started my watch on the gun, rather than as I crossed the line. That way, if I crossed the line in 2:00 exactly on the clock, everyone who was with me would get under 2 hours, regardless of whether they started in front of me or behind me. (That was a lesson I learned during my very first pacing gig!)
For those who aren’t familiar, the role of a pacer is to run as close as possible to a specified time, and people who want to run that time (or thereabouts) just need to stick with the pacer and don’t need to worry about their own pace. It is particularly useful for runners who don’t use a GPS watch. As a pacer, there is definitely a bit of pressure but it’s also really enjoyable and rewarding to see your pace group achieve their goals.
I know I’m going to forget some people so apologies if I do! There were a lot of runners either with me or just ahead of me. Michelle was trying to stick with me as long as possible but her main goal was a sub 2:15 to qualify for Wonderland trail run. Eventually she dropped off my ‘bus’ but she got in well under her goal time! Regular running buddy Nat was with me for a while and ended up finishing just a few minutes behind me, saying that she really enjoyed the run.
Sally thought she would be running just ahead of me but ended up smashing out a huge PB and on top of that won 2 bottles of wine in the random prize draw!
Others running ahead of me included Gary (different Gary from the one we’d seen off in the marathon!), Victoria, Ali and Peter. There were definitely a few PBs among that lot – they didn’t need any pacing help from me!
With me pretty much from the start were Brianna, fresh off a PB at the Paris Marathon, and first time half marathoner Kathryn from Brisbane (who was unaccustomed to the cold weather that we turned on for her!) Brianna was hoping to go sub 2 but hadn’t run that far since Paris, and Kathryn was just hoping to stick with me as long as possible – she’d done a half distance in training, in about 2:10.
Due to the staggering of the start times for the marathon, half, 10k and 5k, there were never any issues with congestion. We didn’t see the 5k or 10k runners at all (in fact, I never even saw race ambassador Jess Trengove, who won the 10k race) but we did get to see the marathoners on multiple occasions, and due to the ‘out and back’ sections we also got to see all the half marathoners (over 500 finishers!) – from the leaders all the way to the back of the pack!
Pace-wise it took me about 3km to hit my goal pace of 5:37 – 5:38 mins per km. I found Barossa the easiest out of all the halves I’ve paced – due to the flat nature of the course and the favourable weather conditions. Once I hit my pace I managed to hold onto it. Towards the end I did a few calculations so I would come in JUST under the 2 hours, so I did need to slow down just a touch!
I think with about 5km to go, Brianna took off but Kathryn was still with me! She was determined to stick with me until 16km, then it would be ‘just a parkrun to go!’ Personally I don’t find that comparison super helpful but it certainly works for a lot of people!
Eventually we reached the ‘parkrun turnaround mark’ (2.5km to go) and it became apparent that Kathryn was going to get under 2 hours! It was kind of like a proud mother bird moment for me when she took off with around 1km to go – I had to hold onto my pace so couldn’t go with her but I was thinking ‘Fly, my pretties!’ as each runner left my ‘nest’!
There were a few other runners around me who were looking good for sub 2 – some just in front and some just behind. One guy, Gerard, had not long given up smoking and was on track for a PB (and finished just seconds behind me) and regular running buddy Deb was ahead of me for a good portion of the race, but stuck with me after I passed her, and also came in under 2 hours. Another girl, whose name I didn’t get but who was wearing a Step Into Life top and not wearing a watch, was also hoping for a sub 2 and I’m not sure if she finished ahead of me or behind me but she came up to me afterwards and told me she got the sub-2! And then there was another regular running buddy Fiona, who was determined not to let me pass her (jokingly telling me I was going too fast) and ended up finishing about half a minute ahead of me.
I crossed the line with 1:59:42 on the clock. My official time was 1:59:18 which I was pleased with!
And the timing was perfect because not 5 minutes after I finished, the heavens opened! Unfortunately that meant missing the presentations for the 5, 10 and 21.1k as I hightailed it back to Beck’s car to get changed into some warm, dry clothes and then head back to see our friends finish the marathon!
There was a large group of runners around the 3:30 pacer (I think the only pacer in the marathon) including Coralie, Rebecca and Jenny. Not long after that were Carrie, Amanda and Leon (doing his 347th marathon for the year, by my calculation!) with a small gap to my 2015 Barossa running buddy Kay and fellow 2017 Boston Marathon finisher Graham! Then came a few more familiar faces, Peter and Dave, but for me the best moment of the day was seeing Gary finish.
Gary’s daughter Tahlia had run the 10k, and as I approached the end of my half, I saw Tahlia running back to meet her dad. We waited what seemed like ages at the finish (but it wasn’t actually that long – we were just cold and in need of wine!) until we saw Mark, who had been running with Gary when I’d last seen them, so we knew Gary couldn’t be far behind! And sure enough, around 30 seconds later, there was that distinctive purple T-shirt! We gave Gary a huge cheer and I think he might have been a bit fired up (after pretty much crawling across the finish line in his first marathon at Adelaide last year, he had, as he put it, ‘some running demons to vanquish’) and was yelling and cheering and high fiving! It was definitely a highlight for me and I’m sure it was a very special moment for Gary and Tahlia!
As we were getting cold and Beck had post-wine family commitments, we left pretty much straight after Gary finished, for a well earned wine tasting at Hentley Farm (I tasted 9 wines and liked them all – unfortunately the budget would only stretch to one bottle – I went with a Grenache Shiraz Zinfandel, mainly because I’ve never tried or even seen that blend before!
So once again, SARRC have put on another excellent event – the weather wasn’t kind to everyone (the marathoners and some of the half marathoners behind me certainly copped it a lot worse than I did) but it was ideal running weather for me, the volunteers were fabulous as always, the spectators were great, and my fellow runners were always friendly and supportive!
Thanks to everyone involved in making this such a great day! And especially to Beck for chauffeuring me – I owe you one!