Burning rubber!


I live in Adelaide. For most of my life we have had an annual car race here which takes over the centre of the city with road closures starting seemingly MONTHS out from the event, and generally causing annoyance to locals.

First it was the Formula 1 Grand Prix from 1985 to 1995, which was kind of exciting. I went to a few, most notably the final event in 1995, admittedly pretty much ONLY for the post-race Bon Jovi concert. I recall having a uni exam the next day but no way was I missing the very last F1 race in Adelaide after Victoria stole it from us (yep, still bitter!)

Then a few years later we got the V8s. The V8s brought a different sort of crowd. I went to the first 2 Clipsal 500s (it was called something different then) – Clipsal is the sponsor’s name but I think most people would recognise the name more for the car race than for the products they actually sell! Much like The North Face 100, now called Ultra-Trail Australia, it would be hard to imagine it being called anything other than ‘Clipsal’. I had no interest whatsoever in the V8s. I just went for the socialising. I didn’t even make it to any of the concerts (until Cold Chisel last year – I wasn’t going to miss that. Still didn’t see the race at all though!) and soon decided it was a big waste of money.

But not to worry, the whole of Adelaide gets to experience the joy of Clipsal without forking out for a ticket. Conveniently situated during the period known as ‘Mad March’, perhaps unkindly described as the only time ANYTHING happens in Adelaide (and by ANYTHING I mean EVERYTHING), it’s truly a crazy time of year.

The week before Clipsal, when most of the road closures are in place, traditionally my Tuesday running group runs a section of the track during our regular morning run. Since I’ve been a runner, I’ve said every year that there should be a fun run around the Clipsal track – how good would that be? (Evidently it used to happen during the F1 years)

And finally it has happened! A 3km hot lap around the Clipsal track! Of course I signed up for it! And for the optional extra of getting photos taken on the legit actual Clipsal podium – the very podium where the top 3 drivers would be spraying (I say ‘wasting’) expensive champagne at the conclusion of the race the following weekend. It was a no-brainer!

Given that I would be getting photos taken atop the podium, I thought this called for a dress-up. As people who know me or are regular readers of my blog would be well aware, I don’t mind a dress-up. So I was straight onto eBay looking for a replica race suit. I couldn’t find any of those (well, not for a reasonable price anyway!) but found a ‘grid girl’ dress that fit the bill. I went with a neutral yellow one (didn’t want to support either Holden or Ford, so red and blue were out!) and broke the cardinal rule, don’t ever try something for the first time on race day! I wasn’t even sure if I’d be running in it, but after I saw the names on the start list, I thought I had nothing to lose – it would be just a fun run, not a race! No way was I any chance of winning – might as well have fun with it!

Did I mention ‘Mad March’? It’s not even March yet but the madness has well and truly set in. The Adelaide Fringe festival is only halfway through and 2 weeks in, prior to Sunday’s event I’d already seen 11 shows. Consequently I was a little tired and had an early night on Saturday night – being ‘only’ a 3k race I was not too concerned with preparation but I’m sure the early night helped!

On race day I put my costume on, threw some ‘proper’ running gear in my bag and headed down to the Clipsal circuit, already set up and pretty much ready to go for next weekend. It was kind of surreal getting there, with pretty much only security staff, the sun just barely up, and a sense of peace and quiet that most DEFINITELY will not be there next weekend!

I saw a few familiar faces there – most of my running friends were either hitting the trails or running what by all accounts was a very successful fundraising marathon organised by Chris, a running friend mentioned in my very first blog post. But for me, there was never any doubt. Sure it was ‘only’ 3km and I see myself as more of a long distance specialist, but I couldn’t pass up such a unique opportunity! Plus, it was the inaugural event and I won’t ever be able to do the inaugural Hot Lap Fun Run again!

The photos were taken just before the start and we were to go from there straight to the start. So I had to decide whether to run in my costume or in my running gear. I opted for the costume – why not?

We lined up to take our pics up in the 1st place position on the podium, complete with wreath around the neck (which some people hilariously compared to a Borat-style mankini – it really did look a bit like that!) and bottle of bubbly (which remained firmly closed!) After the podium photos I changed into my regular running hat (the chequered hat that came with the dress didn’t fit so well and would just annoy me) and off we went to the start line!

**SPOILER ALERT** Little did I know it wouldn’t be my only time up on the podium for the day!

I did a little warmup – about 800m. In a 3km event you kind of need to hit the ground running. I placed myself near the front, behind the ‘serious’ runners. We were led out by a classic Torana which was a nice touch. Not that I needed a car to follow –  I had all the runners in front of me for that! It was probably nice for the front runners though. It wasn’t long before the car was well out of my sight!

I went out way too fast. As I tend to do! I was only a few metres behind Lisa (my age group ‘rival’ from the Masters Games – I say ‘rival’ because we are in the same age group, but she will smash me every time, so I use the term ‘rival’ very loosely!) for a short while, which was how I knew I was going too fast. Also, my pace alerts on my Garmin were set for 4:00 – 4:15 minutes per km and I was sitting under 4 minutes for a good part of the first km. It was not sustainable!

I was conservatively aiming for sub 13 minutes. That was 4:20 per km and I expected I could go quicker than that. I knew 12 minutes was ambitious, but 13 was safe.

My first km was 4:05. I was sitting in 3rd place, behind Lisa and another girl who I didn’t know. I was waiting for the inevitable moment when someone would fly past me and take my 3rd position, as my over-ambitious start caught up with me. There were certainly no thoughts of moving into a higher position!

I got to the halfway point still in 3rd place. And it wasn’t a dead flat track as I’d expected – sure, the elevation gain according to Strava was only 18 metres, so it wasn’t exactly Mt Lofty, but I felt every one of those metres! (I should have known. Adelaide CBD is not hilly like Sydney, but one thing it is not, is dead flat. I HAVE run the Adelaide half marathon, after all!)

Passing me around this time was a guy called Dan, who I hadn’t met before but who was part of the Indigenous Marathon Project, a fantastic programme which trains indigenous athletes to run the New York Marathon. I had heard him speak at a function prior to last year’s City-Bay Fun Run, so after the race I had a chat with him about how NY went. He said it was great and he wanted to do it again! NY is definitely one on my bucket list… looks like I’m going to be running marathons for at least the next 20 years to fit them all in!

Anyway it was good to have him that little way in front of me for the rest of the race – always in sight, so I just tried to keep pace with him. My second km was 4:16, more like the pace I would have expected to run, but a little slower than I’d hoped. There was only 1km to go – easy!

I did look over my shoulder a few times during that last km. I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t been overtaken by another female yet!

I managed a 3:54 last km. I have a dream of running a sub-20 minute 5k – all I have to do is 4 more of those and I’m there! (Easier said than done, of course! I guess first of all I need to crack a sub-6 minute 1500, then a sub-12 minute 3000!)

One last look over my shoulder as I entered the final straight and it appeared I was safe! A final burst of speed and I was home in 12:32 (according to Strava – my official time might vary by a few seconds) and 3rd female! And to top it all off, the trophy presentations were taking place back up on the actual legit podium!

I did feel a bit like a fraud up there – the other 2 girls and the 3 guys were dressed like runners and were actual legit athletes, and there was me in my cross-between-a-grid-girl-and-driving-suit-outfit! Still – the results don’t lie! This time I was in position 3 and I didn’t get to ‘fake spray’ the bottle of champagne but I didn’t care – I had an actual legit trophy to show for it!

I enjoyed the run! Unlike last weekend’s 10k, which was a wonderful event but I didn’t exactly enjoy my run, I actually did like this one. Maybe it was the novelty of running on an iconic Adelaide race track, maybe it was the fact it was a route I hadn’t run before. Maybe it was just a sign that I should focus on the shorter distances! Whatever it was, I would definitely do this event again, and I would recommend it to anyone – it’s a short race with a generous time allowed to complete it, so it is very doable for the average weekend warrior!

Let’s hope the Hot Lap Fun Run becomes an annual event! You probably won’t get me out on the Clipsal course any other way!