Race report – 2016 Gold Coast Marathon

So – the race I’ve been working towards all year (except for a few little ‘side projects’ like UTA100 and the Australian Masters Athletics Championships) has finally happened!
Let’s backtrack a little, shall we, with a bit of a run-down (pun intended) of the lead-up to the race.
My training in the last week was very low-key. Before flying out on Thursday I had a good solid tempo run on Tuesday morning. Normally Thursday is tempo day but beside the fact I was flying out that morning, it was WAY too close to race day to be pushing too hard. Thursday’s seem to work well for me to do tempo runs – far enough away from the previous long run for the fatigue and soreness to be gone, and far enough from the following long run to give me a few good days’ recovery. 
On Tuesday I needed a km or so to warm up – I was still feeling the effects of Sunday’s runs/race and the hamstring was a bit niggly. No cause for alarm! I didn’t set a goal pace but in the end I ran slightly faster than I planned to run on Sunday.
My usual routine involves Body Pump classes on Monday and Wednesday mornings. Monday’s class fell by the wayside because I had been out late the night before, seeing one of Australia’s best live bands The Living End and trying to avoid getting my feet stomped on in the ‘moshpit’ (broken toes would probably not make for a good marathon experience!) and then I thought to myself, what do I possibly have to gain by doing a Pump class 4 days out from a marathon? Surely a sleep-in would be a better option? For once, sleep won out!
Packing was a quick and easy affair. I’d done enough interstate races by now (this was my 6th race outside of South Australia, including one overseas marathon) to have the ‘packing list’ down to a fine art. 
My race kit was nothing new – my pink SARRC top (representing the club with which I’d done most of my training runs) and black or black and white lulu skirt (I hadn’t decided which yet so I took both). I’d gone with my relatively new 2XU compression socks (remembering I’d need to do some pre-taping to prevent toe blisters) and also my rainbow arm warmers, in case of a cool morning (I hadn’t needed them last year but it was looking like being a bit cooler this time around). I’d also opted to go for my handheld bottle again, with Gatorade, so I wouldn’t need to stop. As a backup I would also take a ziplock bag with more powder in it, in case I ran out mid-race and needed to mix up some more. As needed I would also drink water from the drink stations – in previous years the cups had been paper, with which it is a lot easier to execute the ‘drink on the run’ technique than it is with plastic cups.
I was staying with a group of runners from the Adelaide Harriers, another Adelaide running club, noted for its fast runners! I had met quite a few of them through parkrun – those red singlets almost always feature in the top 3! I had toyed with the idea of joining their team for the marathon but their colours are red and white, and, well, frankly, that would have forced me to re-think my entire outfit! Plus red is not my colour! So I was welcome to stay with them but on race day I would be rocking the SARRC pink!
I had originally booked a 2 bedroom apartment in Surfers Paradise but left it too late to find people to share with. After putting the call out on Facebook, Julie, one of the main organisers of the Harriers team, had put me in contact with Sinead, who was looking for someone to share a Broadbeach apartment with her and her mum Gerry. It would save me considerable money which I could then spend at the expo which was easy walking distance from the apartment. Win-win!

I re-read my race report from the 2014 Gold Coast Marathon, just to refresh my memory of the race itself and see if there were any mistakes I made (relating to the race) that I needed to avoid this time around! If you’re interested in reading it, you can find it here: 


I arrived in Coolangatta on Thursday morning, met by my friend Vanessa and had a nice relaxing day catching up with her and her family, and spent the night at her place. It was nice to have a day free of running and run chat!
Friday morning Vanessa dropped me off at the Meriton at Broadbeach where I met my flatmates for the next 3 days, Sinead and Gerry. They were about to head off for a bike ride and I went for a short 8km trot along the coast to Surfers Paradise and back, just to make sure everything still worked (fortunately, it did!) followed by a little walk on the beach and paddle in the sea (when in Rome, and all that!)
After my run I did a quick shop before grabbing some lunch and heading to the expo/bib collection. I’d allowed myself plenty of time to get through the expo but it didn’t seem as big as last year, and there really wasn’t a whole lot that I needed, so I got out of there relatively unscathed having purchased 2 tops and some gel flasks and spent the grand total of $25! I then went for a wander back down to Surfers to check out Cavill Mall (I still think Rundle Mall in my hometown of Adelaide is the best pedestrianised shopping street that I’ve been to) and bought a couple more things from an outlet shop. All in all, I was pretty happy with the restraint I showed!
Friday night was a ‘carb-loading’ dinner at an Italian place in Surfers (I’d contacted them prior to ensure they could provide a vegan option for me) with the rest of the Harriers crew – a good chance to meet those I hadn’t met before and catch up with some familiar faces! 
After dinner I made my way to the Arts Centre to see fellow marathoner Mickey D headline the comedy show there. I caught up with him briefly after the gig, he was going to run the first half in 2 hours and aim for a huge negative split which would put him around the 3:45 mark. He said if he did pass me, he would be absolutely flooring it!

Saturday morning I had planned to get up at 5:15 for a 5:45 rendezvous in the lobby to go and watch the start of the 10k race. Due to bad planning I had neglected to put my alarm clock onto Queensland time. I quickly realised when I got up that it was actually 5:45 and I had missed the boat. I threw some clothes on and legged it downstairs, almost getting on the tram the others were on, and thanking my lucky stars that this happened on Saturday and NOT Sunday! I didn’t actually catch up with the group until after all the Harriers athletes had finished but I did get to see Sarah right near the finish line – a regular first female at parkrun! She had done a PB along with Adrian who I had seen fly past, finishing 14th in just over 30 minutes!
After a coffee I headed back to the apartment for breakfast and a shower before meeting Annie (who was up from Adelaide to see her daughter run her first marathon) for a little retail therapy at Harbour Town. I didn’t spend much money (I was mistakenly informed that there was a lululemon outlet there, which undoubtedly contributed to the lower-than-expected spending!) but notably the table number we were given when we ordered our lunch was 42 – I was sure that HAD to be an omen!
On return to the apartment I got all my gear ready and organised to meet up with school friend Christy, now living in Brisbane and doing her first marathon, for a pizza dinner! Sinead and Gerry had gone out for their pre-race meal and I put my feet up and watched the election coverage – fun times!
We went to a local place, Sage, for dinner. Christy and I both had the mushroom pizza, hers with cheese and mine without. I told her it was my tradition and maybe it would become hers too! I also had a cider which is part of the tradition.

After returning to the apartment I watched a bit more riveting election coverage and with no result likely I hit the hay.
I got up about 4:45 – I have this raceday prep down to a fine art. I had brought my cereal with me but unfortunately there wasn’t a big enough bowl in the apartment so I had to use a baking dish! I got dressed, checked I had everything I needed (energy drink, Gatorade, drop bag, nearly forgot the sunnies!) and headed out at 5:40 to get the tram to Southport. It was a bit cool so I had decided to go with my arm warmers as well as a hoodie I would leave at the start line. One extra addition was a temporary tattoo given to me by Gary, who had run Boston this year. It would be some inspiration for me, to remember what this was all about. I put it on my right wrist – I wouldn’t see it under the arm warmers but I would know it was there.
Christy got on the tram at Surfers and when we arrived I walked with her to her running club’s tent which was on the main road just before runners turned the corner into the finishing line. After a quick selfie we wished each other all the best and I headed back to finish getting ready. 
First I left my bag at the baggage drop, then went for a quick warmup of about 1km. It was hard to find a place to warm up – I did see a lot of people running laps around the pool at the aquatic centre – so I just did laps around the carpark which was conveniently located next to a set of portaloos! While waiting in line I saw one of the pacers (fortunately not mine) pop his balloon while closing the door! Around half an hour before the start I downed my energy drink and then availed myself of the free sunscreen and it was time to go to the start line!
I found the 3 hours 40 zone and positioned myself there. I was wearing a personalised pace band with the goal time of 3:39:59. It had splits of 1km, 5km and then every 5km to 40km. Previously I had used pace bands I had made myself which had every single kilometre split, but that was when I used to try to gradually increase the pace. This time, the plan was to run even splits – I would stay with the pacer until 30k and if I felt good at that point I would go on ahead.
I saw a familiar face – Chris, who was running his 7th marathon in 7 days as part of the Bravehearts 777 -remarkable! 2 in 6 weeks is hard enough! He was going to try to stick with the 4:45 pacers so he started well behind me.
Robert de Castella gave a stirring motivational speech (goosebumps!) followed by the national anthem and we were away! It took a little while to cross the line and I started my watch as I crossed the timing mat. It was on!
There were 2 3:40 pacers, both sporting white balloons. One of them would run 3:40 gun time and the other would be going for 3:40 net time (ie a bit slower, as it takes most runners a minute at least to get across the line). I only needed 3:40 net time so I decided to stick with the net pacer initially.
Within the first few kilometres Mick came up behind me – we wished each other well and he dropped back (I think maybe I was pacing him, even though I didn’t know it at the time! Certainly I would be easy to pick out, with my fluoro pink top, rainbow striped sleeves and lavender compression socks!
5:12 was the magic number – 5:12 per kilometre would get me my sub 3:40 time and a Boston qualifier. My first few kilometres were a bit faster than that, but at the 5k split I was spot on 5:12 pace (not really surprising considering I was running with the pacer!) and at 10k I was still on track.
At 6k I saw Justin and Sarah who had done the 10k the day before – Justin had told me they’d be at that marker so it was pretty easy to spot them. I gave Sarah a high five (Justin was on the other side of the road) and carried on! Speaking of high fives, regular readers may recall I have a thing whereby I have to high five at least one kid to earn my race bling. I had already high fived a bunch of them even before I got to Sarah! 
It was not long after the 10k mark that we started to see the elite runners coming back the other way, along with a few of the wheelchair athletes, all preceded and followed by motorbikes. The elite runners were amazing – we cheered them on as we crossed paths, not that they needed it! I later worked out they were at around the 21k mark as we approached 11! Behind the elites I started to see a few distinctive red and white Harriers singlets – I didn’t know all of them but Bryn, Michael and Piete all looked to be running well.
It was at this point too that I started to pick up the pace and left the net pacer behind – maybe I got a bit excited and inspired by the elite runners! I did my third 5k in 5:02.
Around 15k was the first turnaround point – we would then run north back PAST the start and a bit further before turning around again for the last 6k or so.
This was where I started to see the people behind me. I looked out for Chris with the 4:45 bus but didn’t see him. Christy was expecting to be around 4:30 but I missed out on seeing that group. Mick was not far behind me. I was sure he would pass me eventually!
The next 5k was fastish too, 5:04. Not long after this was the halfway point (again I missed my opportunity to crack out the Bon Jovi!) and my time was 1:48:10, well ahead of the 1:49:33 I needed for my sub 3:40.
The gun pacer was in front of me the whole time and I thought I’d just stay with him until 30k. However that plan fell by the wayside when I looked around just after 22k and he was behind me! “Oh well” I thought, “let’s wing it!” I knew it was highly unlikely I would get close to the 3:30 pacer, and worst case scenario, if I slowed down, he would pass me and I could follow him once more.
My 5k split from 20-25 was 5:03 so I had remained fairly consistent since leaving the net pacer. I ran past Justin and Sarah again around 24k. At 24k I had my energy supplement – it takes about 30 minutes to kick in and I wanted it kicking in at around 30k. At the pace I was running it would be just after 30k which was ideal as this was where we would be approaching the finish line first time around.
Even though it couldn’t have kicked in yet, my 25-30k split was my fastest, 4:59! Around the 30k mark I heard my name and it was Julie and a few of the other Harriers – a lot of them had done the half marathon. It was great to see them! Not long after that I saw Annie who gave me a high five. 
I think it was the 28k mark or thereabouts that I started drinking water. Up until then I had bypassed all the drink stations and had the occasional sip of Gatorade. It didn’t seem that hot but I think I was a bit dehydrated as I hadn’t drunk very much water on Saturday. So from 28k on I grabbed a cup at each of the water stops. Once again they had paper cups which made it easy to drink and run!
Then we hit the hardest part of the course – the 6k stretch to the last turnaround, where the crowds were a little sparser. I slowed down a little here – my 30-35k split was 5:07. Still WELL under where I needed to be. I knew (barring disaster) that sub 3:40 was in the bag, and a PB was also likely. It was around 35k that my hamstring started to give me some trouble – I had brought along some Voltaren just in case (hoping I wouldn’t need it because I know it’s bad!) but by 35k it was too late because I would be just about finished by the time it kicked in.
I think it was around 37k that we hit the final turnaround. It was just before this that Mick passed me for the last time – I tried to keep him in sight but he was a man on a mission! 
I think it got a little easier after this, although I did slow down significantly. But then again, so did everyone! There were a lot of people walking, limping even. Once again I managed to get through without walking or stopping but I was tempted to walk at times – I could have afforded to, given I was well ahead of schedule, but it would be too hard to get my rhythm back. My average pace for 35-40k was 5:11.
At 38k I decided to start singing. I broke into ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ much to the bewilderment of those around me! Weirdly I think it gave me a boost – I managed to pass quite a few people while singing! I think they were probably just giving me a wide berth!
At 39k I tried ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ but I didn’t get far before we got to a spot where there was a radio blasting so I was quickly drowned out. Coincidence? I think maybe not! ‘Thunderstruck’ came on the radio and I tried to sing but couldn’t make it work.
Finally, at 40k I cracked out the old classic, ‘The Climb’ – that was a bit of a challenge too and when I got to the line ‘ain’t about how fast I get there’ I quickly realised this was NOT the song for this occasion – it was TOTALLY about how fast I got there!
I saw Annie again around this point and she called out something about Boston. Yep, Boston. THAT was what this was all about!
Kilometres 41 and 42 were 5:28 and 5:25 respectively – a significant drop in pace but again not many people don’t drop by this point. I had my head down a lot of the time from 37k onwards, but I had to look up frequently as someone could have stopped to a walk right in front of me! I did actually miss a few of the kilometre markers due to having my head down! 
Then came the beautiful moment as I turned off the road towards the finish. I was so pumped by then, I was high fiving EVERYONE, cheering, screaming, whatever! There was the magic ‘250m to go’ sign! I think I sprinted the last 250! SUCH a great feeling crossing that line! My watch showed 3:36:03 – a massive PB and 9 minutes under my Boston qualifying time. (I later found out my official time was 3:35:59 – even better!)
I got through the finish chute, grabbed a bottle of water, walked through the misting tent and sat down to text my mum and tell the rest of the world via social media. A guy called Simon, who had spent some time in Adelaide, offered to take a pic for me as I was struggling to take a selfie and get my SARRC top in shot! He asked me if I’d like another one as I got photobombed by a fellow Adelaide runner called Narelle, but I loved that photo! I took a few pics for him and his partner Kate who recognised me from parkrun, and also for Narelle and her partner James. 
I was getting messages from Sylvia, my Gold Coast based friend who I’d met in Adelaide earlier in the year and see briefly at UTA, asking where I was. I assumed she’d run the marathon but it turned out she’d just come down to see me! She’d called out to me on the course towards the end but of course I was in the zone and didn’t hear her!
After catching up with Sylvia and trying to talk her into coming to Adelaide to run Yurrebilla this year, I went to get my drop bag and head for the water. It wasn’t a beach as such although there was sand, and it seemed to be the place of choice to cool off post-run. It was my third year doing Gold Coast (I did the half in 2014 and the full last year) and this had become a tradition. This time I had come prepared with my new super cushiony sandals to put on after I got out – those compression socks were NOT going back on!

I had the food I had brought with me, along with the mandatory post-race Coke and then waited for Christy (getting sidetracked by getting a selfie with Steve Moneghetti!) – I was following her online but somehow managed to miss seeing her finish on the big screen. As soon as I realised she was finished I legged it to the archway where all the runners come through after they’ve finished. I soon spotted her with her young son who had run the last little bit with her! I congratulated her, got another selfie and then made my way back to the apartment.
Sinead and Gerry were on their way out to hit the shops – Sinead had gone under her goal time of 1:21 with the help of Adrian who, after his speedy 10k the previous day, backed it up to pace her in the half!
I had a quick spa, letting the jets massage my quads, hamstrings and feet, then an AMAZING shower before heading to the Kurrawa surf club to meet the rest of the Harriers who were there watching the footy and having a few celebratory/commiseratory beverages! Bryn had done his calf with about 6k to go and limped home but still in what I would call a pretty amazing time! Michael had also had a bad day but again still did a good time. A lot of the runners had done the half and there were some impressive times there too! 
After a few bevvies I walked to the nearby Indian restaurant where Vanessa and family were meeting me. I had a veg vindaloo – I asked for medium but it was still pretty hot! 
I then made the trek (maybe 2 blocks, if that!) back to the apartment to start packing and chill for a bit! It was too early to go to bed but I did put my compression tights on before watching a bit of Sunday night TV.
Monday morning I woke up stupid early – after brekky all that was left to do was a nice leisurely walk and finish packing (ugh!) before heading to the airport (double ugh!)
All in all it has been a pretty brilliant weekend – amazing weather, awesome people and a perfect race! I don’t think I will be back next year (although, I might come and do the half!) but it is definitely a great event which I would recommend to anyone – there really is something for everyone here! 
Big thanks to the Adelaide Harriers for letting a SARRC person crash their party!
Now it’s back to reality…