The 2016 Adelaide Marathon Festival consisted of 4 events, the marathon, half marathon, 10k and 2k family fun run. For the first time since the redevelopment of the Adelaide Oval, all the events finished on the hallowed turf. As a cricket tragic from way back and with Adelaide Oval being my spiritual home, there was no way I was missing out on this opportunity.
I had run Adelaide last year for the first time, as a pacer in the half marathon – that was also my first experience of pacing. You can read about it here.
This year I had also volunteered to pace the half, on the condition that if I needed to run Adelaide for a Boston qualifier, I would run the full instead. I decided early on (even before Gold Coast) that I would commit to running Adelaide Marathon as well, so I gave the organisers plenty of notice to find another 2 hour pacer.
I was running Adelaide with Beck, aiming for somewhere between 3:40 and 3:45, to try to get her across the line to Boston too.
My taper week was uneventful.
Tuesday was my usual 12k run, albeit slightly slower than usual. To make up for it we threw in a few short sharp efforts.
Thursday was a short 6k easy run. I noticed some discomfort on the outside of my left foot. I then realised that the shoes I was wearing had done over 900km! Luckily these weren’t the shoes in which I was planning to run the marathon!
I took Friday off and did an easy parkrun with Mum on Saturday.
On Saturday afternoon I had volunteered to do a leaflet drop for SARRC (SA Road Runners Club – the organisers of the marathon) – basically putting flyers on cars along the tighter parts of the course, to politely ask people to park elsewhere on marathon morning. My designated area was the Mills Tce zigzag section and along Strangways Tce beside the golf course. The Mills Tce section I had earmarked as probably the most difficult section, after last weekend’s reccy run with Beck. It was great to get another chance to see it before race day, although hopefully I would be covering that section a bit quicker during the marathon!
I had a quiet night Saturday night, watching Olympics highlights, and my marathon eve dinner (as per tradition) was pizza – homemade dukkah-roasted pumpkin, chickpeas, spinach and pine nuts – with a cider. I’m glad I had the foresight to make 2 pizzas!
The alarm went off at 4:45am on Sunday and I dragged myself out of bed to get ready. With ideal running weather forecast (mid teens as a top, not too cold overnight, and no rain) my kit was pretty standard – pink SARRC top, rainbow arm warmers, black and white skirt with compression shorts, pink calf sleeves, and my slightly newer shoes. I’d bought a pair of cheap gloves at the market the day before so I put them on along with track pants and a jacket, and my standard white hat. Ready well ahead of the time I needed to leave to pick Beck up, I sat down to watch a bit of Olympics coverage. Then, it was time to go. I thought, am I missing something? OMG, my Spibelt with race bib attached! I’d hung it up on my wardrobe door so my cats wouldn’t use it to sharpen their claws, and damn near forgot it! After grabbing that and putting it on, I headed out to pick Beck up and head to the Adelaide Oval.
We got there in plenty of time, surprisingly there’s not much traffic on the road before 6am on a Sunday morning! That gave us plenty of time for a warmup, toilet stop, bag drop, energy drink, sunscreening and a fair bit of socialising! Unlike at Gold Coast where we had to be in our starting area a good 20 minutes before the start, we could wander onto the road with just a minute before the starter’s gun. Also unlike Gold Coast, and one of the best things about having the race based at a major sporting stadium, there were plenty of CLEAN toilets, running water, soap and even hand dryers! None of those stinky portaloos here!
We met our 3:45 pacer (‘bus driver’) Simon – I hadn’t realised that Beck and Simon hadn’t met before! He was easily visible, like all the other pacers, in his fluoro yellow SARRC top and helium balloons. Also carrying out pacing duties were fellow Yumigo athletes Paul (pacing 4 hours) and David (pacing 3 hours). Sadly we were not going to be able to get anywhere near David’s bus, and we were definitely planning to stay well ahead of Paul!
In the start area we saw Mick who was wearing the No. 1 bib – quite an honour! I expected him to be on the 3:00 bus but he said he didn’t think he would be – his goal race is Melbourne in October. Still, I expected him to be well ahead of me, unlike at Gold Coast 6 weeks ago!
Also there was Nat, running buddy and cycling teacher, who was doing her 3rd straight Adelaide Marathon and was aiming for around 4:30, so we were unlikely to be running with her during the race, although we would see her a number of times in the out and back sections.
It was cool but pleasant, and after warming up I had decided I didn’t need the gloves, so had left them in my bag. I did realise at this point that I didn’t have my sunnies! I thought I must have left them in my bag but I later found out they were sitting on the passenger seat of my car! It was too late by now to get them, so I had to just hope it wouldn’t be sunny!
Aaaaand just like that, at 7am, we were away!
We started relatively conservatively – the plan being to stick with Simon for as long as we needed to, with the aim to move ahead of him if and when we felt the time was right. To try to go ahead of him too early was just asking for trouble. ‘Time in the bank’ is an easy mistake to make in a marathon – go too fast too early and you will lose that ‘banked’ time and more when you fatigue badly at the end.
I hadn’t used ‘Pace Alerts’ on my watch for a while but decided that might be an easy way to ensure we stayed on pace. 5:20 minutes per km would have us sitting right on 3:45. 5:12 would put us just under 3:40. I set my pace alert for 5:05-5:20.
The course is interesting – quite undulating and 2 laps can be a bit mentally tough. It’s also hard to maintain even splits when you’re going up and down. I found this particularly challenging last year as a pacer – it’s best for a pacer to maintain even splits throughout.
The first kilometre was slightly uphill, heading up Montefiore Road and around Light Square, the only time the course ventures into the Adelaide CBD (the rest of it is adjacent North Adelaide). We got through in 5:21 so we were just behind our goal pace but given the slight uphill that was fine. We were running close to Simon at this stage, so close at times we were getting balloons in our faces! Note to self: running DIRECTLY behind the pacer is probably not the best idea!
One of the great things about a course with lots of out and back sections is the opportunity to see a lot of the other runners. Early on we saw all the leaders in the marathon as they came back past us, but later in the race the front runners were so far ahead we didn’t cross paths with them again.
We went through 5km comfortably in 26:19 with an average pace of 5:16. This was around the start of the challenging Mills Tce zigzag, just after we passed the first drink station where Alison and Kay were working hard to keep the drinks coming!
Beck and I had both put ‘special drinks’ at all the drink stations – the drinks themselves weren’t all that special but having bottled drinks is more convenient than trying to drink out of plastic cups while running. With bottled drinks, you can grab the drinks even if you’re not quite ready for them, and you’ll have them when you need them, rather than having to wait another 5km for the next drink stop. I remember at my first marathon in Liverpool the water was all bottled, and it was so handy, I’d grab one at one drink station, and hang onto it until I got close to the next one, and so from the first drink station onwards I was not without a bottle in my hand. I used the same tactic at last year’s Barossa marathon (some bottles with Gatorade and some with water). At my last 2 marathons, at Gold Coast, personal refreshments was a privilege restricted to the elite runners. Here, at Adelaide, my drinks were all Gatorade, given that I had hardly drunk any water during this year’s Gold Coast, which was a much warmer day than Adelaide in August! I’d attached straws to the top to make them more visible, but as it turned out they weren’t that easy to spot, and actually quite annoying to carry! So I won’t be doing that again! Beck’s drinks were all water as she was using gels for nutrition. After the first drink station, once I saw what Beck’s drinks looked like, I offered to get her drinks for her as we passed each station – either I’d run ahead and grab them, or I’d drop back and get them, and catch up with her. This was so she could maintain a steady pace and not have to stop/start.
We passed 10km in around 52:45 – our average pace was still 5:16. We’d gone around the Mills Tce zigzag, up around Wellington Square where we’d seen familiar faces Trish and Britt marshalling, and back around the zigzag again. As predicted, this was quite challenging but the way back was slightly easier. On the way back I spotted Lisa, a former colleague and triathlete, marshalling on one of the corners. We were still comfortably on the 3:45 ‘bus’ by this stage. Also with us was Gary, who I had met at Henley to Henley, looking at doing a sub 4 hour time for his first marathon, and looking well on track to achieve this. Around 10km we got our first drinks. It took me a while to find mine and I ended up running around behind the drinks table, and dropping it on the ground before grabbing it and catching up with Beck and the bus. I realised it wasn’t quite as strong as I like it (I use the powder and mix it myself) but it would have to do!
Ahead of us were a lot of familiar faces in the marathon. Not far behind David (3:00 bus driver) were Gordon and Alex running together, Mick and Leon (the latter easy to spot in his bright red wig!) and then a bit further back around the 3:30 bus were Riesje and Zorica, both looking very strong every time we saw them. Also around there was Charlie, who I had met at Henley to Henley doing the run/walk strategy. I saw him a number of times during the marathon and thought he must have been taking it easy at H2H because on that day he and I finished together, whereas in the marathon he was WELL ahead of me!
Somewhere between 11 and 12km, heading back along War Memorial Drive towards Montefiore Road, we reached the 1 hour point and we saw the nearly 1000 half marathoners head towards Light Square on the start of their journey.
We ran into the Par 3 Golf Course carpark towards the Torrens Weir – very familiar territory, as this is where Torrens parkrun happens every Saturday. Here we saw a very familiar face, Karen, dressed up in a Where’s Wally outfit to cheer us all on with her funny signs.
We were still sitting on 5:16 pace at 15km (1:19:05) – we were in very familiar territory, around the Uni Loop. If we were able to maintain this pace we would be looking at a time of around 3:42:15. Just before this we’d passed the Adelaide Harriers drink station where there were a lot of familiar faces. Julie even had one of my drinks in her hand ready to give me when she saw me coming – talk about great service! I still had plenty in my bottle at that stage and I knew we’d be coming back this way soon so I said no thanks and kept going.
Although the pace seemed to be about right, we had to take into consideration that the distance showing on our watches was significantly more than the kilometre markers showed. The kilometre markers we assumed were accurate – GPS watches are notoriously not so much. Early on, our watches were vibrating to indicate another kilometre had passed, and it was about 200m before the marker. As the race went on, the discrepancy got bigger, up to 400m and then 600m. So the splits I have are based on a slightly inaccurate watch – without having officially timed splits that was all we had to go by. (There was a timing point at the top of Wellington Square but I think that was more to stop people from cheating by cutting corners, rather than giving split times)
As we approached the end of the first lap, we actually increased our pace slightly, going through 20km in 1:45:00 with an average pace of 5:15. This was one part of the course we hadn’t seen – when we did our reccy run last week, we’d run too far along the river, to the point where the only way to get up onto Montefiore Road was to go up stairs. We knew that wasn’t right – there would be no stairs in the marathon. I think I would have preferred the stairs – the hill was short but nasty. We ran up Montefiore Rd, back onto War Memorial Drive and back past the Adelaide Oval to commence our second lap. It was here that we saw (well, probably ‘heard’ is more accurate) Michelle for the first time, unmissable in a brightly coloured wig, marshalling at the entrance to the Adelaide Oval carpark. Boy, would we be happy to see her next time around!
As we went back towards Light Square I commented that I didn’t feel much different now than I did at the start of the race. A good sign, surely.
We were still sitting on 5:15 pace when we passed 25km in 2:11:27. This was on the way up War Memorial Drive past the golf course towards the Mills Tce zigzag. This was the first time we saw some of the half marathoners, among them Megan, Chantel, Caitlin, Neil and Michael.
Somewhere along this zigzag we fell off the 3:45 bus. We were gradually starting to drop behind but still within striking distance. At one point Simon looked around and wondered what was going on because he couldn’t hear me anymore. I offered/threatened to sing but it didn’t eventuate. We were convinced that Simon was ‘speeding’, because by 30km (2:38:11) our average pace had only dropped slightly to 5:16 as we ran back down Strangways Tce into the last zigzag. We decided not to try to run after the bus as that would waste valuable energy. Instead we decided just to stick to our own plan – we were still on target for a sub 3:45 finish.
(GPS inaccuracy is one of the difficulties of pacing. Normally the GPS says you’ve gone further than you actually have, so you need to run slightly faster than your watch would suggest, but you can’t go too fast otherwise the passengers will fall off the bus!)
At around 32km, with just over 10km to go, I remember saying to Gary, “This is where it gets ugly”. Gary had never run more than 33km in training so soon he would have surpassed his longest distance run.
As we ran back towards the weir, Karen had been joined by Shannon, Brian and Kym. Karen chased Beck and me for a short while – it was a welcome distraction and great support!
I think we ‘dropped’ Gary not long after this – I hope it wasn’t something I said!
But I was right. It did get a bit ugly after that. We reached 35km in 3:05:08 and our average pace had dropped slightly to 5:17. Just before this, with around 8km to go, factoring in the GPS inaccuracy (the GPS was about 600m out by now) we reached the low point – running past Adelaide Oval along the river, Beck called it. 3:45 is not going to happen, we just have to get it done now. Things went a bit quiet for a little while as we dug deep and focused on ticking off the kilometres.
As we passed the Harriers drink station again I grabbed a second Gatorade even though I still had almost a full one. One in each hand would make me balanced! Beck was starting to cramp at this stage and she didn’t have any drinks left at this drink station, so I offered her some of my Gatorade. I knew that one bottle was more than enough – I’d purposely overcatered and we really didn’t have far to go now. We saw Andrew, a very fast runner who was initially on the 3:00 bus but he was in real trouble with cramps and was now walking and it looked like it would be a long hard slog for him to get to the finish. And he wasn’t the only one. Although our pace had slowed significantly, we never stopped running, and passed a lot of people who had slowed to a walk.
We passed the very welcome 40km marker in around 3:33:02 with average pace 5:19. If the GPS was accurate we would have been looking at a time of JUST under 3:45. At this stage we were running along river, near Elder Park, and it was here that the 10km race leaders started to pass us. Most of them were in red and white Adelaide Harriers singlets. (I’m not even joking, 5 of the first 6 runners we saw were Harriers)
All that was left was the little ‘bitey’ hill up to Montefiore Rd and then we would be on the home stretch!
Our last few kilometres were 5:50 and 5:43 (our slowest, not surprisingly!) and we made our way back past the front of the Oval, up King William Street, up another (not quite so bitey) hill on Pennington Tce and into the carpark, cheered on by Michelle! This was it!
At the northern entrance to the oval I saw my parents waiting to cheer me on. Alongside them was Sputnik, a regular at running events, often taking photos WHILE running but this time just on photography duty. He seemed to be EVERYWHERE, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he covered more ground than we did! After quickly saying hi to Mum and Dad, we ran into the oval and onto the hallowed turf!
We saw a time clock that showed around 2:48. I said, “Yep, I’ll take that!” Never mind that it was clearly labelled ‘half marathon’ (they had started an hour after us)!
We ran around the oval and Beck grabbed my hand as we made the final dash to the finish line and crossed together in an official time of 3:49:22 – not quite what we had hoped for, but sub 3:50 is still very respectable! (My Strava time was 3:49:05 for 42.8km!) Laura and Naomi were on the finish line and gave us our medals before we had to start making our way up the stairs off the oval. (Yes, stairs. Whose idea was that?)
(I later checked the results and Simon finished in 3:44:19 so he was spot on pace – not bad for a first time pacer who only got called up at the last minute!)
It was time to celebrate – we got a photo with ambassador Steve Moneghetti, saw Mum and Dad again and caught up with a whole lot of other running friends. In particular there were a few who had run their first ever marathons (among them Rachel, Toni and Wendy). We were a bit worried because we hadn’t seen Gary and we thought he wouldn’t have been far behind us. As it turned out he was only about 4 minutes behind us but we must have been otherwise occupied at the time so we missed seeing him finish!
There were some other great results too. Bronwyn, who does really well in trail and ultra races, finished second in the marathon. Jenny was 6th female and Riesje broke 3:30 for the first time, Zorica not far behind her.
I ended up staying at the Oval until about 1:30, having a coffee first with Beck, Zorica and Leanne, then after helping out with some publicity photos for SARRC I ran into Anna and went back to the cafe to have another coffee with her and the Southern Running Group. I got a photo down by the Oval with my 5 marathon medals and then made my way back to the car and home where I annihilated the second pizza I was so glad I had made the night before!
Later in the day a group of us gathered at the pub, firstly for dinner to farewell regular running buddy Alison who is moving back to Canberra soon, and then later in the night to watch SA’s own Jess Trengove run in the Olympic marathon in Rio. It was amazing how quickly the marathon seemed to go, compared with how looooong it seems when you’re running it (and also, not an elite runner by any stretch!) It was a very long day but a perfect way to end it.
Well done as always to SARRC for putting on a BRILLIANT event. Thanks to the many wonderful volunteers for making it happen, and to the amazing supporters along the way! Congratulations to all the participants, especially those who were doing their first marathon! We didn’t quite get the result we were after but it was just a fantastic day nonetheless!