City-Bay has been a staple in the SA running calendar for over 40 years now. When I first started running a little under 6 years ago, my first goal event was the City-Bay 12k (as it is for many new runners) and I completed it 4 times, in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. 2016 was a bit disappointing as I didn’t get close to my 2015 PB (which I now realise was significantly wind-assisted!) so I opted not to run in 2017.
I hadn’t really planned to run it again, and then in 2018 the half marathon was added. I was a bit dubious at first, but then I realised, “Hang on, this could be a fast one!” The last 12k, the same 12k that the 12k runners do, is essentially all downhill. Yeah, the first 9k is kind of uphill, but it’s not really THAT uphill. The only thing that could possibly make it not a fast course would be strong winds!
So I decided to run the half, my first ‘proper’ road half for the year, my last one being McLaren Vale in October 2017, which was not as fast as I would have hoped.
My half marathon PB was a touch under 1:38, set in the Australian Masters Games nearly 3 years ago. I kind of ignore that when I’m thinking about PBs. It was the only time I’d ever broken 1:40 in 18 half marathons, and I hadn’t got close since. My next best half was Barossa in 2016, 1:41:45.
The only downside I could see to the half marathon was the arse o’clock start, scheduled for 6:15am at Morphettville. That was to ensure that all the half marathon runners were well past the city and on their way back to the Bay by the time the 12k kicked off at 8:00. There would be nothing worse for an elite 12k runner trying to win one of the not insignificant cash prizes, or any runner wanting to go for a good time or a PB, than having to dodge tiring half marathoners!
My hope was to be finished by the time the 12k started – that would be a sub 1:45 time, which I had just missed at McLaren Vale. The coolest thing would be standing near the finish line watching the elites (and other friends not far behind them) finish! I’d never seen the ‘pointy end’ of the field before, apart from at the start line and at the presentations!
During the week I had happened upon an old ‘pace band’ from a previous half marathon (not sure which one!). The 21k split was 1:41:17. I would be happy with that! I contemplated wearing it but decided against it – I’d just go by feel.
I was lucky enough to get a lift with regular running buddy Riesje and her family (I say running buddy but I can’t keep up with her these days – I’m usually eating her dust!) so we didn’t have to worry about parking at Morphettville. We got to the start area at around 5:45 which just gave us enough time to queue up for the toilets and JUST make it to the start line in time! (We later found out there was a large block of portaloos at the main Morphettville carpark on Anzac Highway, but by the time we found that out there would not have been enough time to get there and back for the start. I must remember that for next time!)
I opted not to wear my compression shorts as I normally would for a half marathon, because they would have looked weird under the floral skirt I’d decided to wear. I’d worn the same skirt for my last City-Bay and thought it was time to give it another run! I also went with the compression socks I’d worn for my last City-Bay, it was a bit of a risk because I have been known to get black toenails from said socks, but I liked the look of them!
Nutrition/hydration wise I’d just bought a bottle of Gatorade and hoped that would be enough to get me through. That’s no different really from what I would normally do in a half, except normally I mix my own Gatorade and use my own handheld bottle. This way, I figured I could ditch the bottle once it was empty. The only thing I hadn’t factored in, was trying to drink out of the Gatorade bottle (a wide-mouthed bottle, rather than the pop-tops I’m used to) while running. A pop-top water bottle may have been better, although I did find the bottle shape fitted nicely into my hand.
The start was delayed a bit, possibly due to the toilet queue, and possibly waiting for a tramload of punters to arrive? I caught up with Amelia, told her I would see her at the finish, to which she responded she was just up for a ‘jog’ today, bearing in mind that her jog is faster than my sprint! I also saw the 2 pacers, Coralie was pacing 1:40 and thought I might be near her, I thought she was out of her mind as sub 1:40 is pretty far off for me at the moment, but I thought it might be nice to try to keep her in sight at least for the first km or two! I didn’t know the 1:45 pacer but I did know I wanted to stay in front of him!
And soon we were away – I started my watch and then covered it up, not to be looked at again until I crossed the finish line!
One of the first things I noticed was the ’20km to go’ sign – I’ve never seen that before! I know they have ‘x km to go’ signs throughout the 12k but I’m not sure if I like being told I still have 20km to go!
The first 9km was uphill-ish. I needed to avoid getting caught in the trap of going out too fast (like I did once in the Clare half marathon). Of course, it was hard to gauge that without looking at my watch!
In the first few kilometres a LOT of people overtook me. That was not right! I wasn’t going THAT slow, was I? Eventually I worked out that they had probably started late (maybe stuck in the toilet queue) and were naturally faster than me anyway, so ordinarily they would have started ahead of me and I would not have seen them. Once I figured that out I forgot about them and settled into my own rhythm.
Despite the road being supposedly closed, there were a few cars trying to get out of driveways onto Anzac Highway. ‘Oh no you don’t!’ I thought to myself (OK maybe I said it out loud, and maybe those weren’t the EXACT words I used…)
We were also overtaken by a couple of cyclists at one point, out for their morning ride and not to be deterred by the road closure and thousands of runners! They DEFINITELY were not meant to be there! This was OUR day!
The turnaround point was just before North Terrace, a few hundred metres away from where the 12km runners were undoubtedly gathering. The clock on the Town Hall as I passed showed about 7:02 – I’d hoped to turn around by 7am but as we’d started late, I supposed 7:02 wasn’t too bad!
The run up King William Street was where we got to see most of the other runners for the one and only time in the race! (In the other distances you don’t get that at all, as they’re all ‘point to point’). On the way to the turnaround we saw the people ahead, and on the way back towards Glenelg we saw the runners behind us. Happily the 1:45 pacer was still a fair way back!
The last 12k was relatively easy – apparently there was a bit of a head wind on the way out, and a bit of a tail wind on the way back, but it wasn’t really noticeable. The weather was perfect – actually you could almost say it was warm when the sun came out! Once we were ‘homeward bound’ the ‘x km to go’ signs didn’t seem so daunting!
One thing I noticed about the half marathon that I hope can be changed somehow next year, was the lack of atmosphere. The volunteers were all there and I tried to thank as many of them as I could, but the crowds that generally gather to watch the 12km, well they were probably still in bed like most normal people! I don’t expect to see crowds that early on a Sunday morning, but it would be nice to have a bit of music to get us fired up! There were a number of bands along the route, and many of them were setting up as we ran past, but they wouldn’t actually start playing until later. And that’s fair enough, it’s a long day for them already. Perhaps there could be a PA system with a radio set up in a few spots along the way?
The kilometres ticked by pretty steadily. When we reached the ‘5km to go’ sign I was just behind Sonja and another girl who I didn’t know, and I said “Just a parkrun to go!” The other girl said “I prefer to break it down into laps of the Uni Loop!” To which I responded “Yeah I have a love/hate relationship with that place!” Plus, for me, a parkrun generally equals a relatively fast run, however most of my Uni Loop running is slow and steady and interspersed with walking. Probably not a helpful analogy for me, but as I said at the time, “Whatever works for you
I was mindful that I had neglected my high fiving duties (to be fair, there were limited spectators to high five!) so when we turned off Anzac Highway into Brighton Road in the last kilometre I made up for it by high fiving as many of the CFS volunteers who lined that part of the course, as I possibly could!
And then we turned into Jetty Road where I really picked up the pace as the finish line was really close now! And finally I managed to find a kid to high five (my ‘policy’ is to try to get at least one high five from a kid in every race!) just before turning the corner to the finish line where I saw the time clock.
From memory I thought it said 8:02 – not too far off my planned finish time of 8:00. The 12k leaders were probably a kilometre in by now!
I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch and only then did I look at it – 1:41:33 (my official time was a whole second quicker!) – I was pleasantly surprised! My second fastest out of 19 half marathons! Admittedly it WAS a fast course. But I think if I’ve ever got a chance of breaking 1:40 again, this would be the event to do it!
After catching up with a few other half marathoners and collecting my gear bag, I headed back to Jetty Road to watch the elites finish – that was one of the highlights of the day!
After seeing the elites with their accompanying flag bearers, I got to see quite a lot of friends finish the 12k too, including Kristie who was 2nd female in the elite walker category (behind an Olympian, so that’s not too shabby!)
Then it was time for some R&R – first stop was the Westpac Red Zone – a VIP area for customers and staff, where everything was laid on including food, coffee and free massages! Thanks Westpac!
I caught up with running buddy Kate who had cracked the sub-60 in the 12k, and we grabbed a coffee and sat down at a table to get a massage!
I probably could have stayed there all day but I had places to go and people to see, so after the presentations I headed off with Maree (who had also done the half marathon) to find her car at Morphettville and then she gave me a lift home – thanks Maree!
The half marathon has definitely got me interested in this event again! While a great event, I felt I’d given the 12k all I could and the chances of getting another PB there were pretty slim. However, I definitely believe I can improve on my half marathon time so hopefully the 21.1km will become a regular part of the City-Bay!
Thanks to the organisers and fantastic volunteers for putting on yet another fantastic event! I look forward to running it again next year and hopefully getting another PB!