All about the bling – Great Southern Half Marathon 2019

You know what I really hate? When people say “Oh, I didn’t train, I’m just doing it for fun”.

I heard that a few times in a short period at the finish line of the Great Southern Half Marathon yesterday!

Now I’m going to talk about the fact that I didn’t train for said event either. That’s not to say I’ve been doing nothing – I’ve been doing plenty, just nowhere near enough training that is helpful for running a good half!

I entered really early – and I paid the extra $10 for the medal. I really like that concept. Plenty of people would rather the option of paying less and not getting a medal that will only end up in a shoebox or a drawer anyway. Me – I have plenty of shoeboxes! Bring on the bling!

Leading up to the event, initially I thought I hadn’t run a half marathon since September’s inaugural City-Bay half – which was actually a really good run for me, my second fastest half ever, and so it should be, being more downhill than uphill! Then I remembered November’s Point to Pinnacle. I’m not sure if I can really compare that to any other half marathon I’ve done, being 1200m of climbing. Even if I did count that one, it had been well over 5 months since I’d run a half marathon (and indeed, since I’d run 21.1km without walking!)

All of my long run training since then has been on trails (with plenty of walking) or on a flat track with scheduled walk breaks every half hour. So I had kind of forgotten how to run long without walk breaks!

My goals for Great Southern were modest. My A goal was to finish without having to walk, and my B goal was to finish. By this time I’d seen the medal and there was NO WAY this was going to be my first DNF! If I did have to walk I would
practise my fast walk I’d been doing in my last 2 parkruns and for the last 4 hours of the Canberra 12 hour (I’d got my time down to just under 36:30 for 5k).

I had no plan, no pacing strategy, nothing. I had no idea of the course other than the fact that it had a fair bit of sand running in it.

For me, this race was 100% all about the bling. It was ridiculous, huge, heavy, tacky, bright, outrageous, possibly even ugly. AND I WANTED IT!

The weather was good – it’s always a bit iffy with these coastal events – if you get a nasty headwind like they did down here a few years ago, it can be a very bad day!

Amazing shot of the start! Official race pic.

It was a nice late start – 9:30, which suited me very well. I aimed to get there at 8:45 which as it turned out was not early enough – by the time we walked the 800 or so metres from the carpark to the event area, I barely had time to queue up for the portaloos, put sunscreen on, clean my shoes and drop my bag off before we were being called to the beach for the briefing and start! After nearly an hour in the car a little leg loosener would have been good so in hindsight getting there at 8:30 would have been much better and less rushed. (They did have the fancy portaloos though, with soap and all, so that’s a big tick!)

I was running with arm warmers, even though with the 9:30 start, it wasn’t actually that cold! The benefit of that was that I could start my watch and cover it up, and not look at it again until I had crossed the finish line.

It was very weird! With no kilometre markings, and no watch, I had no idea either how far I’d gone or how much time had passed. My watch beeped at me at the end of every kilometre but I quickly lost count of those!

The course, as I stated earlier, started with an out and back section along the beach, with the 10km runners starting 10 minutes after us. There was a bit of traily stuff through the scrub (nothing too technical – the general consensus from those who had run it before, was that road shoes were best) and quite a bit of road. It was relatively flat, and thankfully not windy. The conditions were pretty ideal.

Early stages on the beach (with all my friends!) – thanks Laura for this pic!

We started to catch up with some of the 10k runners, and when we reached the point where the 10k runners turned left down the Esplanade to the finish line and we went right for who knows how long, I asked one of the marshals, “Is it too
late to change to the 10k?” I bet I wasn’t the first or the last to ask that question!

Official race pic – running along the Esplanade towards Pt Willunga.

That Esplanade bit seemed to go on FOREVER! It wasn’t long before we encountered the lead runners coming back the other way, but it would be a LONG time before I would reach that turnaround point at Port Willunga! As I later found out, the point where we split from the 10k was approximately the halfway mark, and it was just over 4km to the turnaround. From the turnaround it was about 6km to the end.

I didn’t see this, but if I had, I’m sure I would have said something like “Hey that’s not fair, he’s got twice as many legs as me!” Official race photo.

I had totally forgotten how hard half marathons are! This was my 20th road half marathon, I later worked out! This was the one I had been most unprepared for, and it definitely showed!

By the time we got back to the beach again, I figured we were nearly there, and as I ran past 10k tailwalker Tim, I said “Please tell me we’re nearly there!” to which he replied, “Only about 2km to go!” I had thought it could only be less than 1km so I wasn’t too happy to hear that, but at that point I definitely was going to be able to achieve my A goal which was something!

The visibility was good, so I could see the runners ahead of me and where they were going. Much to my dismay, I saw them turn off the beach and go UPHILL to the finish line! How rude! I heard that in previous years they’d finished on the beach and that was kind of what I was hoping – again if I’d studied the course I’d have known where the finish line was but sometimes I prefer not to know! I was CERTAINLY glad not to have known about the 2km of sand at the end!

The first I knew of the time was when I ran up the ramp and I heard “1 hour 50” – far from my best, but still well under 2 hours, which, even though I didn’t set a time goal, was about as good as I could have expected! I ended up going just under 1:51 and promptly announced my retirement from half marathons. 20 is a good number!

My half marathon bling collection – there were no finisher medals at my first half, at Clare in 2014.

Then I pretended to collapse under the weight of the RIDICULOUS medal that I was handed after I crossed the line! I reckon they need to have a competition where people have to come up with creative uses for the medal! I think it would be
really handy for self defence! I also believe that next year the fast runners should be forced to run with that thing around their neck – that’ll sort ‘em out!

All in all it was an excellent event – an interesting course, perfect weather, great atmosphere, wine at the finish line, and the epicest of medals! Congrats to Matt and team for a very successful 4th Great Southern event (over 1000 registrations this year compared with 18 for the first event!) As I have now decided that I should avoid races of distances between 5km and 50km, maybe if they put on a 5km event next year I will come back!

Wine and ridiculous bling – 2 things that will keep me coming back!

And yeah… I’m sure there will be more half marathons in my future!

Possibly even this one!