Race Report – Adelaide Marathon Festival 2019

2 weeks after deciding that half marathons were not really my thing, I was back again to do my 21st half (and 7th as a pacer), this time at Adelaide Marathon.

I have a long(ish) history with this event, having been involved in some capacity every year since 2014 (bearing in mind I have only been running since late 2012).

In 2014 I was that weirdo in the tiger onesie hanging out outside the zoo with a sign cheering on the runners.

In 2015 I ran for the first time, as a pacer (also for the first time!) in the half marathon.

In 2016 I ran the marathon for the first and possibly only time!

In 2017 I was back pacing the half again, and in 2018 I opted to pace the 10k for something different!

And here I was again, pacing 2:15 in the half.

I had previously paced 2:00, but the guidelines are that you should be able to comfortably run 10 minutes faster than the time you’re pacing. Given that I ran just under 1:51 at Great Southern, 2:00 would have been a stretch! We also had a 2:06 pacer, which seems like a really odd sort of time until you realise that it is exactly 6 minutes per kilometre. I probably could have done that but I figured 2:15 was a good option (and I had paced that time before).

Actually, I had originally offered to pace 4:30 for the marathon, as part of my 24 hour training, running 25 mins/walking 5 mins. I ended up changing to pace the half instead, and so glad I did! As it turns out, I ran 42.2km a week or so ago and it was only JUST under 4:30. I possibly could have paced 4:45 but 4:30 would have been a disaster!

I hadn’t thought too much about what I was going to wear – I always dress up when I am pacing, not just because it’s kind of fun, but mostly because it makes it easier for the other runners to see me. Then, a few days before, in a conversation on a running group Facebook page, one of my friends Maree commented that she’d be out in her Supergirl costume cheering on the runners somewhere in the latter part of the race. That reminded me that I had a Supergirl costume myself, that I had worn when MCing Yurrebilla last year, and I had not yet run in it! Perfect!

On Saturday night I went to a pre-race dinner which included a number of interstate and overseas visitors and was really enjoyable, and being a running-related event it was a nice early finish! (With WAY too much food!)

I had planned to get to the Adelaide Oval before the marathon started at 7. The half didn’t start until 8, and coach Kent wanted all the pacers there by 7:30. So I set my alarm for 5:45, and then quickly realised that I was going to have to get a move on to get there in time! With road closures, I needed to allow a bit of extra time to get there. As it turned out, by some miracle, I was at the Adelaide Oval by 6:40 – where else can you get up, get ready, drive to the race, park for free and be at the start line of a marathon less than an hour after getting up?

Rain was forecast, but fingers crossed it would not be until later in the day. I wasn’t sure if the dye in my Supergirl costume would run, and I didn’t really fancy dragging a soggy cape around 21.1km!

On arrival at the Oval I wished the marathoners well, especially Ben and Gary who were doing their first marathons. Ben had done a lot of halves and was significantly faster than me, but somehow hadn’t gotten around to running a marathon until now! Gary (aka the Paparazzi) had gone straight to ultras and then decided he might as well tick off the 42.2km ‘officially’ too!

Not so good for the runners, but great news for the pacers, was that there was no helium for the pacer balloons, therefore we wouldn’t have to drag balloons around! It did make it tricky for the other runners to find us, but luckily for the 2:15 half marathoners I was pretty hard to miss! We had pacer bibs as well as our normal bibs, the pacer bibs were to go on our backs. I decided there was no point putting my pacer bib on my back as it would be completely covered by my epic cape! So with some difficulty trying to get it straight, I pinned the pacer bib onto the cape.

There was a bit of confusion around the pacer bibs. I THINK that if we’d had balloons, they would have had our goal time on them. And that would have been the thing that people would have looked for. The pacer bibs had our goal PACE, mine being 6:24 (minutes per km). It probably would have worked quite well with the goal TIME on the balloons. Perhaps in future both the time and the pace could be printed on the bibs?

This was the first time I’d run this half marathon course. 2 years ago when I last ran the half, I think we were still doing that zigzag up to Wellington Square, which was sooo much fun the year I did the marathon and had to do it twice!

I really liked the course. This was my favourite of all the Adelaide Marathon courses I’ve run. I especially liked the bit where we ran into the Botanic Gardens, through a weird gate and along a path which I’d never actually run before, which is remarkable when you consider that I’ve been running for over 6 years and most of my runs have been in and around the city!

There seemed to be plenty of drink stations, although I only stopped at one during the race (and the Adelaide Harriers one RIGHT near the end, when I needed to slow down a little bit!). Normally in a half marathon I would carry a bottle of Gatorade but in cooler weather and at ‘pacer pace’ I figured I could probably do without it – as it turns out I didn’t really need anything during the run. Most of the drink stations were ‘manned’ by different running clubs/groups, with the most raucous being the RIOT Runners (complete with motivational signs) closely followed by the RMA station (complete with Louise in rainbow unicorn outfit – one of the kids had a little folding chair set up and I jokingly threatened to sit in it (except I didn’t, because I would have broken it, been unable to get out of it, or more likely, both!)

The only issue I had with the course, which was probably more of an issue for me being a pacer than it would have been had I just been running for me, was that some of the kilometre markers were not in the right place, and I completely missed seeing some of them (that could have been my lack of observational skills, or maybe they weren’t there). I’d run Great Southern with no kilometre markers, and although it was a bit weird, it was OK because I was just running by feel anyway. However, as a pacer, you do rely on the markers to get the pace right.

I had set my watch to alert me if I went faster than 6:20 and slower than 6:25. I also started my watch on the gun rather than when I crossed the start line about 15 seconds later – that meant that if anyone finished ahead of or with me, would get under 2:15. It did take me a couple of kilometres to hit my goal pace. And then the 2km marker appeared to be out by quite a way (my watch read 2.2km at this point – GPS watches are always a little bit out, but to be 200m out after 2km would be highly unusual!) so I wasn’t actually sure if I was on pace or not. Rather than relying on doing maths in my head every kilometre, I worked out that 32 mins for every 5km would have me spot on 2:15 pace. So every 5km I’d be able to gauge where I was at based on the marker. I think I was pretty spot on at 5km but unfortunately I couldn’t see the 10km marker!

Almost invariably my watch shows that I’ve gone further than I actually have. Therefore, if I ran at 6:24 pace by my watch, I would almost certainly be too slow. So I was aiming to run at about 6:20 by my watch – just in case anyone thought I was running too fast! (I was probably going marginally too fast in the beginning while I was trying to get my pace right. It’s an improvement on 2015 when it took me 7km to hit my goal pace!

The 14km marker really threw me – my watch said I’d gone about 13.6km. Most of the other markers indicated a lower number than my watch did. This was on War Memorial Drive, coincidentally almost exactly in the same spot I’d been in the tiger onesie 5 years earlier, and we soon figured out what the problem was – the marker was meant to be on the other side of the road, and when we went past it again after a little out and back section, we confirmed that it was pretty much in the right spot, just on the wrong side of the road!

There was another one, I think around 17km, where my watch said 17.5km. I don’t expect them to be perfect, they’re just a guide after all, but I know as a pacer I really do rely on them, and as other runners are relying on me to set the right pace, they are pretty important! (I wonder if there’s any way the kilometre markings could be spray painted or even chalked on the ground, as a backup?)

So now to the best bit about pacing, and the reason I come back and do it again and again.

Even though my finish line photo will show that I didn’t have any other runners on my ‘bus’ at the finish line, I know for a fact that I managed to get at least a few runners across the line in under 2:15, and others who were behind me and couldn’t quite catch me, were still happy with their times as a result of having followed my flowing red cape!

Early on I ran with Annette and Sarah, I can’t remember the details of what they’d done before but from memory I think Sarah was hoping for a sub 2:30. She was going to try to stick with me for 15km and then see how she went from there. I told her that if she stayed with me for 15km she would be able to do a lot of walking in the last 6km and still make it comfortably under 2:30. Annette had some knee issues so she was walk/running, and wasn’t loving the hills (a bit like me!) – she had been talked into doing the half by someone who had then bailed – from memory I think she moved interstate so I guess that’s a valid excuse! I saw Annette off and on during the race, she caught up with me in the last little bit where we had to run up Morphett St and back.

Then there was Kim, who had run the Sydney half marathon last weekend and was hoping to go a bit quicker here in Adelaide. She was in training for the most gruelling of events, the Marathon de Medoc, and she commented to me that she was dressing as Supergirl. (If you haven’t heard of Medoc, look it up, the gist of it is that they have wine and cheese at the drink stations and EVERYONE dresses up – this year the theme is superheroes! Could I? NO!!!!)

Running with me from about the 14km mark until I sent them on their way, were Katie and Phil, who had only recently started running, and who had never run 10km before doing the double parkrun on New Year’s Day. Since then they have done 5 half marathons, are doing their first marathon in July! And I think it all started with parkrun! (Recently I have been telling people that the 6 hour race, as part of the 24 hour event, is a ‘gateway drug’ – well I could very easily say the same thing about

parkrun!) I jokingly said to them that they’d be doing their first 100 miler next year…

When I went past the Oval to the final drink station (where I grabbed a drink) I realised I was a bit ahead of time and tried to slow my pace down quite a bit as I turned the corner into Pennington Tce. I realised that I was still going to be well under my goal time so I walked for a bit up the road, until I reached the driveway into the Oval at which point I started running again. As I was walking I cheered on all the half marathoners (and marathoners of course, although they didn’t really need my encouragement, being sub 3:15!) as they went past me to complete their race.

Onto the Oval I went, and once again I realised my pacing was a bit out, and I ended up having to really pick up the pace to finish on time! Supergirl #1 Maree (she’s the original Supergirl) saw me come in and ran with me to the finish which was quite cool – and on my watch I finished in 2:14:59. Which is not too bad for a 2:15 pacer, although you probably wouldn’t say it was great pacing if you saw my last few kilometre splits!

That awkward moment when someone else turns up to the party in the same outfit…

After finishing, and getting another piece of bling for the collection from Annie or Tina (I can’t remember which one of them actually gave me my medal) I caught up with a few of my 2:15 ‘bus passengers’ who had all managed the sub 2:15. Most excited was Katie who gave me the promised massive hug and got a selfie to commemorate the occasion!

With Katie and Phil, two very happy finishers! Thanks Katie for the photo!

I later spoke to a few people around the place (because I couldn’t bring myself to change out of my Supergirl costume) who said they were just behind me and although they tried to catch me but didn’t, they still achieved what they wanted to. Kim was one of those – she beat her time from Sydney last weekend and was happy with that!

During the week I had got myself some new shoes from Joggers World thanks to a prize I’d won from SARRC after the Clare event. I’d never run in Mizunos but I am extremely happy with these shoes so far!

I then went and got myself a well earned coffee, and caught up with Voula who had not long got back from doing the London Marathon, and who had done the 10k. Then we went out to the Plaza to see the runners in the last kilometre or so (it’s actually a pretty cool spot to watch from if you’re waiting on a particular runner – you can cheer them on as they go past, then have plenty of time to get back into the Oval and down to the finish line before they finish!) I saw 3:45 pacer Coralie go by with debutant Ben, and a few minutes back from them was regular running buddy Gary doing his 3rd marathon (his first being Adelaide 2016 which was the year I also ran).

After that I went back into the Oval to hang out at the finish line and watch other runners finish. I was down on the ground when marathon newbie Gary finished, and he barely had his medal around his neck before he had the phone out again taking happy snaps to mark the occasion!

Thanks Gary for this pic at the finish line!

Tina and Annie had to go at 12, and I don’t think there was anyone scheduled to take over from them on medal duty, and Sheena (who I believe had been there since 2am) said she’d do it, at which point I said I’d do it for a bit. It was actually
quite fun, I’ve never done that job before, probably because it’s a volunteer position that is never hard to fill! One guy wanted to be the one to present the medal to his wife, which was a pretty special moment! And a woman from Hong Kong, was really excited to see her husband finish, so I offered for her to present the medal which she did!

The weather turned pretty ugly later – I was very glad I’d decided to ‘just’ do the half – I got a little bit wet in the last kilometre but it was just a passing shower. Towards the end, I was sitting up in the grandstand, waiting for the
runners to get about halfway around the Oval before running down to present their medals, then straight back up the stairs again! One of the guys who was working the PA system lent me his jacket, and someone else handed me a Mickey Mouse umbrella while I was standing in the rain (before I realised I could just as easily do my job from undercover) – thanks to both of those guys!

Last year I was there to see the last finisher – with a generous 8 hour cutoff, everything was still in place. This year, with a 7 hour cutoff, once 2pm had passed, the staff had to start packing up so that the Oval could be vacated in time. (In fact, the finish arch had been taken down some time earlier due to strong winds threatening to bring it down on a finishing runner!)

In the final hour or so, we were constantly being updated re how many runners were out on course. (This illustrates the importance of notifying one of the organisers if you pull out of a race – if you don’t cross the finish line, and if you don’t tell anyone you’ve pulled out, we think you’re still out there!) At one stage MC Pat Carroll said there were 16 runners still out there in the rain and wind – by some amazing coincidence I happened to have exactly 16 medals in my hand! As it turned out some of those people had actually pulled out, and by the time 2pm rolled around I only had 2 medals left in my hand. With the remaining 2 runners (of which only one actually finished according to the official results) still a long way from finishing, I took advantage of a short break in the rain and made the bolt back to my car and off to celebrate with my running buddies!

Well done to all the runners that participated, especially those doing their first marathon or half marathon, and especially especially the ones who were out in the gnarly weather and still finished! In all my years involved with Adelaide I can’t recall it ever raining before! And from a selfish point of view, SPECIAL congrats to the people on the 2:15 bus!

The volunteers always get special thanks but never has it been more deserved. SARRC staff, Race Director Ben and Office Manager Sheena were there from arse o’clock till who knows when, and put on another stellar event. There were a lot
of volunteers involved – I can’t mention all the roles because I would forget someone. From those that helped with setup in the early hours of the morning when I was still in bed, to those who were packing up the gear while I was enjoying a glass of wine at the pub, and all those who were out on course and in the stadium braving the weather and giving amazing encouragement to the runners – THANK YOU ALL! And I’d like to take this opportunity to remind people who run these events, that there is always room for more volunteers, and there is always the opportunity to volunteer AND run as well. I particularly enjoyed handing out the medals for a few hours!

So there you have it, my 21st half marathon. And (possibly under the influence of a glass of red and the encouragement of my running buddies) on Sunday afternoon I signed up for half marathon #22…