Greenbelt Challenge was an appropriate name, as it turned out, in more ways than one!
This year for the first time, the traditional Hills to Henley (30km run along the length of the Torrens Linear Path from Athelstone to West Beach) was combined with the Greenbelt Half Marathon (formerly starting at the same place at Athelstone and finishing in the city). It made a lot of sense from a logistical point of view, I know there were some people who weren’t happy about the change (as there always is!) because they like to run both events. However, in the current climate, with a very congested running calendar, there are always going to be clashes.
The Greenbelt half had to change. One of the recent innovations at SARRC events is the finish line village, complete with food trucks, music and a stretch station. It’s a great way to keep people hanging around long after they’ve finished running, meaning that the later finishers still have a bit of a crowd to cheer them on!
Because of this, it wouldn’t make any sense to have the Greenbelt finishing where it used to, in the city. The finish line village meant that there needed to be just one finish line, and if need be, multiple start lines. The plan was for Greenbelt to start at Klemzig or thereabouts, and run to West Beach. It would still be a one way half marathon, but just on a different part of the river.
There would also be a 5k and 10k, as well as a 1k kids’ fun run, and if you ask me their medals were even better than those for the rest of us!
Medals are a big thing – I have to admit that I was strongly motivated to enter this event because of the unique ‘Triple Crown’ medals. This year, at the three Triple Crown events (Clare, Greenbelt and McLaren Vale), all finishers of all distances get medals, rather than just the half marathon finishers in the past. (In fact, two years ago, the only time I ran the 30k, back when it was ‘Henley to Henley’, the 30k runners didn’t get medals – I always thought it was a bit strange that you could get a medal for a half marathon and nothing for a 30k!)
I really like the inclusiveness we now have, EVERY finisher gets a medal, regardless of whether you’re a back-of-the-pack 5k’er or an elite half marathoner. What is really great about it is, it’s a fantastic way to progress through the year – start at Clare with a 5k, run the 10 at Greenbelt and build up to a half at McLaren! (I’m going the other way!) Or do a 5k at all 3 – the possibilities are endless!
The really cool thing is that the 3 medals link together to form a combined Triple Crown medal. And now I’ve done the first two, there’s no way I’m missing out on completing the puzzle at McLaren Vale! (And I bet I’m not on my own there!) Again there were complaints when the announcement was made – “What, I only get 3 medals for running 3 half marathons? Where’s the 4th medal for the Triple Crown?” It’s actually not that long that medals for half marathons have become a thing – I remember in 2014 doing my first half at Clare and there were no medals – imagine that? (And the Triple Crown has only been a thing for a few years – anyway, let me get off my soap box now and start talking about the actual event!)
The ‘Challenge’ came in due to the seemingly never ending road works on South Road and along the path. For one, an unprecedented ‘dead zone’ had to be created as 30km runners had to stop along the path due to the road works. The idea was (and I don’t know the full details of this so apologies if I got it wrong) that the time clock would effectively be stopped while the runners were stopped, and then start again once they got going. Kind of like when you use ‘Auto Pause’ on your watch. (There was talk of a temporary bridge but the cost of that would have been astronomical!) By all accounts it seemed to work quite well thanks to Malcolm and his timing gear!
The other issue was that parts of the path were closed, necessitating a late change to the half marathon course. It ended up having to be an out and back, although a lot of people I spoke to got PBs so although theoretically the traditional net downhill course would be faster, it didn’t seem to affect some people!
The beautiful weather probably helped – a bit crisp in the morning but not a hint of rain. It was a bit windy at times – at one stage after I’d finished my 10k two of us were holding down the SARRC tent to stop it blowing away despite it being pegged into the ground, and despite the best efforts of a number of staff and volunteers the finish arch had to be taken down before all the runners had come through – better it be taken down early than actually collapse on a finishing runner! I was lucky enough in the 10k not to be affected by the wind – we were told it would be a headwind on the way out and a tailwind on the way back, although I didn’t really notice the wind much at all!
I had offered to pace the 10k as I had at Adelaide, once again 1 week after an ultramarathon (for the 3rd event in a row!) and had my services not been required I would have run the 5k. No way was I doing a half marathon the week after an ultra although Glen managed to do just that after doing the 24 hour!
I had no costumes left to run in that I hadn’t already used, and being a coolish but dry day, I decided to go with the tiger onesie. I had previously done a few parkruns in it, but never 10k – I figured it should be fine! (In case anyone is wondering, the idea of the costume is to make me easy for other runners to spot out on course, especially if, as often happens, my balloon happened to pop or blow away!)
I had the week off from running after the 12 hour and had my first run back on Saturday at parkrun, a nicely paced just-under-30-minute 5k – perfect preparation for Sunday’s 60 minute pacing gig!
Coach Kent asked me to organise the pacers for the half marathon, as he was running the 30k, so he would be up at Athelstone in the morning. There were 3 pacers, and I just had to organise the helium balloons for them. There wasn’t a heck of a lot of helium in the tank so I thought I’d better do their balloons first, and if there was any helium left I’d get one for myself. Actually I would have been more than happy to run without a balloon and I figured people would be able to see me anyway, but as it turned out there was just enough helium to do me a balloon too – damn it!
Due to potential congestion on the course, both the half marathon and 10k were wave starts. I wasn’t sure what implication that would have for my pacing but it worked out perfectly as I was at the front of the second wave, so I started my watch on the gun (although there wasn’t an actual gun for the second wave – you know what I mean!)
The course was impeccably marked – there was no way I could have got lost! Where there was a fork in the path there was an arrow clearly marking which path to take. The only slight issue I had was looking for the kilometre markers – not that they weren’t there but I didn’t actually see one until the 4km mark – they were spray painted in green on the path. I spoke with Harry from the event team afterwards and he explained that they’d decided to just use the kilometre marker signs for the half and the 30k, because they were put out the previous day and it can get quite windy in that neck of the woods! Which makes perfect sense to me – I’d rather have spray painted markers (as long as I know what I’m looking for) than stand-up signs that have blown into the wrong place!
Running in the onesie was OK – although I did have to make an adjustment early on. My top button kept coming undone which meant my tiger head kept slipping off – I took one of the pins out of my bib and pinned the costume at the neck to hold it together. Rather that than running with one hand holding my head on and the other with my arm extended, continually looking at my watch!
I managed to pace it pretty well once I got into a rhythm – I did get confused at times, starting to follow the 30km signs on the way back, then seeing the green spray paint on the ground a minute or so later, and neither of those coincided with the distance on my Garmin! I had alerts set to go off if I went faster than 5:55 and slower than 6:00 (for the mathematicians among you, a 60 minute 10k equates to 6:00 per km)
It’s a challenge, this pacing caper! I do enjoy it, I’ve now done 6 half marathons and 2 10ks (and a couple of parkruns, informally). It was pretty quiet out there this time, I didn’t have too many people running with me but I did have a few people thank me afterwards. I ran with a young lad called Jack for a little while in the second half who is a regular at West Beach parkrun and ended up finishing a few minutes ahead of me – not a bad effort for his first 10k (although he did tell me he’s done City-Bay, and I told him that when I was his age I couldn’t even run 1k!)
Towards the end there were a couple of kids offering high fives so I high fived both of them, jokingly saying “I need to power up!” and then one of them gave me a second high five! I always try to get at least one high five in!
And then RIGHT near the end, around the time my balloon popped, there was another kid with a sign that said “Tap here to power up” so of course I had to get that last little boost to get me to the finish! I ended up just under 59:30 so I was pretty happy with that.
I ended up staying for a good few hours after I finished my 10k, the atmosphere and weather were great and it was fantastic to catch up with a whole lot of running friends – what else would you rather be doing on a beautiful Sunday?
Thanks to all the volunteers who made this event a fantastic experience, and well done to all the runners/walkers who took part!
And a special thankyou and congratulations to Ben and the event team for overcoming all the obstacles to make this event happen – the goal posts kept moving but they didn’t let that stop them! HOPEFULLY (and I think I say this every year) next year the roadworks will be done and we can go back to a one way half marathon (and, dare I say it, I might even attempt the 30k!)