Thursday, 19 May 2011

Great Ocean Road Marathon: Race Notes

On Sunday I ran the Great Ocean Road marathon from Lorne to Apollo Bay. A group of us from the gym flew down the day before the race. There were lots of nervous moments sitting in my hotel room on the Saturday. I kept asking myself why any sane person would want to run a marathon?

A good luck text from my mum at three thirty in the morning made for a restless nights sleep. The nerves were still there in the morning as I got dressed and made the final checks of my race bag. I'd arranged to meet Trish and K in the reception of our hotel for the walk to the start line. We met quite a few other runners along the way and the friendliness of the race started to come out with everyone chatting away.

On the start line
I was expecting a banner over the road or painted line on the ground. However, there wasn't actually a start line, everyone congregating outside the pub. We went for a short jog down the road to warm up, downed a Gu, I had a last minute run to the loo and there was still time to get to the third row from the front.

There were handshakes on the line, some banter with other competitors and then we were off.

0 - 12km
I was thanking my lucky stars that the weather was fine. It wasn't as cold I'd expected, the rain was holding off and the headwind was negligible. The weather forecast had predicted a lot worse.

The game plan was slow and steady. We saw the elite runners bolt into the distance and it felt like most of the field were sweeping past us too. They all looked pretty fit and I wasn't sure how many of them I'd be seeing again later!

At the 2km mark we started descending into the first natural inlet and the leaders were already heading up and out the other side. I couldn't quite believe how far ahead they were already!

13 - 21km
At the 13km mark Trish and I started edging away from K. I was a bit concerned that we'd started to split so early, but when you've done all that training you are there to run your own race.

We caught up with 'radio man'. A mature gent with his music turned up so load you could hear it from ten meters behind and in front of him. I think someone else had organised his play list as we heard Fat Boy Slim, Beyoncé and Christina Aguilera as we ran past.

We'd settled into a 5min 15sec per kilometer pace. In training I was very conscious whenever I was going up a hill, however, the rolling hills were having less of an effect than I thought they would. At times I thought Trish was pushing the pace slightly faster than I was comfortable with and at other times I felt quite good.

We were running and chatting and couldn't believe it when we reached the half marathon mark feeling so fresh.

21 - 25km
We reached Kennett River where the half marathon started. Checking the pace tattoo and hill notes that I'd scribbled on my arm I knew we were about to hit the final two big hills of the race.

For some perverse reason I quite enjoy running up hills and seem to be quite strong at it. On the first ascent I started edging away from Trish and I thought we had separated with a long way to go. To my surprise Trish caught me on the descent.

Reaching for my third energy I realised one had split and had caused a sticky mess on the back of my shirt. Luckily not too much had leaked and I swallowed the rest down, but had very sticky hands that I proceeded to try and lick clean.

Shortly after the messy Gu we arrived at the feed station at the 25km mark. In addition to water most of the stations had big bowls of jelly beans. I grabbed four and they were difficult to chew with a dry mouth.

I'd been doing some mental calculations and realised that if I pushed 10sec a kilometer faster I could run a personal best time. Not something I thought would be possible today. I was still feeling fresh so decided to go for it as the climb of the final big hill started.

No looking back.

At the top of the hill I caught an Irish school teacher from the Gold Coast that we'd spoken to earlier in the race. We fell into a rhythm together as I pushed up the pace to 5min per kilometer pace. I was still feeling quite relaxed and in my comfort zone, able to chat quite easily. This was turning into a good day, a personal best was on.

36 - 42km
I can't drink and run at the same time so always walk through the feed stations. My companion obviously felt worse than he looked and struggled to start running again after the 35km drink station. I secretly hoped that he catch me up, but I wasn't going to wait.

Once I was alone the run became a lot tougher mentally. I started to feel pain in my left foot, it was a struggle to keep up the pace and there was a strong head wind making my journey harder. Running was no longer fun.

Suddenly I saw finishing clock and timing mats in the road ahead. What's going on? My watch was telling me that there was still 1km to go until the marathon distance. After the generous measuring of distances in the BRW triathlon I didn't believe the official distance and decided to take a timing on my watch at what I thought was the correct marathon marker.

Regardless of who is right I have a new PB. Now I just need to get to the finish!

43 - 45km
I was carrying an extra energy gel due to the hills and extra distance so decided to take it at the 3hr 30min mark even though it wasn't due yet. That and two cups of water close together were a big mistake. I had to struggle the last three kilometers with a stitch which slowed me down. I really wanted to push and finish strong, but the pain in my stomach prevented me. Damn idiot.

It was surprising how many people had obviously run to the marathon line and then faded rapidly (or deliberately burnt out). I passed quite a few people walking or stopped at the side of the road with cramp even in my feeble state.

There were crowds on the road cheering as I approached the finish line. I think you'll agree I don't look too bad for somone who has just run 45km!

The finishers goodie bag was the most random ever with a bottle of washing up liquid, shower gel and waxing strips. How about a bottle of water and some energy bars??

The data from my watch is here. And official result are here.

Official Result
Distance Time Ave Pace
42.2km3hr 33min 21sec5m 3sec per km
45km3hr 49min 24sec5m 6sec per km

169th overall out of 627 finishers.
 36th out of males aged 30 - 34.

Watch Data
Distance Time Ave Pace
42.2km3hr 37min 19sec5m 9sec per km
44.4km3hr 49min 25sec5m 8sec per km


  1. So you did the marathon distance faster than Sydney?!?! Nice one!!!!

  2. Well done Richie!

  3. A big well done! I think I feel a little tired just reading that post.
    Hows the starter going?

  4. The starter is going well. I've been feeding it for almost a week now and there have been lots of bubbles and no bad smells. I can't wait to bake with it in a couple of weeks!

  5. Do you think its better to stay in Lorne or Apollo Bay before the race? And where do you recommend staying?

    1. I've only run that race once and stayed in Lorne, so can't give you a direct compare and contrast.

      I think the key question is whether you value being near your hotel at the start or end of the race. The bus which leave Appollo Bay to bring starters across to Lorne leaves very early from memory. Do you value a 'relaxed' start to your morning highly? Strolling to the start line was very nice?

      Or do you want to be near your hotel when you finish? Getting back to Lorne after the race was a real pain because the coastal road is closed.

      As I'm a nervous starter I stayed in Lorne. We stayed at the Mantra which was good and convenient, although isn't cheap. In Appollo Bay I've previously stayed at Nelson's Perch B&B while on holiday and it was very good too.

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