I have just got back after a great weekend completing my 4th marathon. The Gold Coast Marathon was my first in Australia. It is a Gold label race, run on a flat course that travels alongside the beautiful beaches of the Gold Coast in Queensland.
The weekend started with a big bowl of pasta at a nice restaurant called Bar Italia near our hotel in Surfers Paradise, we then enjoyed a slice of Mexican music and Japanese dancing on an outside stage near the beach, all part of a multicultural festival which ended with a firework display on the sand. We turned in early and woke even earlier to start our epic day.
We left our hotel at 4.45am to catch the bus to the start. Not only do Australians love the heat, they will also get up at anytime of the day quite happily to avoid it, and therefore an alarm clock start of 4.15 is seen as quite acceptable. When we got to the bus stop, this was confirmed further, we were greeted with the strange sight of hundreds of runners hopping from one foot to another lined up along the pavement waiting for the same bus as us! We had slept in! We finally arrived at the start. Kathleen was running the half marathon, which started at 6. She did a quick warm up and set off with thousands of other runners. The pre-race scene seemed chaotic (I was still half asleep) runners were arriving in all directions from the darkness, clambering over barriers, flinging discarded clothes into the air. Overlapping sounds of rock music and commentary in English and Japanese blasted out from somewhere in the black. It was a rousing send off.
I now had 1h.30mins to wait for the start. In contrast, the full marathon runners now arrived, slower and quieter, preserving that precious energy. I sat and ate my breakfast as the sun rose over the sea. The light grew further and started to warm everyone into a little more action. I stretched behind the grandstand on a bench next to the beach. A calm and experienced gent in his 50’s sat next to me. We quietly went about our business and then parted for the start with a little nod.
I had trained consistently since April. My A plan was to break 3 hours my B plan was to run a PB. I had run more miles per week, and I had done a solid amount of long runs and tempo runs in the build up which had given me the confidence to think that I was physically and mentally ready. When I was on the start line, I took a moment to think positively about my race, imagining the finish. I was already at the midway point by appreciating what I had already achieved in training. I thought of the miles we had all done to get to that point, everyone standing with me there had gone through a process of preparation and now it was time for us to finish what we had started.
I set off to run the first 5k at 5-10 seconds slower than pace so that my body could have time to warm up without working too hard. My first 15k was on pace and I felt really relaxed, I enjoyed looking around, high 5ing a few kids, watching surfers in the water catching waves from time to time, just settling into the race and trying to keep it breezy as they say in Queensland! It was great to see the elite runners coming back in the other direction.
From half way (1h.29) to 35k (2h.29) I kept on pace, I stayed relaxed and ran my own race, I didn’t follow a pack, I just ticked along in my own groove. I was running sub 3 pace, but my legs were getting heavier and I knew that 30k was where the race really started. As I ran along the highway in Southport I saw Kathleen, and even stopped to give her a sweaty hug! She had finished the half in a new PB of 1h.46.27.
The next section is no doubt the hardest part of the race, you go past the finish for one more loop, and from 35 to 40k it started to get tough, I was determined not to panic as my pace began to slow and my A plan looked like it was slipping, I just kept on pushing for a PB. As I reached the last turn around I received an amazing bit of motivation that spurred me on to the finish. One guy looked at me and said “well done Leo, you have done the hard bit now go for it! And so I rallied, I push as hard as I could, my right hamstring was cramping and I had to be careful. I tentatively upped the pace as I entered the final stretch and with the finish line in sight I took the time to enjoy the cheering, high five the crowd, and relish the few seconds I had crossing the finish line. I finished in 3.08.11. A 20 min PB. My splits are online here
The weekend was a festival in its truest sense. A coming together of people, a community of runners of all ages, from around the world that ran, cheered and celebrated their achievements together. I would recommend it highly to any world marathon travellers out there. The next day we filled up on seafood and wondered along the beach and cooled our legs in the surf.
My training experience in the lead up to this race had been one of exploration, discovering new surroundings, building new relationships and trying to find my place in a big new city on the other side of the world. I have run in the early morning, in the blazing heat of the midday sun, into the dusk, through the bush in the dark, past koalas and over snakes. I even squashed a poor cane toad one night on a trail that leaped under my foot. Adidas boost have nothing on that natural bit of bounce.
I did all of my training in Brisbane along the river or on the trails in Bunyaville National Park alone or with family and friends (thanks Kathleen, Tristan and everyone at Bunyaville trail runners and parkrun) Thanks for the support from everyone else here in Australia and abroad especially BBDRC. I feel very proud, running a marathon and pushing yourself to reach your goals is a big effort, thank you to everyone who helped me along the way.