City 2 Surf may very well be the biggest event of its type in the world, but I have never really known much about it. This seems to be my calling card this year, signing up for an event and turning up on race day with very little knowledge of the course and the event. Still it’s worked so far and it seems that this is preferable to my normal state of over-thinking everything.
There are 60,000 people who enter the C2S but the event features staggered starts from 7am-9.30am so there isn’t too much craziness as you head into town. I travelled into the city via train with some fellow RMAs.
I was running in the yellow start group but my run-bud Laura was registered in the blue start group. However on the morning of the run Laura decided that rather than run with the faster blue start group she was going to run with me in the yellow group so we could experience our first C2S together. As in most races, if you cross the start line before your allocated start time you are automatically disqualified / not given a finish time, however you are more than welcome to start behind your official start group, so she could start with me but I couldn’t start with her. I am so blessed to have such a great buddy – it was awesome to be able to share this experience.
The one thing the C2S is not prepared for is spectators at the start line. The participants are spread over 7 start groups and each start group lines up in a separate block of road leading to the start line. There are so many road blocks and funnels in place I highly recommend having a good look at an event map before you head in and working out which train station is closest to your start group. We did manage to see the start of one of the fastest groups by craning our necks around a fence- there was so many people, they were still crossing the line 20 minutes after the gun went off.
Then it was our turn to join the throng and line up and was glad of the warm sun on my back as we waited. Having caught a glimpse of the previous start group we knew that staying out wide was a great strategy for the start. Immediately upon starting, our group surged forward, turned a 90 degree corner and ran 100m to the start line. Everyone was trying to get to the start line first and the corner we turned around was very congested so staying wide, here, and at other turns during the race is always a good plan.
My race plan for C2S was to treat it as a fun run. I have really powered through lots of events and running PB’s this year, including 35km at CPU the weekend before and just wanted to go out and enjoy the atmosphere. Running with Laura did put the pressure on a little (in a good way) and I ran more than I planned and took less photos that I planned, but the important thing was I challenged myself and I had fun.
Anyone who has heard of the C2S has heard of Heartbreak hill, but aside from that and knowing the course was 14kms and ended in Bondi, I had no idea what I was in for. Despite the size of the field the roads for the first few kilometers were wide and there was plenty of room to spread out – although this wasn’t always the case in the latter parts of the race.
I do feel perhaps that there should be a runner’s code of etiquette in large scale events. Guidelines such as “don’t ever run more than three abreast” is a good place to start. There were people running in lines of 6+ which was taking up the entire width of the course! If you have more than three you can’t see / talk to everyone if you all run in a line so split and run in two smaller lines one behind each other. And also, “Stay to the left”. This is a rule I am constantly reiterating to my children and it would be well if it was suggested at events. Essentially it’s the same as driving on the highway – Keep Left Unless Overtaking. This would save a lot of congestion and dodging.
Within 2km we entered a short tunnel and at this point I lost the GPS signal for my Garmin – which was disappointing. But it was also beneficial as I just ran, without knowing how far I was from the finish. I had also made the decision to run without headphones for this event so as to enable me to really absorb what was going on around me.
One of the coolest things was the entertainment provided along the course. There were bagpipers standing on an overpass, police brass bands in a park and rock bands on the rooftops of pubs as we passed. There was also plenty of colour and action from the field. I love watching all the other runners, and during events, reading the slogans on all the running shirts really spurs me on. There were also people running in costumes and lots of groups of people to listen to and overtake!
One thing that was different for me was that unlike other events there were relatively small amounts of RMA running (comparative to the whole field). At every other event I have run there are many more RMA’s running and lots of RMA support with shouts of “GO RMA” echoing around. I only saw 2 other RMA’s during the whole event and I felt a little sad that we didn’t have a bigger presence.
The thing about Heartbreak Hill isn’t its length. It is not particularly steep, it’s more about the fact that it just keeps going and going. It starts about 6km in and runs for nearly 2kms up and up and up turning a few corners as it goes. Our pace dropped back significantly from 6:40 to around 7:40 for these two kms but I was very proud of the fact that I keeping running up the whole hill. The worst was that after a kilometer or more the road levelled out and you started to think, “Phew it’s over!” But then another bend in the road appears and the hill just keeps on going. The relief finally arrived when we hit the drink station at the top of the hill.
One of the things that was a little irksome, is that I was fast enough to register in the blue start but it was full when I tried to register so I had to start in the yellow group. I cannot quite remember the wording (and can no longer find it on the website) but the blue start should have been intending to run the entire way, as with yellow (at a slower pace) and then it was the back of the pack group that was reserved for those who wanted to walk. Well the frustrating thing was that as we ran we passed so many of the blue start group and many of them were walking. Now I understand that some people intend to run and can’t due to illness or injury but many of these people were clearly walking the whole distance and should have been in the back of the pack group, clearing the way for those who did want to run.
Most of my running is done in the early morning hours, even before the sun rises. So one of the most difficult things about C2S was that we didn’t start running until 9am and it was a really warm day with a bright blue sky. It was so hot! I made sure to stop at all the drink stations but I really could have done with some sun cream particularly on the back of my neck and I clearly need to acclimatise before summer hits.
From heartbreak hill it is mostly downhill as you wend your way through a few beach side communities before arriving at Bondi. I did take a few short walk breaks – especially on the down hills. I really needed to do a wee by this point and apparently running downhill intensifies this sensation for me.
My official time was 1:38:34 and I am pretty proud of that. According to Runkeeper I did nearly 15km in 1:39:39 with an average pace of 6:41. I am super happy with that especially as this was more hills than I have ever encountered in my life!
It was a hard run, heat, hills and heaps of people- but I enjoyed ticking another challenge off my bucket list and love adding to my running bling. If you plan on entering City 2 Surf you need to remember that it definitely is a Fun Run and you should set out to enjoy it, not necessarily set PB’s.
Laura and I finished and went looking for the RMA team tent but really had no idea where it was so wandered for a while searching. There are so many runners and spectators in Bondi – I highly suggest having a plan for when you finish and I am definitely glad that I didn’t get my husband to bring the kids in to see me finish.
We found the RMA tent and had an amazing massage and were able to share stories with some of the other RMA runners. Then it was time to head home. Bondi is a difficult place to access at the best of times – add in a splendid Sydney day and a whole bunch of runners and it could have been bedlam. However I must say that the exit strategy was very well executed. We walked towards the south end of the beach and were funneled into a queue waiting for buses. We only waited 10 minutes and we were on the bus headed for Bondi junction bling in hand.
City 2 Surf was a great fun run and an experience I am glad to have been part of. I definitely didn’t run as hard as I could have done as I came away with some in the tank. IF I run it again I know I can get a better result based on knowing the course and having a better knowledge of my strengths. But having said that, there are just so many people that I think this might have been a onetime only event for me. It was well organised and very entertaining, I think I just prefer smaller scale events with a more personal feel (and less ducking and weaving around other participants).