Waking up at 5am to get ready for a marathon is usually something that I fear, the possibility of missing the alarm, or the fact that I would struggle to wake as I'm someone that likes to sleep in. However on the morning of the Sydney Marathon this was not the case, I woke on time, if not a few minutes early and was quiet relaxed about getting up, most likely because back home it was already 7am.
After a quick but filling breakfast and an unpleasant taste of a beetroot juice shot that Cam had somehow talked me into by saying that taking some beetroot juice is apparently good for running. I sculled back just a little bit and my gosh... it was disgusting... I'm not a fan of beetroot at all.
Cam and I got picked up by a friend who drove us near to the finish line where we all hoped onto the train to cross the bridge. It was a weird feeling as we hopped onto the train not having to worry about paying anything (trains were free that day for competitors), it felt I was sneaking on without paying.
We arrived on the other side of the Sydney Harbor bridge and headed down to the start line and got some photos around the start area. Afterwards we headed to the Elite area, as Cam had a great time from last years event so was lucky enough to earn himself an Elite number, this allowed him a quick stop to the loos, and allowed him to drop his gear at the Elite Venue instead of having to wait with us slow pokes. I wished him luck as he headed off to the start line, and I headed down to the loos for a quick last minute relief stop before finding my way to the start line.
I waited anxiously for the race to start, and while I sensed a bit of nerves coming on, I was still comfortable knowing that I was going to be able to finish having run the Brisbane one just six weeks earlier. My nerves were more related to my secondary goal... beat my Brisbane Marathon time. Now while that was a secondary goal, with the primary goal of finishing the event.
I would have been happy just finishing the event with a similar time to Gold Coasts time, after all it was only six weeks ago that I had completed it, and it was my fastest marathon time to date, and that was a reasonably flat course. This one had more hills in it and just a couple of days ago I was struggling to even run a couple of kilometers, so anytime close to the Brisbane Marathon time would be great.
Before I knew it we were off, it wasn't long before I found myself running across the Sydney Harbor bridge, I looked up and saw a Rhino running just ahead of me... a couple of people had decided to run in Rhino costumes to raise awareness for them being endangered. It must have been so hot inside those costumes. It was a real treat being able to run across the bridge, no traffic but the thousands of feet stamping away at the ground. Continuing along the bridge to the highway until about the 4km mark where we turned off on to the road and then at about 5km turned and headed south along the road reaching Hyde Park at the 6km mark. Running through the park was nice, getting off the road and just running along the pathway I had a short few seconds to look at the fountain.
Instead of having to run across what is a busy road, they had built a bridge what went over the road, allowing the traffic to drive though underneath uninterrupted. You could hear it as you approached the bridge, a lot a feet thumping onto the boarded ramp heading up and over the road, it kind of sounded like constant thunder. Coming off the bridge it was back onto the road and continuing south toward Centennial Park. Running on the road pretty well much the entire time, with a few small uphills but nothing to large. As I approached the 11km mark the first place wheelchair racer was heading back towards all us approaching runners, which would be about their 21km mark.
Running through Centennial Park, crossed path with Cam at just over my 12km mark which was about his 19.5km mark, as we crossed paths we had a quick sideways high five. Running through Centennial Park was reasonably covered in shade by the trees, this helped a lot as the sun started to kick in with the heat. There was a 1.5km section about half way into the park where we all ran across the middle and back, this was uncovered and I could really start to feel the heat from the sun, but it was still manageable and I was only going to be in it for a short time. After returning back to the shade of the trees it was a short little run before turning around and heading back to the entrance to the park. A stop at the aid station to grab some water and then back on the road.
Heading back towards the Sydney Opera house felt like I was on the home stretch, I ran with some guys one of who was wearing a Batman costume. We continued along a road for a short while running past some bars, where people were drinking and cheering out the windows as we ran past. We reached a small downhill and I remember saying "Sweet... a downhill, I'll catch you later" and headed off the downhill, using the down hill as a way of gaining some time advantage without having to put in much of an effort. The hill went down and around a bend before heading into a small tunnel. Running through the tunnel was something rather unique for me, it's not every day that you get to run though a tunnel which is usually only open for cars... then again, I guess it's not every day that you get to run on a highway in Sydney either.
I carried on for a few more kilometers around the waterfront and then came across an aid station at about 27.5kms, when I was about to grab something to eat I noticed Cam in the distance making his was back toward the finish line, at this stage he was about 40kms into his run, already 13kms ahead of me.
I cheered him on and grabbed some photos of him before I carried on around the waterfront to Darling Harbour. We headed over the bridge before turning around and then heading back over the bridge before continuing around the business area before the final turn around point at about 33kms.
It was about this point that I really started to feel it was getting tough, I remember thinking regularly that this couldn't be right, they couldn't have measured the course correctly. I was sure at this point that they must have made a mistake on the distance. I persevered on thinking that the sooner I get it done the sooner it will be over. Running around the water front all the way back to the finish line was pretty awesome. I had to stop and walk a few times along this line, but at these points, I used them like a recovery stage like I would if I was doing some 800 meters intervals. Once I was recovered I would try get back to my normal pace.
With just over 1.5km left to go I remember I needed another quick walk, as I walked around a corner I remember a woman calling out as some runners went past "You're not going to get beaten by a woman are you?" To be honest it didn't worry me if they beat me or not, I was running my own race, they were running theirs. A few moments later, I saw Cam coming back toward me. I should have known he was going to do that, that's the sort of guy he is. He ran along side me for a little while which was great, he looked at his watch and said "Mate, at this pace your going to break 4:20", I remember quiet clearly saying "Stuff that mate, I'm going for sub 4:15". With 500 meters to go Cam let me sprint off toward the finish at the Sydney Opera House. I knew I had enough energy in me for a good final hard push toward that finish line, I could hear a voice faintly in the crowd calling out "Go Jono!!!" turned out it was Cam calling out from the sideline. I pushed harder passing a bunch of people just before crossing the finish line... with a new Personal best time, 4 hours, 11 minutes and 54 seconds.
I couldn't believe it, only 6 weeks ago I had run the Brisbane Marathon which I considered a much flatter course and set a personal best time of 4hrs, 29 minutes 36 seconds, almost 17 minutes faster than my previous best time. Now I had just smashed that time by almost another 18 minutes. Needless to say I was over the moon with my results from this marathon. I had hoped that if I was lucky I may have beaten my previous time, but to beat it by such a massive time I just couldn't believe. I had to check my watch a few times just to make sure I wasn't imagining it.
I meet up with Cam and we enjoyed a rest next to the water overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge while we waited for Cam's drop bag to be delivered to the finish line, some how the had forgotten Cam's drop bag from the Elite area so had to get his bag along with a few others delivered to the finish line. We eventually got his bag and made our way back to the hotel, another train ride back to the closes train station near our hotel and then a 2.5km walk back to the hotel. We grabbed a feed from the shop just down the road from our room before heading for a quick swim after which Cam had to get ready to head off for the airport.