Sunday, April 17, 2011

"Doing it for the Kiddies"

I cannot do the Run for the Kids without thinking of that very funny Aussie comedy duo Roy and HG and their wonderful invocation to "do it for the kiddies." Cause that is what this race is all about. There are no other races I do where you see so many reminders of little children with lives at best interrupted or, at worst, taken away too soon. It is very moving and a stark reminder that we are blessed to be able to go for a run in the sunshine.

Today was my fifth R4K and I've only missed this race once in 2008. It's had a variety of courses over the years - originally finishing in front of the hospital itself, but now moving to what seems like a permanent location at Alexandra Gardens and a settled route and distance of 14.4km. Even if you were in no way motivated to "do it for the kiddies" you could find plenty of excuses to do this race. For me it's because it takes in plenty of roads you just cannot run on any other day of the year - traversing the Domain Tunnel and parts of Citylink including Bolte Bridge. It's a once a year chance to see Melbourne from a spectacular new vantage point.

The weather for today's race was about perfect: quite cool early in the morning but when the sun came out it got up to about 15 degrees C (60F). I wasn't really sure what my goal was for today (which is a sure way of not hitting it!). My training has been ok, but not great, so I decided I wouldn't be in 'full race mode.' I wasn't sick (like last year) so I wouldn't be in 'take it easy and video the race' mode. So I opted for the  'just run how you feel and have some fun' scenario.

We got underway at around 9.20am after the 5k group had cleared the first bridge on the course. It's a fairly narrow start area and stays that way for a while so it pays to try to get a spot up near the front or you'll be waiting for ages to cross the start line. I was underway within about 15 seconds of the gun so was plenty happy with that. The first km through to the tunnel is pretty flat and just a chance to try to find some rhythm.

The conditions once you enter the tunnel change dramatically. Obviously the light is very different but it is also humid. And even though the sun wasn't very hot it was definitely less comfortable inside the Domain Tunnel than outside. For the first third of the tunnel you plunge deep underground before a flat section and then the final rise out to the other side. By 3km you have reached the first aid station, porta loos and the end of the tunnel.

The climb continues here for a while as you rise up onto the Citylink tollway. Somewhere along here, between the city high rise and mountains of apartments I started to feel fatigued. Not good. Too early for that! Time to settle in to a better routine. Not that the current one felt wrong: 3-5k had been covered in 4.33m/k @ 162HR so it should have been ok. But is just didn't feel ok! I'm not sure that rattling off the next km in 4.31 was the alteration in pace I had in mind, but that's what happened.

At this point I was 6k into the race at the aid station just before the sweeping bend up and onto Bolte Bridge. With a km of uphill next on the agenda I knew this part would either make or break me and a 5.10m/k @ 168HR just about finished me off. I was genuinely tired now and still has almost 7k to go. Hmmm, at least the worst was over and the next part was all downhill.

Looking back, I know that I was tired here. My race videos, shot every km or so up to this point, suddenly dried up. The run off the bridge and right around towards Docklands went by in a daze. Through 9k and even the Nike Powersong tunnel of noise failed to rouse an extraction of the camera from my pocket. (Pity that, as this was a fanstastic part of the course with about 400m of speakers booming out - in my case - Eye of the Tiger.) Nice touch, I felt great here. Then the music ended and I felt ordinary again.

Reaching the 10k mark along the waterfront felt like a big milestone when in reality it just signalled the fact that crowds were about to get bigger from here to the finish. That in itself was probably worth a bit as all the clapping and cheering helps push you towards the end. Channel 7 had an aid station right out the front of their building, complete with people handing out sweat bands (not sure why, seemed odd to me?) and a little further on was a troupe of cheerleaders: "Let's Go Runners, Let's Go" they chanted. Certainly very enthusiastic and colourful!

The last 'obstacle' on the course is the small bridge at Collins Street over to Flinders Street. This one broke me. Had to walk for a few seconds just to catch my breath. Crikey, never thought it would be this hard! (Moreover, am really worried about coping with the hills at Puffing Billy in two weeks.) I consoled myself with the thought that this was probably making me stronger and just got on with getting to the finish.

Not far down the road you cross the Yarra for the fourth (of six) times and turn left beside the casino. How on earth a fun run with 30,000 competitors can use a narrow pedestrian-filled thoroughfare is beyond me. They seem to get away with it (!) but it's an obvious point of change on the course. Another crossing of the river shortly after and onto Flinders Street for a short step up to St Kilda Road where you turn right and head for the finish.

I'd managed to cover the last couple of km at 4.35m/k pace so was still travelling ok even if it was feeling much harder. Into the last few hundred metres and I just cruised along. About 100m from the finish the 4.5m/k Nike pace leader (Elly) ran past. Obviously she'd got caught in traffic or maybe the pace leaders ran to pace from the time they crossed the start line as this race is chip timed? In any case, she was further back than I'd have thought.

Around the last corner and over the finish line. Done!

Final time for me was about 66.53min (~4.39m/k). I'm pretty happy with that. This is not a race that I've ever completed super-fast so to run that pace is quite satisfying. But I know I have a lot of work to do before Puffing Billy in a fortnight!


  1. Another great post about an enjoyable day out :) Good luck for Puffing Billy!

  2. Cheerleaders! Where do I sign up for next year's run? Looks like you had a fun day. Perfect Melbourne weather as usual - makes for good photos.


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