City to Surf number 34
(a personal experience) by Chris Truscott
As the first morning rays creep over the looming bulk of the infamous Kings Cross Coke sign, the nerves immediately begin to tingle. It suddenly starts to feel real. History dictates that it simply will not rain on us. Nor should it. Because we are assembling at the start of Australia’s most iconic running event – The City to Surf.
On a global scale, this event is well known. In running circles perhaps it’s up there with how the Melbourne Cup is globally known in horse racing circles nowadays. With the C2S, 80 000 people enter, most turn up to compete or complete (let’s face it, it would be unAustralian for 100% attendance), but one thing remains true – no one escapes the fact that they are about to cover the hardest 14km road race on the calendar.
Make no mistake, this event packs a punch. From the get go flanked by Hyde Park to the familiar sounds of crashing waves on Bondi Beach, for the uninitiated, the 14km worth of bitumen between these two points are some of the toughest, most enjoyable you will experience. It has steep ups, even steeper downs, bands on rooftops, orange wedge wielding Hara Krishna’s, smurfs and gorillas and so on and so on.
So, how best to approach this course. That’s the million dollar question. One I continue to ponder as I debrief on my 34th finish. For the past 25years, I have been fortunate enough to have qualified for a preferred or seeded start. Prior to that Dad would drop my brothers and I at 6.30am to collect our numbers then walk down to the start line to sit and wait on the front line on a milk crate until the 10am start. I did my apprenticeship, that’s for sure. Needless to say, the start is important and the further up toward the front you can get the better. I have even gone as far as volunteering to assist with the start line management just to ensure my seeded start remains in tact.
Familiar faces from Rejoov, Hurts and other groups dominated the first few rows.
We were spared Deek banging on about Pheidippides as Monna fired the gun, then got down off the crane and proceeded to beat most of the preferred group home to Bondi. But with the countdown and the gun we were away hard and fast. And I mean fast. Straight down William Street sprinting fast as though we are racing a street mile. Hamish went out hard - maybe going for the win early on before realising his current form was not quite there. And equally as fast the first of many hills is upon us and it’s not an easy one. Legs lactic, lungs rebelling, we surge and struggle to find rhythm into the Kings Cross Tunnel where things gradually settle down a bit and we find our feet so to speak.
If you’re wondering how best to approach this course, or how to achieve the time you are after, it comes down to two main things – the training you have done and your sheer determination & grit on the day. Rushcutters downhill, Edgecliff uphill, Double Bay downhill, Rose Bay reprieve and suddenly Heartbreak beckons. Have you gone too hard to early? Will HB hill spit you out as a result? Or have you judged your run in perfectly and can get that consistent tempo required to conquer the 1500m of climbing.
This year I had a few Hurts guys around me through to HB Hill. Nick Roberts, Mikey L, Andy H, Travis Shields & Lachlan O to name a few. My legs don’t seem to be fatiguing for the first time this year.
We now have now passed halfway struggling to get up the hill that’s not steep but it hurts after a 6km sprint into it. It gets a lot easier from here and the course will give you a negative split if you just keep going. I went through in roughly 24mins or a tad over. No KM markers out on course this year so I’m going off where I know them to be. I struggled a bit over the top of the hill for a few hundred metres but managed to bring it back thereafter. “Wonder how Hamish is tracking” as I started to struggle to spot him opening the gap further. He was pumped pre race so I am hoping he is having a good one. Be nice to catch him too was the other hope.
So I keep pushing and try never to give up as I know as soon as I lapse, 20 people will pass me so I push as hard as I can down Old South Head Rd and left into Military Rd. A great chance to grab some time back from those nasty climbs before yep, once again you’re climbing for the last time up to the 10km mark. Bank on somewhere around 60secs slower at this point from your fastest recent 10km. In this case it’s 55secs slower than the Sydney Harbour 10km and I’m happy with 34:40 knowing a sub 48mins is well on the table.
And with that, the last 4km feels almost achievable as you start to taste that finish line beverage. It’s not true when they say that the last 4km is all downhill. It’s not. 10km – 10.5km is still a gradual incline. From there until 13km is flat at first then a very fast downhill and this is where you can go for broke. Use whatever you have to make up time, keep up with those around you or push on from those you want to leave in your wake. For me it was trying to keep up with Andy Heydon and keep Neil Pearson at bay (for the first time in a long time). I knew Hamish was too far ahead to catch.
From 13km we raced up a slight incline into the wind before the u-turn back on ourselves, down to beach and a right hand turn to the finish line. Neil was chasing hard, I was chasing hard, we all wanted this race to be over and luckily it’s not a very long last surge across the line. All done for another year in 47.44 quickest time in 3 years and 49th male. Top 50 achieved and a better time than the last two years.
I admit, I was a bit anxious this year for the race. My last few 10kms were not great so I was banking on the new shoes to give me the lift I was after and they certainly did. Love them. Time for a quick change, some initial champagne and food at the Rejoov Runners tent where the champagned was flowing and the food replenishing. So good to hear all the Rejoov tales and PBs on display as always. Such a positive fun vibe. Well done to everyone for just getting this tough event done for another year.
Then off to the Allens tent beachside to debrief for the next 4 hours. I am pleased to report that the whole Hurts squad didn’t disappoint. All in fine form as I recounted my City to Surf Stats – 34 done, 33 in a row, 25 sub 50min times in a row. (Actually I just discovered that streak is sub 49mins).
Then onto the Bondi Hotel for more beers & banter before my last stop at the Bronte Surf club where I caught up again with Gret (who ran a solid 56mins yesterday). Then finally home to our neglected 7yr old Jaden.
After 34 years of running the City to Surf, I’m still very please to report that I see it as just as iconic as my very first in 1983. The atmosphere is fantastic from the pre race, race itself to the after parties. Not going to say I can’t wait for next year. The City to Surf can happily take it’s time rolling around in 2020 for the 50th anniversary.