City2Surf 2018

City2Surf 2018

Since arriving in Australia I’ve been eager to enter my first official event. Having missed the Balmoral Burn, I finally settled on the City2Surf, which is impressively the world’s largest fun run. This year’s event saw 80 000 people take to the road to tackle the 14km course from Sydney to Bondi Beach.

Despite having run the 2 Oceans Ultra Marathon, I was unprepared for the sheer scale of this event. 80 000 people is substantially more than 12 000, and I felt it from the moment I left the house. Having walked 600 meters to the bus stop, I barely made it onto the bus as it was packed to the brim with runners. The bus trip was followed by another half a kilometre walk to Hyde Park, as the train stations were equally as packed. I then joined another large crowd in Woolworths, as the race organisers were not so kind as those back in South Africa, and we were not provided with any safety pins to attached our race numbers to our shirt.

With 15 minutes to the gun I headed over to Hyde Park, where I joined the masses trying to reach the start line. The atmosphere was electric; people everywhere were dressed in costumes, music was blaring, and there was a general feeling of nervousness and excitement. 

I was getting ever more anxious as I was still standing in the middle of the park when the starting gun fired, and I saw the masses head out. It took me another 10 minutes, crammed amongst thousands of people, to reach the start line. Amazingly, the crowd immediately changed from a walk to a run, on the starting mat. 

Views at the City2Surf finish line

I spent the first kilometre dodging walkers, children, and people with prams, while jumping on and off the pavement to find any free space to get going. Eventually I was forced to concede defeat, give up on my target time (I was 15 minutes in and hadn’t even reached the 1km mark), and absorb the atmosphere.

Amazingly this was the best decision I could have made, as my tension melted away and I began to soak up the atmosphere. The first thing I noticed was a Scottish pipe band on the bridge. And just as they were out of earshot I caught a glimpse of was a rock band blaring their guitars from a temporary wooden stage erected on a roof. This was soon replaced by a marching band of attractive females dancing to the Macarena played on brass. Then there was a man dressed as a chicken with a sign that read, “When can I cross?” And so it carried on for the entire race – a police band, a military band, a DJ, mist tunnels, a cheer squad, and more dressed up spectators than I could count. 

But just because I had given up on my time, didn’t mean I was slowing down. I continued to weave through the masses for 14kms, running the majority of the race on the pavement. In places there were spectacular views of the harbour and Sydney Harbour Bridge, but I didn’t have time to slow down and take selfies (as so many others seemed to).

Other than the incredible atmosphere and the spectacular view, the City2Surf is perhaps best known for Heartbreak Hill. After several, shorter climbs, you’re greeted by Heartbreak Hill at the 6km mark. From here you climb for about 1.5kms, with a decent kicker upping the ante at the end. It’s not the toughest hill I’ve run, but there are several blind corners on the ascent, which do a great job at tricking your brain into believing you’ve reached the top, when in fact there is quite some hill to come.

In terms of refreshments, there were several water tables on the course, although they proved to be more of a hinderance that a help. Every time I passed such a table, the swarms of people surrounding me would suddenly, and without warning, change direction and bee-line for the cups of water and electrolyte. This proved to be quite a hazard and hampered my progress whether or not I planned to stop for a drink.

And the finish line proved to be equally as difficult to navigate as the watering tables. The already packed streets slowly narrowed as we were funnelled towards the finish line. I had been hoping to accelerate on the final kilometre, but this proved to be difficult as we were led away from the finish line and then around a tight hairpin, causing further congestion.

In the end I ran a 1:13, excluding the 10 minutes it took for me to cross the starting line. Considering the chaos (and jet lag) I’m happy with my result, although I’ll certainly be back next year to run a sub 1:10 (starting in a hopefully less chaotic group).

After finishing the race I had the privilege of relaxing in my office’s tent where I got to catch up with my colleagues, and recount our morning’s war stories over a good feed and a few ice cold beers. My family finally joined me an hour later, having battled to navigate the packed public transport system in the hopes of watching me cross the finish line.

Eventually the girls began to tire of playing on the beach, and we headed home. I was truly amazed at the efficiency with which they loaded 80 000 people onto buses, and sent us off to Bondi Junction. Not only was it efficient, but it was also free for participants. The only thing more impressive than the bus service was the cleanliness, and fragrant smell, of the portable toilets at such a large scale event. No longer will I fear them, like I have at previous events.

I highly recommend this run to everyone and their dog. I personally can’t wait for the day that I run it with my girls.

You can check out my run on Strava by clicking here: City2Surf 2018

The medals which were given out to finishers