Friday 29 March 2013

Run for the Kids

Run for the Kids is one of those must do running events of the Melbourne running calendar. It's definitely Melbourne's most popular fun run, with 35,000 taking part last Sunday in either the 15km long course or 5km short course. It's all for a great cause with funds going to the Royal Children Hospital's Good Friday Appeal.

On the day the city of Melbourne takes centre stage and it was no different for the 2013 version which was played out in magnificent March sunshine. The long course took participants through the Domain Tunnel and over Bolte Bridge before running through Docklands and Southbank and then finishing near the start in King's Domain.

The short course competitors wait for the start on Alexandra Avenue.

This was my first Run for the Kids and I was attempting the long course. I had actually signed up to do it four years ago but got shin splints during my training and completely gave up on running for the next three years! So I was excited to make amends for that lost opportunity by taking part this year.

Having only just finished the sprint triathlon season a few weeks prior, I was a little underdone in terms of distance running. I squeezed in a slow 13km training run the previous Sunday, my first run of more than 8km for a month. I was confident of being able to run the full 15km, however I wasn't expecting it to be a fun experience, especially if I wanted to get a decent time. I had been doing a lot of speed training over summer to try and get my 5km triathlon run splits down. I was hoping that would pay dividends and give me an average pace of 4.50min/km for a total time of around 72mins.

The short course competitors off and running over Swan Street Bridge.

Before the start, I met up with my mate Joel and his running group, the Crosbie Crew, who had staked a claim to a section of King's Domain in the race village. There was some pretty serious runners amongst these guys and quite a bit of marathon experience between them. Even so, everyone in the group was super friendly and made me feel really welcome. They had a great camaraderie and if you're interested in getting involved with a running group then I definitely recommend giving these fantastic guys a go.

We made our way to the start line on Alexandra Avenue and the Crosbie guys didn't mess about, going straight to the very front of the huge line of competitors. There were 18,500 people running the long course and we were in the first four or five rows! Just in front of us were the elites including Craig Mottram. It was a great position to be in because it meant we would not be slowed down by any slow competitors in front of us. If you ever decide to do Run for the Kids, and you want a crack at a serious time, make sure that you're in the front zone!

Waiting at the front for the start. There was only a few rows in front of us!
Have you ever seen so many excited people at 8.45am on a Sunday?
18500 runners waiting for the start!
About to get going!

After saying good luck to Joel and his Crosbie mates, we were off and running. I lost them in the early jostling for position and straight away I felt slow as a tide of faster runners passed me. I concentrated on my own pace and made sure I didn't make the mistake of overbaking myself by trying to keep up with the faster runners. When it comes down to it, a run is you against the clock and I knew what I needed to do to get the time I wanted. That's the benefit of training!

Within a few minutes I was inside the hot and humid Domain Tunnel. Before the race I was worried that I would find the tunnel steep and difficult so I was surprised at how easily I made it through to the other side and onto the Westgate Freeway. I was keeping my target pace of around 4:50 and felt good despite it starting to get quite warm. I was glad I had made the decision to wear a singlet rather than a t-shirt!

The first real test on the course appeared at the on ramp to the Bolte Bridge. The next 1.5km were a steady incline to the top of the bridge and it was tough going in full Sun. My quads were starting to burn but I seemed to be doing better than most of the runners around me because for the first time in the race it felt like I was passing more people than were passing me.

I had made sure not to drink any water for two hours before the race start but I still managed to get stomach cramp as I descended Bolte Bridge at the half way point of the run. It stayed with me for about a kilometre as I went through Docklands and I had to slow down and massage it out. That's the second event in a row that I've had a stomach cramp. I really need to get onto why that keeps happening!

The course map thanks to Runtastic.

After the cramp disappeared and I opened up the throttle again, I hit an obstacle I had not factored in to my run. The course went through Harbour Esplanade before turning left onto Collins St which presented a short but steep hill over Wurundjeri Way and the rail lines leading into Southern Cross station. For me, this was the toughest part of the course and it shows in my 500m time split for this section which was my slowest at 3 minutes.

What goes up, must come down, so after reaching the top of the hill it was down again into Spencer Street and towards the Yarra. With gravity now aiding me rather than hindering, I achieved my fastest 500m split of 2:05.

I was using the Runtastic GPS running app on my Android phone to keep track of my race and the voice feedback was giving me updates every 500m so I knew I was slightly behind where I needed to be for a 4:50 average pace. With 3km to go and feeling great running towards Crown Casino, I decided to throw caution to the wind and just go for it. I started passing runners on tired legs at will and I think I could have been even faster if it wasn't for the congested path in Southbank, where I was constantly weaving in and out around slower runners.

Unfortunately, my pace was unsustainable and I found myself slowing down after passing under Princess Bridge. The lactic acid build up in my legs was starting to hurt now and for the first time in the run I was entertaining thoughts of stopping and walking. This is where mental strength comes into play and you have to dig deep! In all the events I've done so far, I've never at any stage stopped and walked and I didn't want this to be the first occasion. That was motivation enough for me to push through the pain and I even managed to sprint through to the finish line for the final hundred metres.

Tired runners at the finish in King's Domain.

I was so exhausted that I didn't even pose for the camera as I crossed the line. My official time came out at 1:12:01 which put me on an average pace of 4:48. I had hit my goal so I was absolutely stoked! That put me close to the top 10% of runners, a great achievement for only my second fun run.

After a fantastic first Run for the Kids, I will definitely be back again next year to try and crack 1:10:00. In the meantime, my next event is the 12km King and Queen of the North in May. I will be aiming to up the pace by then. Can't wait!

My race statistics.