Sunday 2 June 2013

King & Queen of the North 2013

The King & Queen of the North, held last Sunday, was a fun run I had been looking forward to for a long time and it did not disappoint. It had been more than two months since my previous event at the Run for the Kids in March so I was really eager to get out and see how much improvement the last two months of training had given me. My aim for the race was an average pace of 4.40 per km which would put me on a total time of about 56 minutes. This was also the first fun run I was doing with my youngest brother. We've been training together since the summer so my secondary goal was to pip him to the post and ensure bragging rights.

The trophies up for grab for the King and Queen of the North.

The run was organised by the Coburg Harriers Athletics Club and it started and finished at their Coburg base, the Harold Stevens Athletic Track. The Harriers were formed in 1896 and are a club with a proud history and tradition. They can count 21 international representatives over the years and 8 Olympic representatives including the 1500m gold medalist at the 1960 Rome Olympics, Herb Elliot, and multiple silver medalist Raelene Boyle.

The current club house was built in 1971 but inside it's walls are adorned with pennants and trophies as testament to the club's history. They different versions of the club uniform from over the years starting with the original 1896 version to the present day version.

Some of the old Harriers uniforms on display in their Coburg clubhouse.

We arrived, with my wife for support (and to take some great photos!), at the Harriers club house about 15 minutes before the scheduled start and picked up our race numbers. I signed us up online back in March and I must have been the first entrant because I was given number 1 and my brother got number 2. What a privilege to wear number 1 in a race!

The race had a very different feel to it compared to any event I'd competed in before. The field was tiny at about 50 strong and lots of the runners knew each with a large percentage probably affiliated with the Harriers. There was no sponsors' tents, the race numbers were hand written with Texta on white paper, the race timing was not automatic and there was no free sports drink at the finish. However there was tea, coffee and biscuits and a team of physiotherapy students waiting to massage tired legs at no charge. There was a real community feel to the event which I really enjoyed and which will definitely bring me back again.

Competitors assembled in the Harriers clubhouse before the run to hear the course details.

At 9am everyone went out on the athletics track for the race start. A mate of mine from work, Stephen, was also running the 12km so I knew quite a bit of the field! It was a mild overcast morning and it wasn't raining so we had ideal race conditions.

Waiting for the race to start on the athletics track.

We took off along the athletics track and then cut across to the Merri Creek trail heading south towards Bell St. The trail is a typical recreational paved bike path so its not particularly wide. I spent the first few hundred metres overtaking some of the slower runners in front of me, careful to avoid running into cyclists coming down the trail in the opposite direction. After a kilometre the field had spread out considerably and you could run at your own pace unhindered.

And we're off!

My brother and I use the Merri Creek trail as our main training ground so we were very familiar with the course and knew where we could kick in the gas with ease and where we would have to be more conservative. Even though the trail hugs the creek, its actually quite a rolling course with some short and sharp climbs and descents making it a tough test.

The course map as recorded by Runtastic Pro.

There were volunteers at each turning point to guide the runners with the first turning point coming almost 2km into the race at the Harding Street Bridge. From here we headed back the way we came, north back towards the start. After passing Murray Road the course turned west towards Coburg Lake and then north along Golf Rd. This section was the bit that I found toughest. It was basically 500m of climbing from the trail up to the end of Golf Rd before turning east onto another section of trail towards Edgars Creek. At Edgars Creek the course turned back again and thankfully from the top of Golf Rd all the way back down to Merri Creek it was free speed going downhill. Then we headed back onto the athletics track to complete one lap of the course.

Entering the track would have been a great feeling for the 6km runners but for me and the rest of the 12km runners it just meant we were half way there and now we had to do the whole thing all over again. There was a volunteer with cups of water just after the turning point, but unfortunately no sports drink. I did get a cheer from the spectators as I came through the track, with the loudest cheer coming from my wife. Plus being number 1 I think I got special attention. My brother was only about 10m behind me at this point but was beginning to struggle with a bit of stomach cramp.

Back onto the track to complete the first lap of the course.
The smallest drinks station I've ever seen! 6km to go.

This was my first race where I had to do multiple laps of a course and psychologically it was difficult knowing that I had to do the whole course all over again. In this race, I would be covering every part of the course four times!

A large number of runners must have been doing the 6km course because there was less runners about on the second lap. I knew there was a number of guys in front of me but I was reasonably certain that I was close to the top 5 and that helped me maintain my pace even when I started feeling sore part way through the 2nd lap. For the last 2km I didn't have much left in the tank but came home as fast as my knackered legs could carry me.

The home straight!

This time coming onto the athletics track was a huge relief. I got another cheer as I came through the finish in an amazing time of 55:50. That put me under the 4:40 average pace I was targeting and gave me my fastest average pace for an event so far.

Coming in strong to some great support.
Across the line in 55:50 and a new PB.

I placed 4th which was a real surprise! The winner came through at an incredible 42.32 and my mate Stephen finished 2nd by more than 6 minutes. My brother crossed the line a few minutes behind me at 58:14 in 8th place. I had bragging rights but that was an incredible result considering this was his first fun run!

My quads get a well earned massage from one of the physio students who were on hand after the race.

Afterwards my quads got a well earned massage in the club house and we hung around for some biscuits and water while the stragglers from the 12km event trickled through. Finally there was an awards ceremony and the top 3 for each category got a trophy. The King and Queen of the north were crowned! Again, something you don't see in the major running events!

The 12km place getters. From left to right, Geoff Wheeler (53.05), Stephen Moore (48.56) and the King of the North, Dion Finocchiaro (42.32)

So all up, King & Queen of the North was a fantastic event and the $18 entry made it the best value fun run for the year. The Harriers are a great club and gave the event a real honest grassroots community feel. I will definitely be back again next year to try and sneak into the top 3 and can't wait for the Coburg Half Marathon in August.

If you want to see more of the photos my wife took from the event, visit The Jangulator on Flickr.

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