I was given the opportunity to run the Gold Coast Marathon, courtesy of a competition run by Men’s Health Singapore Magazine. Gold Coast was my third marathon of which the previous two had also been done overseas.
Although it was not my first time running overseas, I knew the Gold Coast Marathon has something special to offer, as many runners return year after year to run the Gold Coast Marathon. Thus, I was looking forward to finding out what makes this Marathon so special.
The Gold Coast Marathon is a two day festival-like affair and offers three different races of varying distances; 10km, 21km and the full 42km Marathon. The race takes place during the Australian Winter season, with a temperature between 8 degrees and 20 degrees. For Singaporeans, me alike, this is ‘air con’ weather. Chilly but sure beats the heat and humidity of Singapore. Thus, weather and its close proximity to Singapore may be the reasons why Singaporeans make up the 3rd largest contingent in the Gold Coast Marathon, only behind the New Zealanders and the Japanese, year after year.
I had the opportunity to travel with the Team Fatbird runners whom amongst them were experienced Gold Coast Marathon runners and were readily available to provide tips about the race and its venue. I also had the privilege to be in company of popular runners from the local scene like Ashley Liew and Adam Khamis a.k.a One Armed Runner amongst the group. Ashley Liew was aiming to break his personal best while this was Adam Khamis’s first overseas marathon, which he has been planning for two years.
Expo & Pre Race Events
The Gold Coast Marathon Expo is centrally located at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre. The collection of the race pack was a breeze.
The expo boasts plenty of products and services ranging from racing belts, energy gels to free spinal health checks. Perfect for traveling runners who may need last minute or emergency necessities for the race.
This year’s race coincided with the festivities of the Surfers Paradise Festival. Surfers Paradise is at the heart of the Gold Coast and also part of thee race route, thus traveling runners enjoyed the live performance and the Fireworks Challenge on display the night prior to the Marathon race – a good end to the night after a sumptuous carbo-loaded dinner.
I reached the racing venue just before the Half Marathoners started their race. The Half Marathoners started their race an hour earlier on a different route from the Marathoners to prevent congestion. A refreshing change from the local Marathon races where congestion and bottlenecks are almost customary.
The weather felt like it was slightly lower than 10 degrees, definitely not the kind of ‘air-con’ Singaporeans are used to. The Gold Coast Marathon veterans advised me that the weather would turn warmer later. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was superb and everyone was in good spirits.
The race venue greeted runners with a beautiful orange hue amidst the dark blue skies on the horizon of the Broadwater. After catching the start of the Half Marathon, I was busy taking photos of the scenery and the sunrise, I forgot to warm up and head over for the important visit to the loo before the race.
Soon the runners gathered and positioned themselves according to the pace in the pen they were allocated. Pacers were well marked with coloured balloons and everyone looked ready
Before the race, the announcer gave a very typical Australian rousing to the runners on Pheidippides, the inspiration for the modern Marathon just to pump the runners up. I was soaking in the whole ambience and only realized right before the start I had to warm up. I managed to squeeze in a few stretches and the race started soon after.
At race start, the sun was rising and it was the perfect running weather. The race took us across the bridge, and on the horizon I could see the skyline of the buildings on Surfers Paradise.
The race brought us across the bridge of Southport and soon after we were headed towards the high rise residential apartments area. Spectators waved from their balconies. Despite the rather narrow route there was no congestion from the start. Everyone was running and there were not many strollers. I could sense that everyone was serious about this marathon.
About 3km into the race, we were greeted with the main highlight of the race route- the golden stretch of the Gold Coast beaches. The sun was up but the view and breeze from the coast was just amazing. Rest assured, it beats the view at East Coast Park by a mile. The race brought runners past Surfers Paradise and even though it was a Sunday morning, it was certainly not lacking any supporters.
After the stretch of beaches, the runners ran through the residential area towards Burleigh Heads and the locals provided the laid back and warm Australian hospitality. Families had their barbeques out, drinking beer and cheering on the runners.
As the route was a loop, runners had the opportunity of catching the Elite runners making their way back. I saw the breakaway group of 6 runners and also caught a glimpse of Singapore’s fastest runner on the race that day, Ashley Liew, who of course was probably halfway done with the race as I was busy taking photos.
The course was flat and although I dislike loop routes, it never felt a drag, as there were always things to see, people cheering and atmosphere to soak in. There were also entertainers along the stretch with live bands and steel drums and DJs playing music.
There was a sense of familiarity in the Gold Coast Marathon as Singapore was well represented thus it was not uncommon to run into familiar faces. To add to the whole festival affair of the marathon, there were runners dressed as Superman, Dragonball, Japanese Anime characters. I had the privilege of being in the company of famous local Marathon Maniac, ‘Mohan Marathon’ whose endless encouragement and whistling was infectious. I found my legs again and managed to run before the last stretch called Marine Parade, how coincidental indeed.
Refreshments and energy drinks were well stocked. During the last quarter of the race, I met fellow Singaporean runner, Jimmy Poh whom is in his golden years running alongside me. We stopped to talk and pushed each other to complete the run, stopping whenever we had cramps and eventually managed to run to the finishing line.
The announcers called out the runner’s name as they crossed the finishing line that provided a nice final touch to the race. Runners were then channeled to the medals and finisher’s t-shirt collection counters according to the T-Shirt sizes they requested at registration to ensure even 5 hours finishers won’t end up with a Finisher’s t-shirt the size of a quilt cover.
Run Down Under For Your Personal Best
Many come to the Gold Coast Marathon to record their Personal Best times but I chose to soak up the whole atmosphere. I got to catch up with a few other local runners and plenty recorded their Personal Best time, with the weather and organization a lot to be commended for. Ashley Liew also recorded his personal best timing running the course in only 2hrs 35 minutes.
For Civil Servant Chiang Chee Kiang, whose Gold Coast Marathon was his first overseas Marathon, he recorded a personal best timing of 4hrs 15 minutes which was 28 minutes off his time at the previous Sundown and he summed it up as “Refreshing, overwhelming and a fun running experience.”
Although I did not record my personal best time, I enjoyed the festival-like atmosphere of the Gold Coast Marathon. I have nothing else but the beautiful scenery and atmosphere to fault. The scenery was just too good to pass by quickly. Whether it is to record your best time or to experience an entire different running experience, running down under at the Gold Coast is definitely the way to go.