The Blackmores Sydney Running Festival 2015 was a double-first for me – first time participating in the event and first time Team FatBird was appointed Training Partner in association with CTC Travel and Destination NSW. The event was also awarded the much-coveted IAAF Gold certification last year, making it a must-run event for the running community in Singapore. As it was my maiden marathon experience at the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival, I decided to go for the full experience and signed up for the Full Marathon.
Preparations began earlier in the year, during March, when Team FatBird held informational workshops to increase awareness for the race. Yielding a heartening number of 119 runners, across all categories, at race day on 20 September, this was a 90% increase from just 62 runners in 2014.
Team FatBird provided an 8-week tune-up programme for Singaporean participants in the 9 km, half marathon and full marathon categories respectively. Training alongside fellow participants from Operation Kingfisher, our 8-week marathon training program included shorter but higher intensity tempo runs, hill and strength work during weekdays and progressive long endurance runs in the weekend to race day.
Upon check-in at the Holiday Inn Darling Harbour, my race pack was already waiting for me, facilitated by Destination NSW. I proceeded to the carbo-loading dinner organised by CTC Travel. The following day was spent doing conditioning runs before retiring early for race day the next morning.
The idyllic race site faces the magnificent Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, and when I arrived I was struck by the air of calm as participants waited in fast-moving lines for baggage deposit.
True to the hilly nature of this race course, the start point of the marathon was on an upslope but having seen the excellent fuel support plan-with ample hydration and good supply of Gu gels, I decided to travel light, with a Spi-belt for my gels and electrotabs. The Sydney weather, at 16 °C, was conducive and sufficiently warm for a T-shirt and short tights.
Thanks to the superb organisation of the race and pen areas, I was off to a timely start, with runners breaking off into a good pace. By the 3 km mark, I was able to settle into a 4:50 min/km pace with ample room to enjoy the scenic route of Sydney’s cityscape and lush parks, many of which had supporters and on-lookers cheering us on.
There were sufficient pacers for each of the target timing groups and the well-stocked hydration and fuel support points were one of the highlights. The first water stations appeared at the 5 km mark and were sufficiently long to minimise congestion and provide both water and IsoWhey isotonic drinks. A generous supply of Gu energy gels and sports beans were also available for marathoners at several locations throughout the race route, something not seen at some international races.
Crowd support for the final 1 km was fantastic. To top it off, the finishing process was smooth, with timings highlighted for photo-taking and a clear passage to the finish chute for the t-shirt and medal collection. Race results were available immediately on printable e-certificates and great photography throughout the race course saw many runners purchasing photo sets.
I finished with a timing of 3 hours 25 minutes to beat my Personal Best (PB) of 3 hours 36 minutes in 2008 by a whole 10 minutes. Finally, after 11 years of long-distance running, I qualified for the prestigious Boston Marathon.
For adrenaline junkies who are looking for more action after the race, skydiving is not to be missed. I ventured into the most thrilling tandem Skydive Adventure at Sky Dive the Beach and Beyond, Wollongong, ticking off an unplanned item on my bucket list. The plane ascended to a maximum height of 14,000 feet, and while up there, I soaked in the pretty sight of the land below as the crew documented my dive with camera and video shots.
I was the fifth person off the plane, descending through the clouds in a free-fall with my mouth opened wide screaming in delight. After some manoeuvring and plenty of aerial photo and video shots, my instructor and I landed smoothly, and I was rewarded with a certificate and a spectacular compendium of photos and videos capturing the sequence of events. I would certainly recommend tandem skydiving to anyone visiting New South Wales, especially with this professional and entertaining jump crew.
Another activity I had the opportunity to sample was the Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures for a zipline tour and treetop walk. It was similar to Forest Adventure in Singapore but I jumped upon this chance to do it in the cool weather.
The Blackmore Sydney Running Festival is indeed a picturesque course that I enjoyed. Race organisation was great, in particular the hydration and fuel support points.
Sydney is also an ideal running destination for Singaporean travellers looking for a different experience. With its cool Spring weather, different race categories catering to a wide demographic, majestic sights and abundant activities, there’s something for everyone.
It was a great and enjoyable experience overall for Team FatBird and I. We certainly look forward to a larger Singapore contingent in 2016.