Mon. May 20th, 2024

Sydney Marathon 2001 – Race Report

4 min read

My first marathon took place well before I was inclined to write about running but it’s a memory I won’t soon forget.

The first itch I had to run a marathon was in 2000, it was the year of the Sydney Olympics, I was living in Sydney and went to one of the first events at the Olympic stadium, it was an Olympic test event and it was also our countries marathon trials. I went along to have a look inside this brand new stadium and see the end of this test event marathon. I had been running shorter events for the past couple of years, mostly 10km fun runs around the Sydney area.I hadn’t really thought about running a marathon, but I was captivated by the marathon that day, everyday people in jubilation as they finished their marathon inside this brand new and amazing stadium. I wanted to be part of that.

The next year I entered the marathon and was excited to follow the blue line around the city and retrace the steps of the athletes at the Olympics a year previously. I was nervous, excited and ready on 28th October 2001. I had trained well for this race, I went in with a healthy fear of the marathon distance and trained with this fear in mind. I was disciplined in completing my long runs, mostly out of the fear of the unknown but I was fit and ready come race day.

The race began in the North Sydney area and followed the exact course from the Olympics to finish in the Olympic park area, but in a smaller athletics venue. It’s a much different course these days. I arrived at the race that morning as nervous as I’ve ever been in my life, the 42km that lay ahead weighed heavily on me. The race began and I settled in to my rhythm, the first couple of kilometres were mostly downhill and I made sure I wasn’t running too fast. About 50 metres ahead of me was a runner I recognised, it was Steve Monaghetti, Australia’s most decorated marathon runner, he had finished 10th in the Olympic marathon and was now retired. I had read in the news paper during the week he was pacing a three hour marathon group so I decided to try and keep him close to me. This was a time before Garmin’s, I raced this day with a stopwatch only and made a quick calculation at each kilometre marker of the previous kilometres time running by feel and perceived effort alone.

Early in the race was the Sydney Harbour Bridge, running over this traffic free was a beautiful feeling and then the early kilometres through the city to Centennial Park. I had settled into a pace right on three hour pace and was feeling good. The first half of the race went through the suburbs directly south of the city before turning and returning to the city before heading west to Olympic Park. 

By half way I had returned to the city, I looked at my watch as we passed the halfway marker. 1:29:XX, Monaghetti not far ahead, I was happy, three hours was my goal and I was on track, albeit with the second half of the race being the more difficult I’d like to have banked a couple of minutes. But I was feeling good and running well. 

I vividly remember running over the Anzac Bridge, not long after halfway, I was overtaking runners quite easily at this point and running down the bridge I felt amazing, I was running fast and it felt effortless, I was in a flow state and it felt great. I’ve had this feeling in races since, but this memory never leaves me.

It didn’t last that long, as the second half of this marathon became much more difficult, the hills over the second half were tough and it slowed me somewhat. Mostly I was still running well but I’d just fallen off the three hour pace, so my calculations told me. Monaghetti was gone and it was me versus me for the last 10km.

The hills kept coming, but what comes up must come down and for every rolling hill in the inner west of Sydney there is a downhill that you can use as best you can before another hill saps your energy. I was giving my best effort at this point but my mind was already at the finish line, I had to dig deep to get my body there too.

By now it’s mid morning and the late October sun is out and heating up. I entered the Olympic precinct and went through the final aid station at approx. 40km. I was just inside three hours and now the roads had flattened out. I wasn’t going to break three hours today, so I enjoyed the last part of this race. Thinking of the mighty athletes that had run these streets for medals a year earlier.

I ran these last couple of kilometres on emotion, I was going to finish my first marathon. We ran past the Olympic stadium before taking a left turn inside the smaller athletic centre, a lap of the track left and then the finish. It felt like my Olympic medal when I crossed the finish line that day. I crossed the line in 3:06:XX.

My first marathon was a learning experience like no other. It taught me I can achieve my goals if I work hard. It was a moment I cherish and a memory that never leaves me. The illusive three hour goal can wait for another day, I was a marathon finisher and that was enough.

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