In 2014, my friends and I hatched a plan to run a half marathon. We weren’t running it in Singapore but the plan saw us travelling to Down Under, holiday for a few days in Sydney, fly down to Melbourne and finally culminate with the Great Ocean Road Run. It was a packed itinerary which saw us at the Sydney Opera House and the twelve apostles.
This post takes readers through the last part of it – the Great Ocean Road Run – our accommodation, the weather, logistics of the run itself and all the nitty gritty of doing a run overseas.
The Great Ocean Road International Marathon
This particular event had various categories to choose from – from a 1.5km kids gallop to a 6km quick run to a 14km in the city to a 23km along the Great Ocean Road and finally a full 45 km. We discussed it among ourselves and decided on the 23 km, balancing between the the scenic views and having a distance we can complete.
Besides ability, another worry on our minds was the season we were running in. Our run was on 18 May which was just about coming winter in Australia. This was of some concern to us as we weren’t not sure how to best dress, having been so used to running in hot, humid Singapore. We have seen runners in just shorts and a t-shirt but weren’t sure if they were already well-adapted to local temperatures.
In the end, we opted to dress warm. In reality, we needn’t have worried so much. It was just the perfect temperature to run in especially after you get warmed up. However, there was abit of logistics involved in the pre-run where you had to head towards Kennett River, where the 23 km race started. The race ended in Apollo Bay which was also where we decided to base ourselves.
Before the run proper, we arrived the night before in Apollo Bay to collect our Race Packs.
Collecting Your Race Pack
Sometimes for overseas runs, the race pack collection takes place on the morning itself. For the Great Ocean Road International Marathon, it was over a couple of days. We elected to collect on the day before the race and take a bus to the start point early the next day. We had to pre-booked the buses on the website before hand.
Knowing where the bus would be and where our finishing point would be helped us in selecting a hotel that was near to these meeting points. I cannot imagine completing a half marathon in a foreign land and having to drive back to the hotel. Since the location of the hotel was in such a prime area, we had to rush to book it in advance. In fact, when we came in the night before, the hotel was fully booked.
The Night Before
Because this was Australia and we were going to sweat it all out the next day on the road, we loaded on the carbohydrates the night before. This would help us with keeping our energy levels up during the run which may take 2-3 hours to complete. The preparation for the wonderful home cooked meal of pasta with ham, salmon and long beans was a hoot to do as well!
As with most of the trip, we subsisted on a nightly ritual of cooking, washing and shopping at Woolsworth or Coles, the great Australian supermarkets. Pro tip:It seems like every time Woolies (as Australians affectionately called ’em) has a promotion, Coles would follow up the next hour with theirs. I am partial to the Lindt hot chocolate.
The Race Pack
Unlike events in Singapore, the Great Ocean Road Marathon did not provide participants with finisher T-shirts. We had to buy the T-shirts for a princely sum but we shelled out a pretty penny for it anyway – how else can we let people know we’ve done this awesome marathon?
What came in the race pack was essentially all contained in the envelope – your bib , a car decal and some cards promoting the Great Ocean Road app.
Since it was an early start the next day, we decide to sleep in our running gear. This helped in shaving time needed to get ready the next day . We prepared to take the bus to Kennett river for the 8.00 a.m flag off at 6.00 a.m.
So prepared, we got what shut-eye we could get with adrenaline pumping in our system.
Just Before the Run
We got to the start point as planned with a 45 min bus ride. Because we had to get there substantially early, there was a need to wear some warm clothing over our race wear as it was still chilly.
Nearing the start of the race, we stuffed our warm clothing into the bags provided. These bags we labelled and tagged according to how fast we think we will finish and will be ferried to Apollo Bay for collection at the end of the race. While our warm clothing make their way to Apollo Bay on wheels, we made our way there on our two legs.
The highlight of the run for me was just enjoying the cool weather and scenery, both of which, the Great Ocean Road had an abundance of.
Somewhere in the second or third km, while I was enjoying the scenery, runners around me started pointing fingers towards the trees. Following their line of sight found me the first of three koalas sighted during the run. They came in rapid succession within a 10-15 minute period, just doing their thing, asleep in the trees.
Australians, their houses lining the race come out in full support as well. They handed out sweets and offered rubs to those who need it. This was especially helpful during the last part of the race! In all, it made all of us feel very welcomed indeed.
The really great thing about running in such cool weather is that when the sun is up, well above our heads even, it never feels too hot. If you are one who wants to clock your personnel best marathon timing, I believe the Great Ocean Road Marathon would be one to consider.
For me, I wasn’t gunning for a personnel best time. I just wanted to complete it and have the shared experience of having run the race with my friends. Afterall, how many amongst us can really say they have ran the Great Ocean Road?
I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t complete the half marathon in the fastest time. But I believe that the journey is the prize.
This Sunday, I will be attempting something slightly different overseas. I will be running the Spartan Beast race in Malaysia.
I did what training I could squeeze in my schedule but course conditions may be tougher than expected. It may rain. Obstacles may surprise some. Whatever the difficulty, it takes grit and determination to overcome them. Through this process, I hope to gain a better understanding of myself and the human condition of striving and yearning towards a larger purpose.
If you have done a race overseas before, let me know which race it was and how it turned out in the comments!