Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Royal Victoria Marathon - About the race

We were very lucky this year in that the weather was perfect – light was clear, air was still and temperature crisp. The course could not have been presented any better and a naturally beautiful location was lifted. At times you could look out over the flat ocean with its gradations of blue merging into the sky and feel a wave of contentment, even when your body was complaining of abuse.

You can see from the map that the route takes full advantage of Victoria's sea bound location, with its natural harbour and a series of bays and inlets. Most of the time it follows the coastal roads, with many views over the sea. My clearest visual memories of the course are these views, especially as the water was still and offered a glimpse of serenity. Amongst those snapshots are a bay full of yachts and a golf course overlooking the ocean. As I was returning through the golf course a couple crossed the road, pulling their trolleys, chatting and looking very relaxed. I contrasted their pastime with mine. I was aching and trying to remember the reasons for running long, whereas they were at their ease. They even had great scenery to appreciate. Damn I thought there must be some way my game is better than theirs (but at this stage I could even see the attractions of fishing so I knew my thought processes weren't right). Then I went to the next view and the next and I remembered the satisfaction of being physically challenged and doing something that feels hard. The golf course was left well behind.

It route also went through parkland and some interesting housing, which towards the top was quite swanky. In other words there was no dead patch, no stretches of featureless streets or repetitive buildings that make the mental battle just that little bit harder. This is quite a feat for 26 miles of city running.

The support along the way was fun. The volunteers were very good at cheering and clacking us on and there were plenty other people out along the way, some of them sitting outside their houses in their camping seats. Amongst the supporters I remember an old Chinese guy slowly shaking a water bottle half full of rice, almost as if he was doing tai chi. If only I had thought about him a bit more I could have taken the lesson that you can get there more effectively with a with a steady easy rhythm. Later on there was a woman beating with a stick on an empty plastic tub shouting “ You can do it. Attain your dreams. Remember you decided to do this thing.” She made me laugh as I remembered this actually was my choice. But all along the course people offered support. My race number also had my name printed on it and when someone shouted out “Looking strong David, when I felt anything but strong, it actually made me feel better.

Instead of carrying a sign the pace bunnies just wore rabbit ears. They could get away with such a relatively discrete indicator because the field wasn't that large at something over 2,000 people. This is a good size, large enough to stop it getting lonely yet small enough to allow everyone to run their own race unimpeded

At the end there was a food alley where you could load up with apples, bananas, muffins, bagels, cookies, doughnuts and chocolate milk. I came out with my hands overflowing with carbohydrate goodness.

Overall it felt like a friendly, civilised race. All the way round I kept on thinking how much I liked the place but the impression was cemented at the end when, after I had crossed the line, the race organiser shook my hand and thanked me for coming to Victoria. He did this for everybody and I found it an overwhelming decent gesture. Somehow it made the whole race seem personal.

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