- 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon, Other
- Road Race
I was in Sydney for work and figured, why not run the Sydney marathon as a pre-race for the Chicago marathon in 2016. Overall it was a decent marathon, but coming from a US marathon, it's a letdown.
Expo bib pickup was ok. They sent you a text message with your bib number, which they had to see (you couldn't just tell them.) Typical race swag by Asics but it was in a small area. You also got a plastic bag for bag drop. Nothing special.
Course: All of the distances for the Sydney Blackmores Running Festival (half, full, fun runs) went over the Harbour Bridge, which is almost worth the price of admission alone. From there, we meandered towards Sydney Olympic Park and worked out way back to Darling Harbour and finished at the Sydney Opera House. Terrain was rolling but not too challenging. Distance markers were well-posted.
Crowd support: Virtually none. I don't know if it was the weather or not, but if we had 50 supporters out there I would be surprised. Locals looked at us like we're insane. After talking with locals, they seemed completely unaware of the marathon taking place, and don't really care for crowd support.
Aid stations: Typical water/sports drink every few km. Gels were given away at one station.
Finish: Finishing at the Opera House was amazing. You did get a finisher's shirt, however, the sizes were all way too small and I took the largest one available. You'd think they would ask for shirt sizes during signup so they could make sure you get one that fits up-front, but I guess not. They did have post-race beers and sausages for sale after, which was nice. The medal was kind of small, but it had the Harbour Bridge on it, and that's all that really matters.
Logistics: Free train service to the start (Milsons Point), which helped. It was also nice to be on the same train as other runners and head to Luna Park together. For the finish, you're sort of stuck at the Opera House unless you hike back to Circular Quay (about a km away, but you're walking back towards the race and after running all that distance, it just seems way too far.) For those chumps like me who did gear check, it was further afield and you had to cut through the Botanical Gardens (which are uphill both ways). After I grabbed an uber to a bar, since everything restaurant-wise within a few blocks of Circular Quay was closed since it was Sunday.
Other: These guys weren't kidding when they mentioned a 6 hour hard cutoff for the race. The sag wagon kept folding in runners so you did pass the same people 4-5 times (which, on a cold rainy day, screwed with your mind.) Also, gear claim was about 1km away because a truck broke down or some nonsense and I had to walk uphill to get my bag, which just seemed downright cruel.
I'm torn. I liked the scenery and that it's an IAAF Gold race and finishing at the Opera House is one of the best running moments I'll probably ever have. And I knew to have lowered expectations about crowd support but this just blew my mind on how quiet it was. If circumstances allow it, I'd run it again but I wouldn't fly to Sydney just to do this race.