Blackmores Sydney Marathon 2014 review. I ran this marathon on September 21st 2014. The marathon is one event in the Sydney Running Festival. A throughly enjoyable experience, here’s my detailed review of the event.
Blackmores Sydney Marathon Review
Athletics Australia owns the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival. The event if a legacy of the 2000 Olympic Games and has been running since 2001. Athletics Australia reinvests any profits from the event back into their community athletics programmes. Charitable causes have raised over $11.9m during the events history.
As well as a marathon, the festival also includes a half-marathon, a bridge run and a family fun run.
Why did you choose this event?
I used the marathon as an excuse for a long weekend to catch up with friends in Sydney, one of my favourite cities. I also planned to compare this year’s marathon performance with last year’s. My performance will be discussed in a blog post next week.
What’s the course like and is it suitable for first-time marathoners?
Every festival event starts at Milsons Point, just below the Sydney Harbour Bridge. All routes cross the bridge and finish at the Sydney Opera House. Whichever event you chose, the scenery is iconic, awesome and jaw-droopingly cool. Full details of all the of the running routes are on the festival webpage.
The marathon route goes from Milsons Point to Centennial Park, looping back via the Rocks (underneath the bridge again) before looping again along Circular Quay to the Sydney Opera House.
In my opinion, this is a good race for first-timers. The inclines are highway on and off ramps and relatively gentle. There are plenty of water stops, toilets and isotonic/carb gel aid stations. Access to the starting point is easy, there are plenty of post-run watering holes for refreshment and the whole event is very well run.
Both times I’ve done it, the marathon seemed popular with holiday makers. Lot’s of group shots and selfies! Indeed, I remember one runner brought his DSLR. So, this event seems geared more heavily towards having a good time then serious athletic endeavours. Perhaps that’s the festive part of festival!
How well organised is it?
I found the whole event to be very well organised. I booked through the event website. This year I decided against any extras – such as running tops – and paid the standard fee of $135 AUD. Confirmation was by email that included a booking reference.
The pre-race bag drop and Expo was held at Town Hall in Central Sydney. A convenient location, it’s well served by public transport. I didn’t have my booking number but using my passport, I was able to pick my bib and bag-drop sticker. The Expo had the usual stalls.
This year, I skipped through it and headed straight for the bag drop. There, I put my bag into an ‘offical’ plastic bag which was marked with my bib number. The bags are then transported to the post-race recovery area for collection after the run.
What’s transport to and from the race like?
This year, I stayed with friends who live at Milsons Point. Seriously, their flat was 200m from the starting line. That meant I had no issues getting to the starting line on time!
Milsons Point station is on the Sydney train network. It’s about 200m from the starting line. Anyone wearing a racing bib was eligible for free transit that day to and from the race. The nearest station at the finish was Circular Quay. This means the start and finish lines were well served with public transport.
What’s the race day starting area like? Are there enough toilets?
The race started in a park just below Sydney Harbour Bridge. As well as the usual coffee merchants, there was also a last minute bag drop. The area was well laid out and the assembly areas for the various runners (groups A, B & C depending on projected finish times) were logical and not too badly croweded.
There were a lot of portaloos. However, as usual at marathons, they were in high demand! Be warned, it’s best to manage your fluids before any marathon as no race can ever provide enough toilets. In the end, following my own advice, I was able to hold on till the 15k mark.
How did you find the route?
I found this race relatively easy going. Sure, there was a few hills but nothing killer. The atmosphere along the route, the scenery and good weather make this one of my favourite marathons.
Various pressures in my life over the last few months meant I haven’t been training as I should. This meant I deliberately ran a slower pace then last year. The upshot of this was I actually ran more of this marathon then I did last year and I got a faster result! Last year, my finish time was 5:19. This year, despite less training, I finished in 5:10.
How were the aid stations?
The aid stations were well-staffed and plentiful. To me, it seems Sydney has more aid stations then other marathons. The energy gels and isotonic drinks were supplied by sponsors. Although not my preferred brands, they did the job for me.
What was the finishing area like?
The finish line is right beside the Sydney opera house. The race started at 7:20 and, by the time I got round to the end, it was lunchtime, sun was out and there was a great crowd cheering us on.
We were shuffled along into another area just below the opera house to pick up our medals, water and tee-shirt. Then, it was a long walk – seriously, it felt like a kilometre – to pick up my luggage and change of clothes. Fortunately, I had met my friends at the finish line and suggested they make themselves comfortable as it took me half an hour to pick up my luggage and change.
What’s the medal like?
See for yourself.
Is the race good value for money?
This depends on what part of the world you are coming from! If you are a marathon addict living near by (Australia, New Zealand or maybe even Japan), then it probably makes sense as part of a long weekend. If you are flying from farther afield – say the US or Europe, then I would recommend making it a part of your longer vacation in Australia.
On it’s own, I think the cost of entry is good value. Free transit on the day, good baggage arrangements, plenty of aid stations and a great atmosphere make it worth more then the price entry.
What’s your final view?
This is becoming one of my favourite marathons. A forgiving course, great atmosphere and iconic scenery are combined with a well planned and executed event day. My only quibble is the distance between the finishing line to the baggage reclaim – what felt like kilometres. But that’s a minor complaint because of tired legs.
In conclusion, this is a good marathon for beginners in a great city. It has become one of favourite marathon and I look forward to running it again in a couple of years.
When’s the next time it’s run?
Sunday 20th September 2015. For full details of all the events, check out: www.sydneyrunningfestival.com.au