Choose your shoes wisely
Planning on wearing those fancy new pair of shoes for the first time on the day of the City to Surf? Don’t. New shoes can easily give you blisters and various other lower leg pains and can easily ruin all the hard work you’ve put in to get to the start line.
Develop good running technique
If you have the opportunity, get some coaching with an expert who can assess how you run and advise you on a good running technique. Proper running technique including posture, foot fall and cadence can help to reduce your fatigue and significantly increase your overall enjoyment of the City to Surf.
Make hills your friends
It’s a hilly course and prior preparation prevents poor performance! Be sure to include hills as a regular part of your training. Hill workouts develop speed and form. It takes extra effort to run uphill so you do not need to run as fast as you would on a flat section. Uphills are a great way to develop speed and strength with minimal pounding on the legs. But this also includes the often-forgotten need to practice running downhill. This is not just to help minimise the impact and injury that incorrect technique in downhill running can inflict on your body, but valuable time can be made up on the downward stretches, especially that last stretch of the City to Surf that takes you down into Campbell Parade, Bondi.
The City to Surf Heartbreak Hill
A lot of people focus on the infamous section of the City to Surf which starts approximately 6km into the course from the Rose Bay shops and then rises about 75m over the next 2km with an average grade of approx. 3-4%, otherwise known as “Heartbreak Hill”. In reality it’s not the gradient that affects most runners but the fact it’s the third climb in the race and by the time you’ve reached the top you’re past the halfway point of the course. Running is very much a mental game – if you’ve made this into a big thing in your head in the lead up, it will impact you much more significantly on the day.
The key is to pace yourself! By shortening your stride and maintaining a fast cadence or turnover of your feet, you’ll keep the intensity to a moderate level and be able maintain good momentum. Halfway up it flattens out into a steady, gentle incline. So get through the first half and then pick up your speed again when you pass the Anglican church on the left.
Don’t forget to hydrate before the City to Surf
Don’t just wing it on race day! That means being properly hydrated in the days leading up to the race and not just downing that bottle of electrolytes at the start line. As a general rule, men should aim to drink 2.5 litres of water each day and women roughly 2 litres. Avoid consuming a huge amount of water right before the race as it will leave your stomach feeling full, bloated and nauseous. This will also prevent the need to take that mid-race toilet break.
During the race you need to stay hydrated but you’re worried those drink stations will slow you down. To minimise this, avoid the area at the start of the station. This is where most of the crowd will head first and it becomes the most congested. Instead skirt around the mass of people and grab a drink from the far end of the drink station.
Know your fuel
Test this as part of your training sessions to find what works best for you and decide in advance what you plan to eat before and during the race. As the golden rule states “Don’t try anything new on Race Day”. If you’re going to use gels or energy supplements on the day make sure you train with them first and don’t change the type or the flavour you’re going to use on race day. Introducing something new on the day can upset your stomach and the last thing you want is a “gut bomb” while you’re running.
Generally, 14km doesn’t really warrant much in the way of energy gels anyway. Start the day with a good breakfast (ideally at least 2-3 hours before you expect to start running) of some natural yoghurt, oats and fruit or multigrain toast with banana and honey and you’ll have plenty of fuel to get you across that finish line.
Stay warm on the start line
Wear old clothes that you don’t mind donating to charity, such as that old jumper that’s been hiding at the back of your wardrobe, and then toss it once the gun goes being sure to get it out to the sides of your start group so people don’t trip over it! All discarded clothing is collected and distributed to charity so you’re staying warm and doing a good thing for those less fortunate.
Start slow and keep it steady
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and go out too hard. Unless you are right at the front of your group, just relax! Remember you have a journey ahead of you so try starting at a steady pace. Try and run the most direct line possible. This can be difficult depending on what wave you start in, but try to hug the bends, cut off the corners of wide sections and avoid wasting energy on useless metres by weaving constantly through the crowd, otherwise you could end up doing a lot more than 14km! If you run at a good tempo you should notice the crowd start to thin as you progress and you can then adjust to a more direct race line.
Key POI (points of interest)
- When you hit the William St tunnel, take the opportunity to look back, the sight is amazing.
- Once in the tunnel the noise of the footsteps and the calls from the thousands of runners is one of the highlights of the run.
- The band cranking out Rock Anthems on the awning of the Golden Sheaf Hotel. Last year it was TIm Rogers and You Am I!
- Look out for the blue Smurfs camped out around 4km from the start line. If you want to finish the race don’t accept the beers they might be offering you though!
- Cruising down to Bondi through kilometre 13 is an absolute dream and can be your fastest kilometre even if you are exhausted.
Above all else have fun!
Don’t forget to look around and enjoy the atmosphere. While you’re going to push yourself a little harder on race day, it’s not supposed to be torture! The City to Surf course provides some amazing views of Sydney with an amazing party feel the whole way down to Bondi. Cheering spectators, balcony parties, DJs and bands line the route and fellow participants dressed in ridiculous costumes will be cheering you on. If things get a little tough, fall into stride with someone, ask how they’re travelling and enjoy yourself!
Jase Cronshaw from V&B Athletic is our very own Endurance & Running expert