By Tim Emeny
It is 3am and I am wide awake with positive energy. Today is Run Melbourne day and I will be guiding Adam in the half marathon event. We have already run as a team more than 100 times and have a great understanding of each other. In a few hours we will be on the start line.
Adam and I travel to the event together and we put our bags into storage and meet up with Shay who will be bulldozing for us today. This will be new for me as in all previous events Adam and I have competed together we have never had the assistance of someone helping to clear a path for us. After we get through the welcome greeting and obligatory pump up by the MC, we make our way to the start line. We have left our move to the start line later than we should have and we are now having to negotiate our way to near the front of 5000 people. Adam hangs onto my shoulder as I relentlessly push our way forward through the crowd of runners. Most allow us to pass but occasionally someone protests, I push on regardless. It is essential we get near the front for safety reasons and we have a priority group "A" start entitling us to be near the front. We come across some of our training partners and they assist us in moving further forward.
We get to within 20 people of the front and hold this position. I am calm but focused, I have concerns about how narrow the starting area is. With just a small group in front of us it is going to be a vary fast hazardous start. I tell Adam about the start conditions so he has a full understanding about what we are going to do and be faced with when the start gun goes off.
The countdown to the start begins and then we are away. Adam starts with his hand on my shoulder to keep us narrow and to enable me to make quick changes to both direction and speed without verbal information. Within 20 meters we are already running at around 15kph and people are bumping into me regularly, Shay and I do whatever we can to keep the space in front of Adam clear. This is the most stressful part of the race for all of us. The roadway remains narrow but I push the speed up faster to get into clearer space. We need to do this to get Adam onto the tether, running on my shoulder drains a lot of energy from both Adam and myself.
The pack of runners starts to thin and we take the opportunity to swap to the tether which means Adam now takes control of our speed, being on the tether is better for energy conservation but we are now much wider and therefore require more space. The first corner is approaching a tight 90 degree RH bend, I tell Adam and count him into the corner whilst looking for hazards and trying to stop people from closing in on our space, we are still getting occasionally bumped. After the corner the road opens up and I move us to the right hand side of the road, it is the longer track but has far less congestion. Adam and I can now go to a more relaxed longer stride, we can only do this when it is clear as it exposes us to more risk of being tripped, but it means we are more energy efficient and can go faster. Instantly our speed starts to rise and I inform Adam he is going too fast and we ease back slightly, we are running at 4min 10sec per kilometre pace. Shay is still running in front of us trying to keep a clear path for us.
We progress for a few kilometres through easy sweeping bends and good road surfaces then it gets tricky again. Heading out of docklands there are multiple tram lines, uneven surfaces as well as road crossings with ramps that we have to navigate. I am constantly issuing instructions and providing information to Adam these obstacles effect our efficiency and speed. As we near the Yarra river we are still in heavy congestion, then the path narrows and we enter a series of twists, turns and ramps, it is a very busy section for us forcing us to slow down and waste energy. At this point Adam is constantly on and off my shoulder as we navigate through the challenges presented to us. We want to go faster but safety necessitates that we hold pace. There are huge crowds cheering us on creating a great atmosphere, we regularly hear "Go Achilles" which is fantastic.
Finally we get onto the wide open roads around the shrine area. Here for the first time we are clear and can run to our potential. I am grateful to be able to mentally relax a little more and I am sure Adam feels the same relief. As we stride out we start to pass a lot of people who caught us in the technical sections. The pace becomes too much for Shay who has completed a power of work clearing the way for us, he slowly drops back behind us, his job done.
We continue to run at our maximum sustainable pace for the next few kilometres, this part of the course is hilly and I feel my body heat levels building up so I know Adam will be getting hot as well. Whenever I can without stopping I grab a cup of water from the drink stations and tip the water over Adam's head to cool him down. We continue to stream past people and spend longer times on the long tether meaning we can use our arms more effectively.
With 5km to go we are both starting to tire a little and we encounter another technical section that slows us down, ramps, gutters, bollards, barriers and of course people. I think these technical sections are just as mentally draining they are physically draining.
We are clear again and there are large sections of crowd cheering us on encouraging us to go faster. Finally we are heading down the last hill towards the finishing chute as we go to turn into the chute there is a full step up gutter with no ramp and we are forced to come back to a walk to safely cross over, Adam vents his frustration at being forced back to a walk momentarily but we have no choice. Then it is a sprint down the finishing chute with the amazing crowd cheering. We cross over the finish line in a time of 1 hour 31 minutes and 51 seconds, this puts us in the top 4.6% of competitors. A personal best time for Adam and an amazing result.
Crossing the finish line is always a huge mix of emotions, elation and pride at what we have achieved, fatigue as I mentally relax, relief that I have been able to get my friend to the finish safely without falling and disappointment that the challenge has finished. After catching our breath we both start to think about what exciting challenge is next, then Adam suggests next year we do all three of the run Melbourne events on the same day, the half marathon the 10km and the 6km. I think he is trying to kill me, lol!
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