Getting the raceday outfit sorted the night before the race was more challenging than anticipated.
I charged manically around the apartment pulling boxes from shelves, routing through drawers and emptying out handbags and backpacks. “WHO DOESN’T PROVIDE SAFETY PINS?!” I yelled in Dan’s general direction, not expecting an answer.
Safety pin number 1 located in my makeup drawer. Probably shoved in there having removed it from a Reiss or Whistles purchase, or another shop thoughtful enough to use safety pins instead of those horrible plastic things I always worry about breaking my teeth on.
Safety pin 2 located in the top drawer of my bedside table, hiding under a receipt-mountain and a collection of completely useless loyalty cards for shops on the other side of the planet.
Dan gets all the credit for locating safety pin 3. It had been hiding in the bottom of his man-drawer.
Three safety pins for two race bibs, at 9PM on a Saturday night. I was freaking out.
I did what every good runner does and took to social media to find out whether the Sydney Morning Herald had screwed over anyone else with a safety-pin-less-race-pack. Yes, it seems they had; apparently there was some kind of safety pin drought.
I donned my nike frees and legged it down to Woolies to continue the safety pin search. Ten dollars and ten minutes later, I was the relieved owner of a mini-sewing kit containing an extra two pins. I could make this work.
Raceday morning. Dan, five safety pins and I, jogged the five minutes from our home in Woolloomooloo up to the SMH Half Marathon start line. It was a beautiful autumn morning; the air was cool and the sun was coming up but it was overcast. Perfect half marathon conditions. We warmed up in our starting pen with a friendly Scot who kindly donated an extra safety pin to me, having heard my tale of haberdashery-woe.
At the start line I knew the spin and body pump classes had been working; I felt stronger than ever and so ready to race. I was going to stick to my plan of running around a 5:30 pace, which would result in a new PB of sub 1:58.
I crossed the start with first-time-half-marathoner and first-time-pacer Dan. 4:42 flashed up on my Garmin after the first KM. Bugger. My Garmin was clearly broken or had failed to pick up the satellite properly. Dan confirmed that his Garmin was showing a crazy-fast time; we must have dropped GPS and would be forced to recalculate our splits for the rest of the race. Not ideal.
“Slow down”. This was Dan’s mantra from 5K to 15KM. It turns out the Garmin was right and we were stupid so full of adrenaline that we flew through the first 5KM. I had broken the golden rule of racing by going out way too fast. Dan pulled back and ran behind me, trying to slow me down.
Whoever said the course was flat or undulating lied. The middle section of the course left Darling Harbour and headed up into Pyrmont where I tackled hill after hill before turning back towards the city and up towards the Harbour Bridge, ready for another climb up the Cahill Expressway.
This is where the work starts.
3KM to go. The Garmin gods confirmed what I woke up knowing – it was a PB-setting day. The big question was how much I could smash it by. Somewhere around here, Dan asked what I had left in the tank. 1:50, it seemed, was not beyond the realms of possibility.
We approached Hyde Park and turned onto the Domain, overtaking runner after runner as we reach Mrs Macquarie’s Point. Our apartment was on one side, the botanic gardens on the other. This was my daily route; the section I returned to day after day; the final hill that I dreaded but knew well. Dan was ahead of me now, pulling me forward and urging me to give everything I had.
I kept picking runners to overtake; willing myself on towards the finish. I thought I had nothing left in the tank, but as I turned back towards Hyde Park, I found another gear; sprinting with Dan to the finish.
There was only one refuelling option.
As I sunk into the sofa in a state of post-run-champagne-drinking-bliss, I started dreaming of a 1:45