Standing on the Gold Coast Airport Marathon start line is one of the most exciting and daunting experiences you’ll ever encounter. The positive yet nervous energy emitting from more than 5,000 marathoners builds an unforgettable atmosphere that is completely unique to this race.
Before you set off on your 42.195 kilometre journey, a rousing motivational speech from non-other than Australia’s greatest marathoner and event ambassador Rob de Castella will precede the national anthem. Rob will tell you what you’re about to undergo will be the hardest thing you’ll most likely ever do. But he’ll also guarantee that the reward of finishing will outweigh the pain, discomfort and sacrifice you have endured to stand on the start line.
While Deek’s words ring in your ears, it’s important to reflect on how far you’ve come to get to this point. Australian female record holder, four-time Olympian and event ambassador Benita Willis believes it’s essential, while you’re standing on the start line, to go over your race plan, relax and understand that it’s normal to be nervous.
“Standing on the start line come race day, remember that it is fine to be nervous. Nerves are good. It shows that the race means a lot to you,” Benita says.
“Convert these nerves to extra energy in the race and you’ll be laughing. It’ll result in a good performance.
“Think to yourself on the start line, ‘I’ve done all I can to be here on the start line. I’m healthy and excited to be racing. I’ve just got to do my best, whatever that may be’.”
When the gun goes off, you’ll start to make your way south to Burleigh Heads. During the first kilometre you’ll pass hundreds of friends, family and supporters who will be leaning on the barriers with plenty of words of encouragement. Enjoy the beautiful Broadwater views on both your left and right as you cross the Southport Bridge. There will be dozens of boats and kayaks underneath you, trying to catch a glimpse of your perfect running style.
It’s important that you stay relaxed during these opening few kilometres. Don’t get carried away by the atmosphere and don’t feel the need to speed up if runners start to pass you. Stick to your race plan. Four-time winner of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon and event ambassador Pat Carroll explains how important it is not to disregard your goal time during the opening stages.
“It’s important to have a finish goal time in mind. When you have this, you will ideally run close to an even pace throughout,” Pat says.
From about the three kilometre mark you’ll get your first glimpse of the beautiful Pacific Ocean beaches on your left as you continue south along Main Beach Parade. This is a stunning part of the course with plenty of on-course entertainment. It’s a great opportunity to soak up the scenery and catch a glimpse of some of Gold Coast’s famous surf breaks. Pat Carroll admits that the option of taking in the picturesque scenery whilst running may vary for each runner depending on their goals.
“It depends on how focused you wish to be. You may be involved simply because it’s a picturesque place to run and if so, this run will be all about taking in all of the sights, which to a certain extent will help pass time,” Pat says.
“If you’re a more focused or intense runner, it will be more about channelling positive thoughts about what you hope to achieve. Taking in the surrounds will be less of a focus.”
Over the four, five and six kilometre points you’ll pass through Surfers Paradise. You’ll notice a strong crowd as the public grab a local brew of coffee and cheer you on from the sides of the street. Run past the famous ‘Surfers Paradise’ sign and the Q1, the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere. The course remains flat during this stage of the race with minimal deviations.
You’ll soon make a sharp right turn as you head towards the seven kilometre sign near Broadbeach. After running through Old Burleigh Road you will come out onto Broadbeach Boulevard at the eight kilometre mark. On your left will be Pratten Park, which is a beautiful place for families to unwind after race weekend and is only a stone’s throw away form the beach.
Upon reaching the 10 kilometre mark you will head down Hedges Avenue or ‘Millionaires Row’ as the locals call it. Here you can view some of the most luxurious homes on the Gold Coast. There is a small incline/decline, but just go with the flow of the runners and you won’t even notice.
A very slight right will take you onto Albatross Avenue. This area along with Hedges Avenue is extremely special for the everyday runner as the elites in the leading pack make their way back north. It’s quite a rare experience to be so close to these machines, and, it’s a great chance to offer support and encouragement to them. It is an amazing moment. Once they’ve passed you, it’s time to put your head down and focus on reaching the southern turn at Burleigh Heads.
Just after the 13 kilometre mark you’ll come to the end of Marine Parade and you will make a sharp right down Hythe Street. After a few hundred metres, Hythe Street will take you out on to the Gold Coast Highway as a means to get around the headland at Miami. You’ll spend approximately 500 metres on the highway before throwing a left down Kelly Avenue and then a right back on to The Esplanade. Along this stretch you will encounter some postcard views of Burleigh Heads. The crowd will begin to swell as you make your way to the southern turn.
The southern turn at Burleigh Heads is absolutely magic. The crowd here is one of the best you’ll experience on course and it serves as a great reminder that you’re nearing the half way stage of the race. Pat believes the crowd at Burleigh Heads plays an integral role in motivation as you head back north.
“Such an atmosphere can reinvigorate a runner. It’s almost like you get a second wind or a new lease of life,” Pat says.
You will come to a water station almost immediately after the turn. Pat believes it is essential that you plan how you’re going to attack the water stations during your training.
“Using water and aid stations has to be perfected in training. Perfect your race day nutrition plan in training and find out what works for you. Don’t experiment on race day,” Pat reinforces.
“Drink stations can be congested, so be prepared to slow down and always be aware that someone in front of you could trip or fall. So, have your wits about you.”
As you reach the 17 kilometre mark you’ll experience a few turns as you take a left onto Kratzmann Avenue and then a sharp right back on to the Gold Coast Highway. You’ll sit on the Gold Coast Highway for some time before darting right into Hythe Street and left onto Marine Parade. Make sure you don’t let these turns upset your rhythm.
From here until the 31 kilometre mark you’ll experience many of the same sights and sounds as you did when you made your way south. This time however you will be passing other runners and it’s a golden opportunity to offer or receive kind words of encouragement and support. The crowds on the streets will have increased especially as you make your way back past through Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise.
As you come towards the 30 kilometre mark, you’ll make a left down Waterways Drive and approach the Southport Bridge. It will feel like years since you first crossed it but remember that you’re just over 10 kilometres from reaching that finish line.
Runners aren’t afraid to admit that the 31 kilometre mark is one of the hardest and most overwhelming parts of the course. At this point you will pass the Race Precinct and more importantly, the finish line. It’s crucial that you don’t let this get to you. Pat agrees that it is difficult but offers some advice to runners experiencing discomfort at this stage.
“I know. It’s a tough one given you’re passing the finish line. You have to ignore such and focus on the turn around at Runaway Bay. Be invigorated by the crowd and take in those cheers,” Pat says.
You will experience a small incline/decline on the Gold Coast Highway as you pass the Race Precinct. The next stretch will be incredibly demanding and the dreaded ‘wall’ may come into play. Benita Willis advises that during this difficult stage that you should never doubt your ability and admits that even the best distance runners doubt their own ability to finish strongly.
“When I won the World Cross Country Championship in 2004, I too experienced doubt,” Benita says.
“What you need to remember is that it’s totally normal for anyone to doubt themselves. You need to rise above the doubt and back yourself as it’s you, and only you, who can choose to do this.
“Make a point this year to rise above your doubt and go for it. Confidence, patience and sheer determination are factors you need from here on in.”
After the 34.5 kilometre point you’ll continue heading straight on Marine Parade for approximately two kilometres before turning right onto Bayview Street. Continue for a few hundred metres and you will be greeted by the northern turn. Pat admits that at this point you should receive a massive confidence boost knowing you’re less than five kilometres away from finishing.
“The countdown will be on. You’ll be counting down the kilometres from five, four, three, two to one,” Pat says.
“Remind yourself that five kilometres is a walk in the park and that the finish line is getting closer by the second.
“The finish line does appear a long way away though. Five kilometres in a straight line can appear to be further than what it is.”
This is it. The final leg of the race. You may be in a lot of discomfort, but lucky for you, the views all the way to the finish line are tremendous. Enjoy the beautiful Broadwater and soak up the cheers from the dozens of teams lining the barriers on your left. As you approach the Race Precinct, take a slight left into the redeveloped Gold Coast Aquatic Centre and head straight to the finish chute. Here you will be greeted by hundreds of supporters along the barriers and the grandstand.
Cross the finish line in elation and soak up every second of that moment.