Categorized | Featured, Inspirational

Welcome Home Celebration Marathon Adventure

The Welcome Home Celebration Marathon brought together a number of incredible people from across Australia with more than 20 friends meeting up in Milsons Point early on Sunday morning 1st June. There were runners that had made the travels to Sydney from Melbourne, Gold Coast and Canberra especially for the event and it was with much pride that so many incredible people had been compelled to share in the World Record achievements.

It sure had been a big job to bring together this event and at the same time organise the Virtual Marathon since the return home hot on the heels of the mission of a lifetime and it was very exciting to be able to get out and run around some of the most spectacular scenery in my home city of Sydney.

The formalities of handing out the “Team Marathon Man” shirts,issuing course maps and meeting up with runners, families and support crew soon moved on to bringing everyone together to preview the adventure ahead across Sydney prior to meeting with the Channel 7 film crew ahead of the Sunrise interview scheduled for the next morning. It was very nice to have the support from friends representing the Achilles running team in Sydney. Lining up on the start line we all gathered as one to sing the Australian National Anthem and were soon making our way as a large pack along the course.

Following a little uncertainty with the leaders reading the map we were soon greeted by some spectacular scenery along Sydney Harbour that required a slight course correction to get back on track and soon the field started to separate on the way to Bondi Beach. The weather had been overcast with light rain falling intermittently prior to the start although we were to be blessed with the weather ideal for running. It was great to share the start with some friends that I had not seen in more than a year and with new friends to catch up briefly on the run.

It was a real highlight to run with the iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge as the backdrop and we were fortunate to have a good friend in Carl Horn capture some great photos and video footage of all running throughout the day. It was on the approach across the Harbour Bridge that the Security must have wondered what was happening when confronted by so many “Team Marathon Man” shirts. There were few others out on this cool Sunday morning and it was not until arriving at Sydney Harbour that there were a few more people spotted. It was at this time that a few of us took the opportunity to stop in for a quick pit stop and then make the dash to catch up with a few others.

The intention of the day was to enjoy the experience and make the most of the scenery capturing photos and sharing stories along the way. There were a number of opportunities to capture the best for Sydney with the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House close up with most of us taking the traditional ‘selfie’ and stopping to share the moment along the way with each other for some memories that will last a lifetime. The significant journey of travelling the world was brought to mind when running into the Botanical Gardens I spotted a familiar shirt passing by that on reflection was a shirt that I owned myself. In fact the couple running by were from the US with a Myrtle Beach Marathon Finishers shirt and could not help but give a shout out and mention that the weather in Sydney was indeed lots better than the rain that greeted us when lining up for the Myrtle Beach Marathon in South Carolina earlier in the year. It was a reminder of how small a world we live in and that the passion of running is shared by so many people from all over the world.

It was good to pass by a number of runners from the inspiring members of the Achilles Running Club out for the regular Sunday morning run in the Botanic Gardens before running into the Channel 7 cameras and making a stop for photos with the Harbour Bridge as the backdrop. There were a few opportunities on the journey where we all as a group had the chance to stop for a photo and these were real highlight moments on the adventure across town. The  course would then take us up past the Andrew Boy Charlton Pool and then sweep around Woolloomoolloo Bay and the notorious McElhone Stairs otherwise known as the “Stairs of Death”. It was very funny when approaching the top of the stairs Rick Patzold put out the challenge to guess the total number of stairs as we slowly made our way to the top and while I have thankfully not been on these stairs for some time I happened to be spot on with 112 as though it was a some kind of special ‘Marathon Man’ premonition. It was a real buzz in getting this spot on almost like it was destiny or perhaps simply tapping into the memory bank from previous years making the climb.

There were now around 10 of us as a group within a few hundred metres and this for me was a real highlight in being able to share the journey with so many good people close by as opposed to the many hours running by myself around the world. It was not long before there were a few searching to make sure we were on track with most having put maps away this was a little like three blind mice leading the way through the city. The path towards Bondi Beach was soon clear as we continued towards Elizabeth Bay and through the scenic Rushcutters Bay Park and past the home of the famous Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia in New Beach Road, Darling Point. It was not long before we were on the City 2 Surf course down William Street and through Edgecliff with the target to reach the Rose Bay Wharf with support crew to meet up for a drink stop.

It was a little strange running back around some very familiar streets having seen so much of the world and it was great to share the journey with some great people. In passing through Double Bay and then past The Cranbrook School it was not long before Rose Bay Wharf was in sight and by this time the water stop really was keenly anticipated. The focus on arrival was finding some water and checking in with everyone to make sure we were all doing fine as we approached the half way stage. It was a real surprise to randomly see Emma and April Forster, the sister and niece of one of my best friends William at Rose Bay for a quick catch up prior to heading out to take on the road towards the finish line in Bondi Beach.

The notorious ‘Heartbreak Hill’ was now front of mind with the challenge ahead even greater after running more than a half marathon to get there. In reaching the Rose Bay shops both Sarah-Jane Marshall and myself stopped in to pick up a coca-cola to prepare for what was ahead. It was a classic moment when on levying I spotted the local “Bondi View” newspaper and a photo of myself on the front page providing the perfect photo opportunity.

The challenge of climbing Heartbreak Hill really tested us all with some perhaps not knowing what was ahead storming the hill to soon slow to a crawl and others more familiar with what was ahead taking a steady as she goes approach to reach the top and ensure there was something left in the tank to keep pushing towards the finish line. In reaching the top of the climb we then headed towards Christison Park and through to another Sydney special landmark in Watsons Bay at The Gap with time for a quick photo opportunity.

It was then time to focus on the first approach into Bondi Beach with a similar path followed by many running into the finish line at the annual City 2 Surf with the major difference being that we would be travelling a little more than 14km. This was a great opportunity to share some time on the run with a good friend in Jane Sturzacker who had made the journey from Melbourne to share the marathon adventure. The approach along Military Road in Dover Heights took us past a good friends home with the whistle coming out and a call made to check in with Chris as we made our way a little closer towards the finish. In reaching North Bondi there was time for another quick drink stop at the shops and then spotting a number of people out sharing breakfast I couldn’t resist pulling out the whistle to help clear a path before crossing Campbell Parade and making the way towards impressive new North Bondi Surf Club development.

Arriving into the Bondi Beach check point it was time for a pit stop and a quick group photo where times were taken for all runners with a further 10km ahead before the celebrations could start. In making our ways along the promenade there were a number of people out for a early morning walk or run along the beach with some braving the cold in the surf. This was the ultimate home coming returning for the first time to Bondi Beach since returning home and it was great to retrace familiar steps towards South Bondi towards the iconic Bondi Icebergs and along the ocean front.

The well worn tourist path along the spectacular eastern suburbs ocean front connects Bondi Beach to Maroubra and was quite surreal returning to an area that I had travelled over so many times in the past. There were few changes spotted along the course since my time away with one of the few changes being a new toilet block and cafe at Tamarama Beach. It was great to see the family friendly Bronte Beach surrounded by sandstone cliffs and the relaxed atmosphere of the green gassed park as we passed by the Bronte Surf Club that has the honour of being the oldest Surf Club in the World since 1903.

The next challenge would be the traditional hill leading towards Waverley Cemetery which now has a footbridge that bypasses the final resting place of more than 80,000 since 1877 including many legendary Australians such as the writer Henry Lawson and cricketer Victor Trumper. It was expected that it would be necessary to weave our way between tourists and found that it was not too challenging given the overcast conditions on the way towards Clovelly where I met up with a few others and we reflected on the amazing adventure and stilled ourselves for the final run home towards the finish line in Bondi Beach. Returning past the Cemetery I spotted a girl from Italy that had been doing hill repeats the entire time since passing by the first time around and shared an exhausted few words and a smile.

I was looking forward to the opportunity to bring the journey to a close and as we retraced our steps towards Bondi Beach I had a long time tradition of bringing the final stages home as hard as possible with a personal point in the course that had been nicknamed as the start to the “Kamikaze” run with the literal translation helping to provide the “spirit wind” to guide me home into Bondi Beach and past many out for a relaxing Sunday stroll. It was great to first catch up and then fly past the guys before all sharing the run along the Promenade together to cross the finish line as a group.

What an adventure it had been across Sydney to help celebrate the World Record achievements. It was time to now hand out the Marathon Man Finishers Medals and capture the moment while we all waited as a group for those still out on the course to cross the line. There was a special moment after a little while when a good friend Chris Jankulovski made his way to the finish line with the World Record Certificate held high before we all made our way to share some food and good stories at the North Bondi RSL.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and everyone that were a part of the day with all running, families and friends providing support, Jeff Gilling for helping to manage logistics support, Stephen Kibble for race timing support, Michael McGrath for his help with the course design, Ashworth Awards for support with the outstanding Marathon Man medals, Wilfred Lax and family helping with pre race and Jane Sturzacker post race accommodation, Myron Zlotnick for transport to the start line. This day will be remembered for a lifetime and will always be special thanks to the support of so many incredible people. Feeling truly blessed right now…

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