Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM) 2015Race Experience by FatBird Anthony
This was the 5th year that Team FatBird was appointed the Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM) training partner (Singapore), and the 4th time I made a trip personally up to the beautiful Gold Coast area for the GCAM race. After a hiatus from the Full Marathon category (I last did it in 2011 and then did the 10km, HM in 2013 and HM in 2014), I decided to revisit the FM course to get more intimate with how the course runs and the specific organization details and community cheers and activities along the way.
After our 12-week Ops Kookaburra training to prepare runners for GCAM, along with a series of workshops, briefings and lead up runs, I joined the many FatBirds and Kookaburras to scoot off to Gold Coast in the newest Scoot Dreamliner on Thursday night – very modern systems and spacious to boot.
We arrived to Gold Coast on Friday and went immediately to the Race Expo for race pack collection, a little bit of shopping, before checking into our assigned Hotel Grand Chancellor just by the popular Surfers’ Paradise. A welcome cum carbo-loading seafood dinner awaited our tour participants as well as a number of Team Singapore who were not with the package. It was a nice load-up of good food in the company of friends and fellow marathon mates.
Saturday saw the 10km and 5.7km fun run and we had a number of runners who PB’ed the race in the usual great weather of Gold Coast. The rest of the runners spent some time on leisure activities and an early rest in preparation for the FM/HM the next morning. I too had an easy day, chatting with fellow runners about my experiences with GCAM and preparations for a good race.
Race morning was a collected calm for all of us as we were whisked to race site at South Port by the specially arranged coach from Scenic Travel. All runners were well prepared for the cooling weather, and it was great that the forecasted drizzle did not happen and the air was not as cold as last year.
We arrived to the Tourism Events Queensland tent when we gathered for some group photos before settling into the respective race pens according to our target timings. I lined up with Group 1 of our Kookaburra training mates, along with a few from Group 2 (Lily, Wendy, Raymond) at the 3:45h Pace Line. Our plan was to take it easier at first and move up when the opportunity arise.
The FM race flagged off on time without much fanfare in about 13-14C, very nice weather indeed for a long run. The crowd was thick initially but we took our time to just follow and move up accordingly. The first 10km had us moving up from 5:30min/km pace though to 5:15min/km pace (overtaking the 3:45h group) and then settling at about 5:05min/km pace. Some of the Kookaburras were at about 5:30min/km pace hoping to get their sub-4h marathon PB.
The 10km flew by and we progressed well into the next 10km, U-turning at the 15km mark at Burleigh Heads in the midst of loud cheers from the supporters and crowd. What was evident this year were the larger and more boisterous crowd support, providing runners with that much needed morale boost and motivation. We enjoyed the next 10km and maintained about 5:05h pace.
Drinks support was ample with alternate Endura isotonic and mineral water stops, proving the much needed hydration especially with the looming heat from the bright sunshine in our faces as we steadied along from 21km-31km. The sun was fierce and blazingly hot this year (compared with all other previous years I’ve participated in) giving quite a lot of runners heat cramps and early ‘walls’ to contend with. The ambulances were out in full force plying the course and attending to those who felt the full effects of the heat.
My pace dropped to about 5:09 but I could see Han Chee still maintaining strongly in front. I did a body sense and didn’t feel any niggles and was glad to sustain on till we reached back to the South Port start line at about 31km. The crowd there was just great, which gave us a boost to continue to run strong for the final 10-11km.
Passing South Port and entering the 32km mark was where the marathon actually began for this was both a physical and mental stretch, coupled with some slopes to test those tired legs. This year, the usually lonely stretch was full of supporters cheering, along with the announcer cheering us on, kudos to the race organizer for lifting the atmosphere here.
After passing the cheers, my pace dropped to about 5:20 at around the 34-35km mark as fatigue begin setting in. I braced myself to maintain my running form and focused on breathing right to feed sufficient oxygen to the tiring muscles. There were some minor twitches at various parts of the legs, causing me to slow down the pace and adding on electrolyte tabs. That allowed me to pass the mini bridges and onto the final stretch at 38km mark.
It was from here that cramps threatened, and I had to slow down even further and just hope that nothing huge happens. Justin who had passed me just earlier was also slowing down, seemingly from erupting cramps as well. Each time I tried to surge and increase pace, the cramps would threaten to erupt. So, I was just contend to pace it at around 5:35 all the way for a comfortable finish in 3hr40min flat.
The finish with the Grandstand Galleries on both sides always made us feel special, and provided that additional high for my raised arms as I cross the finish line. Kim, who did an awesome 3:29 PB was there to shake our hands and welcome us at the finish. I congratulated Justin on his 3:39h PB, and together we had some orange slices, water before collecting our finisher medals and tees. The finisher medal was large and nice, with a change to a rectangular shape this year.
En route to the TEQ Hospitality tent, I met a couple more runners from Singapore (Jing Jie 3:09h, Patrick 3:21h, Florian 3:23) who did very well, and invited them to join us for the SG50 Team Singapore Group Photo at the tent. There was a hive of activity and excitement at our Hospitality Tent with many of the Half Marathon and Full Marathon runners getting PBs and BQs, sharing their success stories and awesome experiences with GCAM.
We had the good fortune to spot Ryan Hall and his entourage where we requested for photos and autographs. More runners returned with great results, especially to Kookaburras Kim, Lily, Wendy, Raymond, Andrew, Bee Peng who all did very well with sub-4h marathons and massive PBs to boot. All were jubilant and busy taking photos, and at 12pm sharp, we had our official group photo taken with all Singapore runners joining in.
It was a great experience for all, even for a few who suffered heat cramps but yet managed to overcome to get in decent results. I will like to commend the GCAM organizers for putting up an excellent race and making value-added enhancements, worthy of her IAAF Gold Label status. In the words of the number of Singapore marathoners who did GCAM15, “We Will Be Back!”.
Run Kookaburra, Run Kookaburra, Our Race Has Turned To Gold!
Photo Contributions from Official GCAM, Alan Tan, Han Chee, Andrew Tan, Lily Tan