Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Queens Baton Relay 2018 Commonwealth Games

Running with the baton

These blessings don’t come along that often, so when they do, you grab them with both hands. 

Anytime you get to do something that Kurt Fearnley is part of has to be cool. 

The process began seemingly ages ago, with nominations and multiple round of selection. Once I acknowledged my application was in the system it was best just to forget about it and wait and see. 

So imagine my surprise when I received the email that said “you’re in”.  I remember the moment and even exactly where I was. I was in Chicago and it was the day before the Chicago Marathon.  

I was sworn to secrecy.  We weren’t allowed to tell anyone – family, friends, no one- until the official announcement. When it was finally public it was surreal.  But it kept going up in layers of surrealness! 

One day the uniform arrived.  OK, that’s getting real now. 
Then one day the information package with actual times and places arrived.  Oh wow.

It's really happening!  'Surrealness' might not be a real word, but its what I felt!

Now to complicate things my  work dates meant I was due to be away out of the country on the day, but with the kind permission of my boss I was able to skip home for a couple of days so I could participate.  I'm used to marathons, but not this type:  it meant leaving Europe on Wednesday evening, arriving Friday, running Saturday and then straight back to Europe again.  More time in planes than anywhere else – and kept me on edge for any potential missed flights.  But it was worth it.  I've flown around the world to run marathons, but never flown half way across the globe to run a leisurely 200 metres before!  Oh, the things we do!

That’s how special I considered this to be.  Not even being across the globe was going to stop me from missing out. 

The day arrived and excitement and adrenaline overcame me.  Its a great cure for jet lag! 

I arrived early morning at the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre for the briefing.
Here I was surrounded by instant best friends!  Some legends – like Olympian Steve Hooker -  and , more impressively, some real community champions. Here I was rubbing shoulders with people who were literally saving others lives.  Everyone had a chance to share their story. I felt pretty humbled. I was representing the YMCA and here were some of the most impressive people I could ever want to meet. Sure there was some television celebrities as well, but who cares when you're in this esteemed company. 
Wearing the uniform meant instant BFF!
I say best friends because we immediately bonded. We were all high on adrenaline and eager to share the experience with each other,  We laughed and giggled and everyone commented on their desire to avoid the ultimate embarrassment … dropping the baton!

Soon we were on the bus and dropped at our point. Briefings of what to do and expect seemed to go in a constant swirl. A special mention of the volunteers who were guiding us, helping us and driving the buses. Exceptional.  Delightful. Quite amazing ambassadors. 
"Pass the baton"
The actual run with the baton was short and seemingly over in seconds. Just 200m. I took the advice of the briefing team and made sure I walked some of it .. so I could soak it in.’

The baton itself was spectacular. Beautiful.  Made with many unique elements and worthy of studying.

So with a hug and a thanks I was waved goodbye by the person who passed me the baton and then, with family and friends on the sidelines and cheering (thanks so much), off I went.

Special family time!
My venue for running my relay leg was special too. It was Albert Park, a course I have been lucky to run many times in events and especially the Melbourne Marathon and where I have watched so many Australian Formula One Grand Prix.

Its amazing what can go through your mind in such a short space of time.  Id been preparing for this (on all those long haul flights to get there). I wanted to think of all those who helped me, and who I had been able to hopefully help. I wanted this to be an intentional time and it was. 

Then it was over.  It seemed like the fastest 200m I've ever run!

My 200m was a small part of a very long journey ... but I was a part of it!

We returned to the pick up point and shared stories in the bus and followed the others. It was such a  joyous event. Total happiness. No sadness here at all.  The sense of national pride was like how I remember being in Sydney for the 2000 Olympics.  It was really “up”.

I was proud, I was humbled and I was thankful.  I felt very special to have this opportunity. 
I got back to the airport and flew back with much time to think about it.  I tried to soak it in.  It was unique and special. 

I'd do it again tomorrow.

Thanks Your Majesty for a rare privilege bestowed upon me!

10th February 2018

Monday, November 20, 2017

One word: scenic. Lausanne Marathon, October 2017

This one can be summed up in one word :  scenic.
A picturesque setting for a typically Swiss event.

Cobble stones.  Ouch!

Run on an out and back course it starts in the heart of Lausanne and finishes outside the Olympic Museum. The journey hugs the lake passing through historic cities and countryside alike. It’s really very pretty and quite unique for a marathon.

It’s a small event – just 1478 runners for the marathon – but on the same day also includes a 10km and half as well.  Interestingly the half starts at the marathon’s turn around point and comes back, so there is always something to look at.

It’s a late start – 10.10am – which means you can travel (as I did from Geneva) and easily make the bib pick up and start.

Bravo Lausanne!


This is Switzerland. Need I say more! They take your bag from race start to bag collection - its all so organised and (therefore) easy
Flat - and always something to look at. Scenic is the one word remember! Good aid stations. 
A quiet Sunday morning in a small quiet town is what it had the feel of. 
Not that many, and they cheer with bells - not signs
It happens the day before the event so I didn't get to see it - but its small and they turn the tent over to bib pick up on race day
Runner’s pack
A nice long-sleeve shirt and after the race - oh boy, free beer! Even if its senseless beer (non alcoholic) it doesn't matter, it tastes great. 
One toe nail - the same old - they might never heal!

The start. Hands up who's ready for some pain?

And we're off...

Great memories ... cobble stones and villages one moment .....

.... and beautiful autumnal wineries and countryside the next.

Obviously early on as I can still manage a smile 

Beautiful autumn

Just above the steeple is a flock of birds. Spectacular as they swooped and worked together to catch the bugs. 

Gotta love a volunteer handing out Swiss chocolate!

Yeah, OK, I might be stuffing my face with that chocolate here!

My favourite photo I took (It's made a great screen saver)

The Africans.  2:28

Spectacular isn't it

How I'll remember this event.  Scenic - the lake - the changing sky...
... the lake.

How I was feeling right about here

Only Switzerland has signposts to important things like Nespresso stores!! 

The finish shoot. Red carpet treatment!

I'm always happy at the finish line ...... 
........ and I'm always thankful.

A selfie at the finish line!

The obligatory daggy kiss-the-medal photo

22nd October, 2017

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Chicago .... my kind of town, my kind of marathon

The songwriter got it right:

"Now this could only happen to a guy like me
And only happen in a town like this
So may I say to each of you most gratefully
As I throw each one of you a kiss
This is my kind of town, 

My kind of town, 
My kind of people too
People who smile at you."

And there were 45,000 other runners smiling at me and thousands more on the sidelines cheering.

I'm still smiling because my run in Chicago can’t be separated from the journey that got me there.

Way back in 2009 I was introduced to Team World Vision, a US concept where runners fundraised to support clean water projects for children in Africa via World Vision. I was immediately hooked.
A great cause, a great charity and - most important – a real solution. Over the years I’ve worn the orange Team World Vision top in many memorable runs.  New York, Melbourne and others.

I always remembered seeing this photo of the Chicago Marathon and thinking "wow":
Team World Vision Chicago in the early days (This year the group was too big for a photo!)

I had the pleasure to meet the Director, Michael Chitwood, and run with him in Melbourne.
I told him how since I had seen this picture that running for TWV in Chicago was on my bucket list, He said, "when we started back 12 years ago there were 100 people who ran".  Fast forward to 2017 and I was lining up with 2,000 TWV runners.  That's a lot of orange!

My ballot entry came through and the travel planets aligned. Let’s do it.

The fundraising was a joy when 18 of my nearest and dearest friends from Melbourne helped raise nearly $2,000 to contribute to the programme in one of the most enjoyable evenings ever. We will talk for many years about how special that night was – thanks Phil Readman, who it couldn’t have been done without. Overall the target for the 2,000 runners was $2.5 million for the event. That’s US$2.5m.  Wow.

Team World Vision pre-race pasta party
So here I was, at a sold out pre-event pasta dinner and we were already helping 43,190 people with more to come. This was inspiring.  I got to meet dual gold decathlon Olympian  – and “the world’s greatest athlete” – Ashton Eaton.  He was one of those rare celebrity athletes who was genuine in supporting, hanging out and, in discussion, being genuinely more interested in hearing about my race plans.  Top bloke.
Ashton Eaton
His wife Bri, also an Olympic medalist, ran her first marathon the next day for TWV. Superstar athletes, wearing orange, just like us.  Her husband cheering on the sidelines, just like us.

The night was full of church leaders and pastors, as well as the top fundraisers who were recognised. Kudos to one who raised $26,000 after having injured herself 6 weeks out and couldn’t run, so she poured the time she would have been training into fundraising and raised US$1,000 per mile. (And she was one of the loudest cheerers as we ran past!), These fundraisers weren't a one off thing either - the culture of support means that they now do this year after year.
The oldest fundraiser/runner in the room.  86 not out!
The guest speaker shared from Phillipans 2: "In humility value others higher than yourself". This well summed up the event - and actually the entire weekend.

At 5.30am the next morning we were all in a tent near the Chicago Marathon start singing 'Amazing Grace'. It was as passionate as the Grand Final singing of Richmond’s victory the week earlier!
Then it was a sea of orange as we marched to the start line ...

Chicago, hat’s off to you.  You showed the world how an event should be run. Brilliant.

Security, just days after the horrific Vegas shooting, was superb to calm an edgy field., 

Technically, this was the modernist of modern events.  At the Expo all the bib checks were scanned and pre-loaded so as you walked up to collect it you were personally welcomed and handed your gear. Impressive.

It was the 40th anniversary of the event and the City really embraces it brilliantly. Unlike some of our Aussie events where I feel like we are a hindrance and inconvenience to the city, here they say “we’re closing this city down for the day and this is our city's event and we’re going to stand here and make it great and cheer you all the way.”

And the cheering is amazing. What else makes people stand, sometimes many people deep, for hours cheering on random strangers?  This idea of just coming out on Sunday and cheering on as a thing to do intrigues me.  Everyone is there for a good time and the atmosphere is contagious.

They had the best signs – so creative.  Lots of political ones like “You run better than our Government” and anti-Trump statements as well.
This event treats all the runners like VIPs. It’s all about us.  After the event I had a goodie bag so full it was bursting with so much stuff!  Apples, bananas, water, popcorn, a shop full of Gatorade etc.
And who doesn't love that they hand you a beer straight after decorating you with a medal!  That was sweet!

All the drinks were needed because the day was hot – up to 70 which, coming out of Melbourne’s winter made for a toll. Thankfully there were plenty of drink stops and so so many volunteers along the road.

But what's with that road? Come on Chicago, do some road works.  The track was really rough with potholes and manholes everywhere waiting to trip you.  I saw one guy go down – hard – and you had to really watch your feet. Thankfully the course was rarely crowded with both sides of the major roads open. This was great and a big difference from most events.

The funniest photos of the day.  Check out my face - the fake smile (really a grimace) shows the pain....

The course I would describe as OK.  Chicago doesn’t have the landmarks of a New York or Paris. Sometimes I felt like I was just running any old place.  Yeah it was cool to run through 29 Burroughs of Chicago but their Greek town or China town are great but hardly world famous. But what a skyline .....

The on course entertainment was good – the Elvis impersonator was a favourite. I could hear it before I saw him and, let’s just say, his voice was a better impersonation than his red velvet looks!

This is Pastor Steve Spears. He ran from LA to NY. As you do!

Says it all. 
Charities were everywhere, someone said charities from running will raise over half a billion dollars this year. Impressive.

Organizing 45,000 runners is always amazing.  Again, the logistics were perfect and meant it ran as smooth as anything.

There were some notable Aussies there too like Lisa Weightman (6th outright), Kurt Fearnley
(2nd) and Michael Shelley (10th).

That's what 45,000 runners looks like 

Chicago you even know how to organise perfect blue skies!
Chicago will always be – for me – remembered as Team World Vision and being part of a team of 2000 people raising water for 50,000 people.

With TWV's Michael Chitwood and Rusty Funk.  Got a lot of time and love for these guys.


Its the first time I've ever given this score but well deserved.

Great open roads, nice and flat ... with one sneaky rise with 300m to go that feels like Everest!'

The aid stations were excellent. Again there is nothing runners couldn’t ask for. Everything is there and in abundance.
This is the only time I will ever know what its like to compete with a Grand Final crowd

Excellent. Oh yeah, and did I say I got to meet running royalty, Deena Kastor  
Runner’s pack
A nice Nike t-shirt and after the race - oh boy, so much stuff! 
One blister. 

Take it out songwriter ....

"Chicago is
Why I just grin like a clown
It's my kind of town

Chicago is my kind of razzmatazz
And it has, all that jazz

And each time I leave, Chicago is
Tuggin' my sleeve, Chicago is
- the marathon - Chicago is
for the runners. Chicago is
One town that won't let you down
It's my kind of town..."
Obligatory daggy kiss the medal photo

8th October, 2017