My 2023 Sydney Marathon adventure was nothing short of spectacular. The journey began with an early morning flight from Singapore to Sydney aboard Scoot Airlines, landing for the first time in this vibrant city just before lunch.
Upon arrival, we were picked up by the Sydney Super Shuttle service from arrivals and within an hour we were checked in to the Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel which was conveniently nestled right beside the iconic Sydney Harbour. The hotel's proximity to Circular Quay and the Sydney Opera House made it the ideal base for our marathon weekend. It was perfect for a quick shakeout run, allowing me to soak up the city's energy and breathtaking views.
But the highlight of the day was undoubtedly the Sydney Marathon VIP Dinner at O Bar and Dining, a truly magnificent experience. Located on the 47th floor of Australia Square, this restaurant and cocktail bar boasted panoramic 360-degree views of Sydney's glittering skyline and the magnificent Sydney Harbour. Arriving just before sunset, I was treated to the sight of the city bathed in a golden glow.
To top it off, the evening featured a delectable spread of Modern Australian cuisine crafted by the health-conscious chef Michael Moore. Every bite was a culinary delight, and it was clear that this meal was a special prelude to the marathon ahead.
The event was graced by two distinguished personalities - Sydney Marathon Event Director Wayne Larden and Olympian Steve Moneghetti AM, who also serves as a board member for the Sydney Marathon. Their presence added an extra layer of excitement and significance to the event as the Sydney Marathon looks set to cement its place as the Seventh Abbott World Marathon Major.
Having personally ran in the Marathon event at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Steve shared with us about the amazing evolution of the race across the years and the concerted effort to improve the on-course experience for participants - with this edition featuring an even faster, flatter and more scenic route that has a start / finish area in proximity to each other and the space to accommodate many more participants and supporters. This new and improved Sydney Running Show presented by ASICS also has more aid stations and on-course entertainment and cheer zones along the route and is very well supported by the local community.
When asked what the “star” factor of the Sydney Marathon is that sets it apart from all the other marathons across the world, Steve did not hesitate to reply that it is the warmth of the local sporting community and how they embrace sporting events as a collective that adds a different dynamic to the event. This Marathon course is also iconic as it includes two world renowned components - the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House and he believes the finish line experience is one of the best marathon finishes in the world!
As I retired to my hotel room that night, I couldn't help but feel grateful for the incredible start to this trip. With the Marathon looming on the horizon, I was not only physically prepared but also emotionally and mentally charged, ready to take on the challenge and explore more of this beautiful city in the days to come.
Day 2 was all about getting into the marathon spirit. The day kicked off with a short shake out run with some quick strides to explore the Harbour Area (to try and catch a glimpse of Benny the Seal) and stretch out the legs before heading out to the Race Expo to collect my race pack and bib! This year’s expo showcased an array of international and local running brands. It was a runner's paradise, with the latest gear, gadgets, and apparel on display. As I wandered through the expo, I could not help but feel a sense of excitement and anticipation building up.
After collecting my race pack and browsing through the expo with the other Singaporean runners, we decided to take advantage of the amazing weather to have a stroll around city centre and the parks with a second coffee before it was time to focus on fuelling up for the big race. We found a nice pasta restaurant near the hotel to get our favourite pre-race ritual done – carbo-loading. With my belly full of pasta and my heart full of anticipation, I headed back to my hotel room, ready to rest and prepare my gears for the big day ahead.
Race day itself turned out to be an incredible experience from start to finish. Had an early breakfast in the room – kudos to the Marriot staff for the thoughtful pre-race breakfast pack – before lacing up and doing a final check on my gear and nutrition.
One of the things I really appreciated was the late race start. The warmer temperatures in Sydney – around 17-18 degrees on race morning - also allowed me to make my way over to the start line in my race kit with just my race kit (singlet and race shorts) and dri-fit a tee on, a stark contrast to the chilling conditions I'd experienced previously at some other marathons. It was a relief to stay nice and warm before the flag-off!
The convenience of public transport made the morning hassle-free. With just one stop from Wynyard to Milsons Point and the added perk of free train rides for participants with their race bibs, it couldn't have been more convenient. The high frequency of trains ensured that no one was left waiting. The world class race organization continued to impress with seamless bag drop facilities and plenty of porta-toilets available, eliminating any pre-race stress. In addition, the race site itself offered a picturesque view of the Sydney Opera House across the water from beneath the Harbour Bridge, where many international participants were all snapping pre-race photos at.
A pleasant surprise awaited me as I found myself allocated to the Priority Start Pen, just behind the elite runners. This meant I did not have to squeeze in with the rest of the main body of runners. The starting line was particularly interesting, situated at the crest of a gentle uphill in a suburban area. As the start horn went off, we were greeted by a row of flames and thunderous cheers from the crowd that lined the starting chute, setting the tone for an electrifying start and unforgettable race experience.
The first 10 kilometers were a dream, allowing us to run on the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge before diving into the heart of the city. Kilometers 11 to 21 took us along a scenic route beside the waterfront of the Australian Maritime Museum, across Pyrmont Bridge, and through Darling Harbour. The ever-changing landscape and scenery kept things engaging and helped distract from the fact that we were quickly past the half-way mark.
Exiting via Circular Quay, we eventually made our way to the outskirts of Centennial Park. The diverse terrain and rolling hills made the race route an interesting one and by this time temperatures were starting to soar as the sun came out in full force. I was in a happy place given the relatively lower humidity (compared to Singapore) and Kilometers 22 to 32 were spent enjoying the greenery in Centennial Park and Moore Park Gold Course, where the enthusiastic support of spectators and the presence of entertainment and music crews boosted our spirits. It was a refreshing change from the city area before we headed back. As we returned to the city from kilometer 33 onwards, the cheers and noise from the crowds became deafening. Fatigue was setting in, but the energy from the crowd propelled us forward, especially on segments with longer inclines. The final 1-2 kilometers were lined with spectators, leading us into the finish chute at the Sydney Opera House. I took a moment to soak up the incredible atmosphere, dishing out high-fives and savouring the triumphant finish as I crossed the finish on the dot at 3 hrs 30 min.
Crossing that finish line was the culmination of a challenging and exhilarating journey. The Sydney Marathon had not only tested my physical limits but also allowed me to experience the beauty and energy of this iconic city in a unique way. It was a day filled with unforgettable moments that I would cherish for years to come. It is by no means a personal best course given the hills and technicalities of the course – but if you’re looking for a race that is unique and has an AMAZING atmosphere (Steve was right) – this is the race you want to book in on your race calender!
Sydney Marathon 2024 is now open for registration. For more information, click here.