• Thomas Alexander

Fremantle Running Festival - Half Marathon 2021 - Race Report

What a year 2021 has been! I will get to writing up a recap soon so I won’t double up here and ruin the Christmas surprise but to think that I started the year after being injured and not running for over two months, I’ve done a lot of road racing! Another West Australian Marathon Club event, I entered the half marathon at Fremantle Running Festival as the last of the bigger road races in WA for the year, which included a 5 and 10km in addition to the half. Looping around the centre of Fremantle, it is a totally flat course but after watching the course description, lost count of the number of hairpin turns there were.

Dizzy yet?


I volunteered for bib pick-up the day before the race which was great fun and four hours flew by BUT.. I'd come straight from the beach, hadn't eaten or had anything to drink and so by 2 in the afternoon, had done a great job of NOT hydrating properly, doh!


Race Morning

There was a very civilised 7am start time which meant no ridiculously early wake-up needed, but as the weather forecast shifted over the week, it started to look like it was going to be warm and an earlier start looked attractive.


After the short drive, I was lucky enough to find a parking spot right away which was an easy kilometre to the starting area, warm-up sorted 👍!


The obligatory portaloo stop, surely the worst but most essential part of any race, looked horrendous with a massive line of about 20 orange beasts and huge queues of nervous runners behind each. Nevertheless, lines moved steadily, I found a drink fountain too and headed to the start line.


I’ve said it a lot this year, probably as much to remind myself as to share with anyone else, but running is about fun, being healthy and sharing a passion with other people. Time goals are fun too, but they’re secondary and shouldn’t be the primary focus as otherwise, it becomes like a job – that we don’t get paid for. The plan for this race was to go out, run a few kilometres at a decent pace and to enjoy the backhalf of the race for the atmosphere, weather and social aspect.


The half marathon and 10km waves started in the same corral, and it was busy! After a few grumpy looking faces and excusing myself repeatedly I worked through the crowd to the 1:20/1:30 start – only to see the gap in the fence that would have proved a less obstacle course-like entry point. Then again, doing things the easy way has never been fun.


Caught up with Thomas (with whom I share very similar running time goals) and Mitch briefly, said hi to Carly over in the 5km corral and in no time the countdown was on and we were off.

Lap 1

I do like lap races, it makes it easier to see where you are at compared to everyone else, makes life much more interesting for spectators, and helps to break up the distances visibly, which saves the maths calculations whilst running. I felt amazing off the start line and the first three kilometres were in the low 3:30s. I also grabbed a quick water at the first aid station to combat the horrible dry mouth feeling I get almost without fail at the start of races. At the first turnaround, just before the first kilometre, it was cool to see the huge stream of runners coming the other way, and also cool not to be in the middle of that washing machine! I sat in with a small group of about five other runners as we headed out and back in the section which was only on the first lap of the race.


From there, the race ran into town, down the cappuccino strip, down towards the harbour before another turn around, following the same course back to the start. This was all very uneventful, and I started to taper off the times into the 3:40s with my group by this point reduced to three of us.

Lap 2

Just after the start of lap 2 was the 10km mark, which unfortunately saw my two pacing companions peel off and finish their races 😖 however, by this point it had already warmed up quite significantly and I was sweating a lot. Living in Western Australia, the high 20's/low 30's is definitely not considered hot, it would be a great cool day in summer, but perhaps the change in season meant that people were not acclimatised to certainly the warmest road race in a while. Anyway, for whatever reason, I did start to feel a little heavier at this point and also caught the traffic of the 5km race and some of the 10 and 21km runners too.


It could definitely have been frustrating if on for a PB as the crowd didn't obey the usual keep left rule and did slow things down for me a bit - but that said I don't remember it being mentioned and a lot of people probably had no idea. Anyhow, I actually enjoyed the weaving in and out of groups and exchanging motivational grunts and phrases on the way! I was also happy to cruise home after half way so didn't really look at the watch and took in the atmosphere.


I had a gel at the 14km mark and regretted it almost immediately as it just didn't sit right in my probably dehydrated insides as by 15km I really wanted to be sick. By want, I mean - felt like very much - not as in, 'I really hope I can be sick as that would be awesome fun!'. Looking at my splits, this was the point where I really backed off the pace and slipped into just over 4min/km pace.

Lap 3

Headed into lap 3, the sun had risen high enough that most of the shade on the course had shifted and so it was definitely feeling a little bit spicy. Not hot in the dry heat type of summer heat, but where you could feel the sting of the sun on your shoulders, if that makes sense. The crowds had grown thicker by this point, a bit like Woolworths at 5 minutes to closing time on a Sunday afternoon - not the most fun, but hey, it's all atmosphere (the race, not Woolworths).


Having my parents come down, plus all of the spectators and other runners that I knew meant that there was barely a few minutes without a friendly cheer, wave, head nod etc, great for morale if nothing else. I even ran past Captain Clint headed into the last lap, rarely seen off the trails - and possibly I was hallucinating in the heat.


Started to pay the penalty for neglecting my hydration in the couple of days before the race and at this point was feeling legitimately thirsty - which was a great time to not grab a drink from the aid station! Again, there were a lot of people out there, it just so happened that many of them seemed to be stopped at the aid station enjoying the buffet of water and electrolytes so I just couldn't grab a drink. A volunteer did try to pass me one at the last minute but, I really should have taken the 5 seconds to slow down, I missed it and swearing inwardly, soldiered on (so brave 😜).


You have to laugh at how events come together but after negotiating the crowds (pic below to show I'm not exaggerating), the next aid station had then run out of water!


Peekaboo!

I know everything's comparative but the run back into Fremantle felt slooooowwww, only spurred on by seeing Thomas at the turnaround a hundred metres or so behind me looking annoyingly strong, not how I felt at all by that point. The rest of the death march was uneventful, and the crowds had thinned somewhat for my sprint finish - okay, that part is a lie, but I did pick the pace up for a bit of fun in the last kilometre. I then posed gracefully, showing how the weather and run had not taken any energy out of me at all, and that I was ready to go again, like the true athlete I am!

After finishing the Fremantle Half Marathon 2021
Me doing an impression of someone who was undertrained and exhausted - not like me of course

Aftermath

I was actually really proud of this race for a few reasons, the time one of them surprisingly, but mostly because I felt like I had bounced back from the mental ****fest of Perth Marathon and got my mojo back, for want of a better phrase. I stayed positive the whole way, made sure to smile and chat, albeit very briefly, with other runners and soaked up the atmosphere so in that respect, totally went to plan!

My time was nearly 4 minutes off my personal best but that's actually a great result given that I was undertrained following a spate of niggles and really didn't want to die out there chasing numbers on a clock (this time).


Looking through the results, it seems that the weather had the same impact on everyone being a few minutes slower than they otherwise would have been but hopefully everyone else took the same positives out of it as I did. I'll definitely be doing this race again next year and it was an awesome way to finish the season from a social aspect, having peaked for results a couple of months earlier.


My 1:23.26 was good enough for 14th overall from 1074 runners in the half. Full results available here

Finish line feeling


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