Make Sense of Your City to Surf Results

City to Surf Results

Each year I receive lots of text messages and emails after our runners have finished the City to Surf. And each year, these messages convey a mixture of elation and disappointment. This year of course was no different.

As coaches, we probably view your results differently to the way you view them. I thought I’d share a few of the things you should be looking at when you’re analysing this year’s results.

Your Start Group

The City to Surf is like no other race. It’s tough, it’s hilly and there are lots and lots of people. If you’re a front runner, the crowd factor isn’t going to impact you too much. If you’re running with the back of the pack, you’re unlikely to be able to get much of a rhythm going. You also have  the disadvantage of coming through the water stations after 50,000 people have slurped, spilt and thrown their paper cups on the ground.  You need to slow down a bit through the water stations, just for safety’s sake.

The Weather

Even though the City to Surf is a winter run, it can get pretty hot. Yesterday it was 14 degrees at 8:30am, and 16 degrees at 9:30. Last year the temperature was 9 degrees at 9am, and the top of 16 degrees wasn’t reached until 3pm that day. If you’re comparing this year’s run to last year’s,  you need to take that temperature difference into account. Research done on some of the big city marathons has shown that performance decreases with a rise in temperture.

For the top three placegettes, the decrease in performance was a bit less than 1%, for every 5 degree rise in temperature above 10 degrees C. For slower runners, this drop in performance increased exponentially. Unforutnately, the reasearch only looked at the first 300 runners. The 50th placed runners’ performance dropped by 1.5%, the 100th placegetters by 1.8%, and the 300th place getters by 3.2%. 300th place would be a time of around three hours for the marathons in the sample. 

If you’re comparing your time from this year’s City to Surf to last year, unless you’re a three hour marathoner, you should expect that your performance would have dropped by more than 3.2% due to the difference in temperature. To put that into perspective, a 3.2% drop in performance on a 70 minute run last year, is equal to about a 72:15 this year.

They Have Age Categories for a Reason

If you were at maximum fitness level in your prime, as you get older, your performance will naturally decline. If you weren’t at peak fitness in your younger years, you’re more likely to be able to maintain your performance simply be increasing your level of fitness. 

Age graded performance tables are a great way to evaluate your performance against previous performances, and also across different events. Your age graded percentage show you how you compare to the world’s best of your age and gender. Our coach Richard Sarkies, who has a City to Surf best time of 48:12, set 12 years ago, ran 52:12 yesterday. Comparing these two runs on the age graded tables actually shows he went slightly better this year. 

You can use this calculator to compare your own age-graded times. 

Make sure you press “Age Grade” next to where you enter your time to get your result at the bottom.

Analysing This Year’s City to Surf Result

Once you’ve established that your time is actually pretty good compared to last year’s cooler weather time or your time of 20 years ago, you can start to learn from your results.

Firstly, you should check if your goal was realistic. When I asked Richard if he was happy with his result, he replied he “couldn’t have gone any faster”. I thought he’d been aiming for around 50 minutes, and when I asked him about that he said something like  “that would’ve been nice, but what you hope to get and what you’re able to achieve are two completely different things”. After having quite a long time off rehabbing an Achilles injury, he knew he probably didn’t have the endurance to get him through to the end.

My Race Goals

Not being a massive fan of crowds, or spending hours getting home when I’m sweaty and cold, I’d never done the City to Surf before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. For various reasons, my training over the last 2 years has been intermittent at best, and I knew I didnt’ have the sort of base that’s required to do the race any justice. On top of that, I developed a nasty sinus infection about three weeks out and was laid out, unable to train. So I had a few things to take into account when setting my goals for the race.

My goals were:

  • To run on feel rather than use any kind of GPS device. (I did use my stop watch to roughly keep track of how I was going at each km marker).
  • Run conservatively for the first half of the race, and run the second half of the race after heart break hill faster than the first half
  • Be prepared to walk some of the race if I felt I needed to
  • As far as time went, I really thought I’d be lucky to run under 90 minutes (my pre-sinusitis goal had been under 80-mostly likely too ambitous)

Goal number one was pretty easy, as I don’t have a GPS device at the moment

Goal number three – I was definitely prepared to walk –in fact I did walk through a couple of the drinks stations to make sure I rehyderated (confession – I had a couple of champagnes the night before-why not since I was treating it as a training run, right?)

Goal number three-the numbers aren’t pretty, but my results do show I ran a fairly even race.

My City to Surf Splits - not pretty

Looking at the split rank (S/Rank) and the race rank (R/Rank) you can see that I moved through the field as the race progressed. Not so rapidly in the second half of the race. 

You can also see I ran 36 seconds faster over the back half of the course. I’m not entirely convinced the course measurements are accurate, but they wouldn’t be too far out.

Look at How You Handled Heart Break Hill

Everyone slows down up heart break hill. It’s a reasonably steep, long,  relentless 1.4km in the middle of the race, so you should expect to slow down a bit. But how do you assess whether you slowed more than you should?

Looking at my figures, you can see that I pick up nearly 2000 places going up the hill. This means that I ran faster up heart break hill than 7% of the people who were running faster than I was before heart break hill. 

These figures alone don’t tell you much, other than I was slower up the hill than 21,082 people. But, using those figures, along with how I felt throughout the race is useful. I felt ok going up the hill. I felt that before heartbreak hill I was running at a pace I’d be able to maintain for 90 minutes. The fact that I slowed down up the hill definitely helped me maintain my pace in the back end of the race. I was exhausted for the last 2 km of the race due to lack of fitness, but it wasn’t running up the hills too hard that did it to me.  I was conscious of my form going up the hill, shorter strides, quicker turnover to put less strain on my legs. I used the tangents to make sure I ran the shortest distance possible. All in all, I was happy with how I handled this part of the course. 

Another way you can guage how you went with heart break hill is by comparing yourself to some of the front runners.  The first few place getters slow down by about 8%, Richard (208th place) slowed down by 21%, and I slowed down 15%. I still think I have a lot of room for improvement on my up hill running, but comparing these figures, I think it shows I’m heading in the right direction.

What To Do With the Data

Use your City to Surf race stats to help you learn for next time. Good race or bad race, you can take note of the stats and how you were feeling on the day, and learn a lot. If you started out at 4:30 pace, and finished up at 5:30 pace, think about how you felt for your first few kms. Remember that feeling, and know that next time, that feeling is tricking you into running faster. You have to feel as if your effort is easier than that next time you race.

If you slowed down dramatically up heart break hill, was it because you’d gone too fast early in the race?  Was it because you deliberately slowed down to conserve energy?  Or was it because you’re not great at running up hills and you need to build some strength in your legs and work on your hill technique?

If your’e planning on improving next time you race, make some notes now on how you ran, how you felt, what you did leading into the race.  What did you do well, what would you do differently next time?  When you start to plan your training for your next race, you’ll know what you need to work on.

A Good Day Out

At the end of the day, whatever your result, it was a beautiful day out with nearly 70,000 other Sydney-sider, celebrating living in this awesome city of ours.

And it was a VERY good day out for Hooked on Runing teams. You can see our team results here. link to our results page

City to Surf 2016: Our results

Hooked on Running singlet

This year we had our biggest teams ever. Our 50+ women led the charge with 13 team members, and we had two men’s teams this year, open and 50+.

We had some great results, but I’m far more excited about the number of our runners who enjoyed racing under the Hooked on Running flag.

Hooked on Running City to Surf Results

Open Women: 4th

Open Men: 10th

Women 40-49: 2nd

Women 50+: 2nd

Men 50+: 3rd

The Teams

These are our official teams lists, but we had quite a few other runners running for charity or with a work team. Fantastic turnout people. Richard and I are over the moon. Details of celebration dinner to come!

Hooked on Running women 50+
Hooked on Running women 40-49
Hooked on Running Open Women
Hooked on Running Open Men
City to Surf Hooked on Running 50+

Woman misses half marathon turn and wins marathon

wrong turn in half marathon

wrong turn in half marathon

The first female home in the Run for Heroes Marathon in Amherstburg, Ont. last Sunday, was actually entered in the Half Marathon, but missed the turn for the half  and ended up running the full 42 kms. And winning!

Meredith Fitzmaurice was using the race as a training run for her first marathon in Detroit later this year. Around about the 1 hour 30 mark, she started wondering where the finish line was. With a sneaking suspicion she’d missed the half marathon turn, she asked one of the bike officials on the course, who confirmed her mistake.

She then thought she’d just run 20 miles and call it a day, but when she reached a turnaround point and could see people coming towards her, she could count only nine men ahead of her, and no women. Unbelievably, she was the leading woman.

“So as I’m running I’m wondering if my race is going to count, I’m thinking about my friend who is at the finish line probably wondering where I am since I have the keys to the car.”

After confirming with an official that her entry and time would be counted in the marathon, and would be considered for a qualifying time in the Boston Marathon,  she decided to give it a crack.

Have you ever taken a “wrong turn” in life and ended up in a great place?

See the full story in the Montreal Gazette


Image courtesy of stoonn/

Why Do You Run?

uplifted 3d figure stuart miles resizedA while ago now I wrote a post entitle “The Value of Fun Runs”. It gave a summary of some of the fun runs around Sydney, their entry fee, and cost per km and a short summary of the good bits and not so good bits of each run.

Impossible to quantify in dollar terms, of course, is the overall sense of well being running in an event such as yesterday’s “Sydney Running Festival” (or the Bridge Run as the festival is more commonly referred to).

What price do you put on being able to run across Sydney’s iconic harbour bridge on a fabulous sunny morning-not too hot(unless you’re finishing the marathon at midday), sun sparkling on the water, surrounded by friends, or at least like minded people. It’s mornings like this that serve to remind you of why you run. Simply put, it makes you feel good.


From our youngest runner, to our oldest, from our novices to our experienced runners, all felt uplifted after the race. I’m not trying to turn a simple run across the Harbour Bridge into some kind of religious experience, but running in a run such as this certainly is something to remember.


Some of the comments I heard from our runners after the race will give you a sense of what I’m talking about.


  •  “I wasn’t going to stop running because I really wanted to know I could do it” from 6 year old Saxon
  • “That’s the furthest I’ve run. Ever!” 11 year old Luca
  • Dav and I heard there was 100m to go and we just bolted. You should have seen how fast our legs were goingD” 9 year old Wilson
  • “I’m wearing my number like a badge of honour” one of our nearly 50 year old first time fun runners.
  • “It was a spectacular day to be running across the bridge this morning” Bernice – another of our soon to be 50 year old runners
  • “That was awesome” – just some random person I heard in the recovery village
  • “Just going to brag about my 29 year old” from a friend of mine texting me about her son’s first marathon.
  • “Yay me” from Tara, after her first half marathon


No need for me to say any more, really, but I’d love to hear your comments on why you run.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Sydney Running Festival: Why the marathon starts so late

heatThe Sydney Running Festival is on again this weekend, and again the  Marathon will start a good hour or so after the half marathon. I’ve often pondered why.  In recent years we’ve had a 31 degree day (2011) and a 26 degree day (2009) for the race. This year, we have a forecast of 24 degrees, so not too hot (unless you happen to be finishing a marathon at midday). Add to this the fact that it is only early spring in Sydney and most runners will not have had a chance to acclimatise to the warmer temperatures, you have to ask the question, “why start the marathon at 7:20am, yet the half at 6:15?”


So, I did ask the question of race organisers (who I might add are always really helpful with any queries I’ve had over the years). This was the answer I received from Erin Jeffries, teams organiser.


“We start the Half Marathon at 6.15am which allows the entire field to flow onto the second half of the course (where the Marathon course meets it) before the Marathon even starts. This method then allows the Half Marathon field to almost completely finish before the lead Marathon runners get back to the 31km point (Phillip Street, Sydney) where they meet the Half Marathon course.

 If we set the marathon off at 6.15am, the main pack of runners will be back into the city from about 8am – 10am with a solid and steady stream of runners. If we then start the half at 7.15am, the lead runners will hit Phillip Street where the marathon and half meet and continue on the same course at nearly the exact same time. This would be followed by a very large pack that would run right into each other and cause serious safety problems.

Not to mention not having a clear run for the leaders, lead vehicles, and general confusion for our entrants etc. Unless we ran the half on a completely different course this timing unfortunately wouldn’t work.

 I hope this makes sense. It is a really complex strategy and to date we haven’t been able to find an alternative. Of course we understand the runners perspective but safety is at our utmost concern.”


Is it just me, or can you see the irony in sending people out running for hours and hours in very hot conditions to keep them safe?

Just for the record, over the last four years, of the runners who have finished the marathon, 30% have taken longer than 4 hrs 30 mins.

That is 30% of the field are still running at close to midday and beyond.


How many marathoners will still be at it come midday?

  • In 2009 32% were still running 4hrs 30mins into the race,
  • 2010 25%,
  • 2011 39%
  • and 2012 26%

Like many things, it probably comes down to cost as much as anything else. I’m guessing the more road closures, the greater the cost, so sharing parts of the course between the half and full marathon on the same course is a cost effective answer.

End of Year Resolutions

We can help you

We are in the final 4 months of 2013. Have your New Years’ fitness resolutions gone to plan? If not, should you give up your goal of improving your health and fitness this year, grow bitter and curse the powers that be for making it so hard for you to get fit and be healthy?

Or should you take responsibility for your situation and make changes?


Read and act.

Seek motivation; don’t wait for it to fall into your lap.

From time to time I have people say to me something along the lines of, “it’s easy for you, you’re so motivated” or “it’s easy for you, you’re so fit” or “I wish I could be as motivated as you are”.

Well, here’s the thing. Firstly, it’s not always easy for me, and I’m not always highly motivated. My energy levels wax and wane. When my energy is low, I keep going because I know that if I just keep chipping away, sooner or later the tables will turn, my energy levels will pick up, and I’ll  be ready to go. I don’t leap out of bed and think YIPPEE I’m going for a run every morning, but I do keep trying to do something pretty much every day. And that doesn’t always pan out.

Secondly, it hasn’t always been easy for people who are fit. Most people have had periods in their lives when their fitness levels have dropped and they have had to summon the motivation to get back into it, and I’m certainly one of them. That’s when a goal and a well thought out plan can make all the difference. You need a plan that will push you enough to get you fitter, but not push you so much that you overdo it and injure yourself. If you’re not sure about planning your training, seek help. You’ll be surprised how easy it all becomes if you have a plan set out before you in black and white.


Anyone can be motivated.

Motivation is not something reserved for people who are fitter than you, or “better” than you. Motivation is not something that descends from on high. Motivation is something that you need to learn how to use. I’m not highly “motivated” to cook dinner, clean my house, have a shower every day, clean my teeth every day, do the washing, do any number of mundane and boring things that I do each and every day, but I still do them. Sometimes, that’s just the way with exercise. It’s just got to be something that you do. Without thinking about it. Automatically. Then when the endorphins kick in, you’ll be unstoppable!


So how do you “just do it” when you really don’t feel like doing it?

  • Take action today.  Not some time next week, not tomorrow, TAKE ACTION TODAY. Even if it is just a little tiny step towards where you want to be, TAKE ACTION TODAY. Set out a training plan for the next month, enlist a friend to exercise with, resolve to get up 10 minutes earlier every day this week and do some simple body weight exercises at home like sit ups, push ups, squats and dips, all of which can be done in your own bedroom.
  • Set yourself a goal. Specify it, by writing it down. Make it Realistic. Make sure you can Measure whether or not you hit that goal, make it Achievable, make it Rewarding, and make it Time limited. Yes, that’s right, make it a S.M.A.R.T. goal. It might not be what you first set out to achieve at the beginning of the year, but that’s OK. There’s no rule against reassessing your goals.
  • Once you’ve set out one or two main fitness goals for the rest of the year, take some time to plan how you’ll reach this goal. And remember, keep it realistic. If you’ve never run before, perhaps planning for a 5km fun run before the end of the year will take your fancy. Far enough to be a challenge, but short enough to be very achievable. Just pick out a run, and “go for it”.  “Go for it” setting out a training plan so that you know precisely what training you’ll be doing and when you’ll be doing it. If you don’t know what you’re doing, enlist help.
  • Set out your reasons for doing it; write down why you want to achieve your goal. I’ve got a few reasons to exercise, but the main one is I like how it makes me feel. I like feeling strong, I like knowing I can run for a couple of hours without conking out! I guess it gives me a sense of power. There are lots of other reasons, but I reckon that’s my main one. Yours may be different. Whatever the reasons, write them down, and stick them up where you can see them. Right next to your alarm clock would be a great place!
  • Bust your own excuses. Don’t let excuses keep you on the couch. Stuff like “I can’t because”, “I don’t know how” “I don’t know how” “I could if….” are all excuses. Catch yourself when you make excuses that are preventing you from being as fit and healthy as you’d like to be. When you do catch yourself, ask yourself these questions: What is the truth? What do I want? What action can I take? (If you’re anything like me, the truth is you don’t want to finish the year fatter then when you started).


Let’s be very clear about this.


Your feet aren’t going to get up and start running all by themselves, are they?

You need to make a decision to act.

If you need help, remember that’s what we are here for.

You just need to ask for it.


We can help you

City to Surf 2013

Congratulations to our Open Women’s Team on placing fifth in the 2013 City to Surf. 

Great to see a big contingent of “Hooked on Healthers” at the City to Surf this year, both as runners and also as volunteers manning the drinks stations with the scouts and other volunteer groups.


Our women’s open team placed 5th with an overall time of  3 hrs, 45 mins and 7 secs. This in spite of Jane Raftesath running in odd shoes. Somehow the last minute shoe lace change left her wearing one old shoe and one new shoe to the start line!


Tara McNamara (Sat 6:45am Frenchs Forest) had a great City to Surf. This is how she saw the race


I had 3 goals for the race this year..

1) run up heartbreak hill

2) run the whole 14 kms

3) run in under 90 mins

I managed all three!!! I felt good through the race (after my normal warm up 3kms and dodging the people in the early stages helped me stay …calm and not try go too fast – the hill was great – head down, feet moving, looking at the next corner and all of a sudden it was over!
The most frustrating section was the the last km – then having to dodge people did bother me – I stopped looking at my watch cause i knew I was close to getting under 90 mins and tried not to yell at people to get out of my way and, as much as possible with the crowds, I ran as fast as I could.

Smiling as I crossed the line and finally looking at my watch…. 87mins!

Happy with it all, I met some work colleagues and drank a lot of water before joining the queue for the bus home.

Thanks so much for making me a better runner


Here are all our results.

Tara McNamara: 87:47

Courtney Heyden: 73:53

Petra Thallmayer: 89:12

Jane Raftesath: 72:26

Sam Evans: 72:26

Sam O’Connor: 104:41 – fastest walker in the north

Pamela Martin: 116:44

Leanne Forster: 89:50

Susanne Lewis: 82:38 – 292nd in category

Bernice Woodbury: 82:33

Trish Pavely: 80:14

Dave Spencer: 67:59

Megan Mouradian: 71:47

Cathy Stockwell: 83:10