City to Surf Race Analysis

Richard Sarkies has lined up for the City to Surf fifteen times, many of those as a preferred runner. Here, Richard shares with us a kilometre by kilometre description of the course, and how he runs it.

First km

No prizes for guessing it’s pretty jammed pack at the moment. This first section takes you down and up William St and into the Kings Cross Tunnel. I like to relax down the first section, allowing myself to be dragged along by the crowd, then try to settle into a rhythm during the uphill section leading into the tunnel, yet at the same time soaking in the incredible atmosphere of 75000 people. I ALWAYS take a look around before entering the tunnel to view the sea of people.

It’s so easy to do that first 1km too fast, so check your watch for the split inside the tunnel.

Second km

This is a downhill/flat section taking you along RushcuttersBay, so will be a fast km. As with all downhills, I make use of this slope by leaning forward and turning my legs over more quickly. It’s amazing how many people you can overtake doing this. I’m still settling into my rhythm and trying to hit the pace I want for basically the whole race as I head towards DoubleBay.

Third km

Here’s a fairly decent hill, although not too steep, taking you past Edgecliff Station. I relax, trying not to work too hard as there’s plenty of other hills coming up. I ensure I’m running the shortest possible route by hugging the curves of the road, running right next to the inside gutter.

After the uphill, it’s a fairly long downhill into DoubleBay, so I get the legs moving quickly, and enjoy the brass band on top of the Sheriff Pub on the right

Fourth km

By now I’ve settled into a pace I’m happy with, making sure I’ve been checking splits at each km mark, and adjusting pace if necessary. This is a slightly slowish km as it’s flat with a gradual rise up to the first drink station

Fifth km

A slightly faster km taking you down alongside RoseBay. I carefully check my time split for 5km as it gives me a very good idea of how I’m going today, and how I’m going to tackle Heartbreak Hill between 6 & 7km.

Sixth km

One of the rare completely flat sections of the course. I know exactly my pace now, and I’m most likely in a little group of similar paced runners. If there’s any head wind I’ll sit at the back of a group to shield from the wind.

Seventh km

Here it is folks, ‘Heartbreak Hill’. I just keep my rhythm and leg turnover, and of course hug the curves as it winds up for 1km to the highest part of the course, and HALFWAY! I know it’s going to be a slow km so I don’t worry about the split. I just keep things moving as I go over the top where there’s plenty of spectators to cheer you on

Eighth km

I’m now working pretty hard, and on that ‘threshold’ pace where you can’t really go any faster. There’s lots of small downhills and uphills now for the next few km, and I really focus on form during this section to take advantage of the slopes.

Ninth km

There’s a few left and right turns here, so make sure you cut the corners! The uphills are short and steep, so I really focus on getting up and over the top and into rhythm as soon as it’s flat again. I take note of the wind as we turn direction and head south. If there’s a tailwind I push a little harder to take advantage of the wind behind me, or tuck in behind any groups if it’s a headwind. Note you won’t tend to consciously feel a tailwind, so if you suddenly feel really good, that’s probably the reason, but don’t relax or you’ll lose your pace.

Tenth km

Very similar at the start to the last km,  but I know there’s a flatish section coming up to get things moving again. I need to focus a little more as it’s a fairly long straight section, plus fatigue is starting to build. I push things a little more along here, knowing there’s a 1.5km downhill section coming up soon to take me into Bondi

Eleventh km

The long straight section continues, and the road seems a little harder, but I keep pushing hard towards the 11km sign


Here’s where I make up for time lost on the uphills, and run my fastest km. The reasonable decline starts at 11.5km,  so I just go for it, knowing that it’s 1km to go from the bottom of the hill.

Thirteenth km

I keep the legs turning over quickly on the downhill, and continue to make sure I take the shortest route possible. Usually it’s hurting a bit by now, but I remind myself the worst is behind me.

Fourteenth km

Time to really push it home, I work really hard up a slight incline for about 300m, keep pushing around the curve taking in the crowd support as it flattens out, focus on the u-turn about 400m ahead. I pick it up another gear if possible around the downhill turn to head north to the finish about 400m ahead. Over the last 100m or so I go flatout (which might not actually be too fast by now), trying to crack  the 48 min mark. To date, I’ve missed it by 13 seconds, damn it!

I’d love you to add your version of the race in the comments below!


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