Oh, to run on Melbourne's hallowed sacred turf in Grand Final month. The MCG in spring. Not as an AFL footballer... But as a runner.
Melbourne Marathon gives anyone an opportunity to enter the stadium in a manner befitting a rock or sports superstar. With a range of distances that will suit any racer or walker (3km, 5.7km, 10km, half-marathon and full-marathon) all finishing in the MCG, this is one of Melbourne's great October events.
The day's events take place early in the morning, with the marathoners starting at 7am, and then staggering the other distances over the course of the morning so everyone tends to be finishing and entering the MCG from 10am through 2pm. Family and friends are allowed to enter the MCG for free to cheer loved ones in. The victory track itself is 300 metres of 'the G,' running past the crowd and stands, and is itself a very cool experience.
The marathon is a fairly unremarkable course, but Melbourne is Australia's most popular marathon. Starting at Batman Avenue, looping down St Kilda Avenue, Fitzroy Street, a lap of Albert Park, up and down Beaconsfield Parade to Port Melbourne & Elwood, then back up Fitzroy Street, St Kilda Road, a painful dogleg through the Royal Botanical Garden, and then back past Flinders Street Station to the MCG. The course is frustrating in that it is one big out-and-back, with varying short legs throughout. However, it is picturesque, reasonably sheltered, and wide. It does narrow at points, has some slight lengthy uphills towards the last fifteen kilometres, and has a few tight turnarounds.
As far as marathons go, this is reasonably relaxed but relatively crowded. With 32,000 entrants across all events, the marathon, now in it's 39th year, is never too crowded with about 6,000 competitors. The winners usually clock between 2:15 and 2:25, but this year was buffeted with strong northerly winds which took a toll on most runners.
Whether your first or over-one-hundredth marathon (as I saw someone besides me wearing a singlet proclaiming), finishing 42.195 kilometres is a rewarding personal journey and achievement, and the MCG is a fitting place to do so. Well organised, safe, with medical aid throughout, and with distances to suit all, 2017's Melbourne Marathon events are a full year away to train and get ready for.