Not content with being the culinary capital of Australia and the undisputed home of our country’s best coffee, Melbourne is now taking a poke at hosting Australia’s premier running event with Run Melbourne. This year, its 11th year, the Melbourne event looks to give Australia’s other major running festivals a run for their money. Yes, the pun was intended. Groan if you like.
Run Festivals can be defined and graded by the route’s scenery, their organisation and the sense of fun before, during and after the event. Some runs, especially those used for International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) qualification, can be very serious during the run, as they should be. While wonderful events and very well planned, and lots of fun, the Gold Coast and Blackmores festivals can be very serious while on the course. The SMH half and now particularly Run Melbourne, are way more fun during the event.
Run Melbourne runs start from Federation Square, across from Flinders Street Station, so there’s a sense of history and circumstance while you gather before the start, and if you’re doing the half, before dawn. Once underway, the character changes.
This year, 2018, sport’s clothing brand lululemon sponsored the event and bought a real sense of joy and happiness to the race. Drummers drummed, dancers danced and in a clever initiative, lululemon drafted their extensive running and yoga community to act as a well-coordinated cheer squad along the route with sometimes cryptic but engaging messages of support and encouragement: “I Believe in You, Perfect Stranger”; “You Got This, Legs”. Their enthusiasm was genuine and highly motivating.
Winding through the Royal Botanical Gardens, the route of all the races (5k, 10K and half) is a veritable sight-seeing tour of some of Melbourne’s most iconic landmarks, encompassing Rod Laver arena, the famed MCG and the Shrine of Remembrance. It’s easy to forget your pain as you absorb the scenery.
Being Melbourne and July, it can be cold, but wasn’t that bad this year with it siting about ten degrees. You can do the city-to-surf clothes flick at the start, but Run Melbourne has a good set-up that makes this unnecessary. With corporates like Bulk Nutrients, the City of Melbourne and lululemon tipping in as sponsors, the overall logistics (bag drops, volunteers, toilets, massage tents, food, water and post-run entertainment) was well done. The post-race party was in full swing at 11.30am, three hours after the completion of the half. And walk 200 meters into the city, proper, and restaurants were packed with runners rehydrating on a couple of well-deserved beers.
It’s no real surprise then that after only 11 years, Run Melbourne’s 20,000 plus participants is encroaching on the 40-year-old Gold Coast’s 27,000 participants or even Sydney’s Blackmore’s running festival, with their expected 33,000 participants. Run Melbourne is a world-class event, well-hosted, well organised and a hell of a lot of fun. There is certainly a case for putting this event on your run calendar next year.