Under four hours!
Under four hours is a common goal for first-time marathon runners who have trained in anticipation of hitting the pavement on race day.
For Southern Cross University graduate and pace runner Sophie Curnow, the sub-four group in any marathon is the most inspirational and often the most dedicated as they see their marathon dreams turn into reality – some for the first time.
After finishing high school in Victoria 12 years ago, Sophie could only dream of the day where she could run six kilometres non-stop. Now the Gold Coast nursing graduate and fitness guru has travelled the world racing in marathons with sponsorship deals, and is a familiar face on the official Gold Coast Marathon poster, leading the running pack while fist-pumping the air.
After seven years of competing Sophie will this year run as the official four-hour pacer for the Gold Coast Marathon. She’ll be wearing black balloons and a pace running outfit signalling to runners to stick with her to achieve their sub-four goal. “My advice for people trying to break the four-hour mark would be to slow down at the start,” Sophie said.
“When the gun goes off everyone tends to just go for it because you’re so squished in that you just want your own area, but you’ve just got to enjoy that first kilometre and just take in the atmosphere, then you can assess what pace you want to run and that’s when you find your groove. “It’s a really popular spot being right next to the pacer, because you can mimic their steps – But I’m hoping no-one knocks me over!”
Sophie says that while running is hard work, particularly for people who need to build up fitness, it is worth setting the challenge to run the distance, whether it be 6km or 42km.
Last year Sophie decided to double up her Gold Coast Marathon entries, tackling Saturday’s Southern Cross University 10km run before running Sunday’s main marathon event.
“Everyone thought I was crazy for doing it, but the 10km wasn’t a race for me, it’s because my mum wanted to do it and of course I agreed to do it with her,” Sophie said.
“Mum has early onset dementia, so we thought she might get a bit confused and overwhelmed by all the people so I did it with her, thinking it would be cruisy as before the big race the next day, but she aced it and had the time of her life saying good morning to everyone she ran past.
“The next day I finished the 42km a bit slower than usual, but the highlight of that weekend was doing the 10km with mum. To be able to do that as part of the marathon’s biggest team - Southern Cross University – and having them cheering us whole way was a weekend to be remembered.”
For first time marathon competitors Sophie says planning is vital to success.
“For any new runners out there, my biggest tip is to get serious about your hydration and your fuelling – that’s the most important part,” she said.
“For every race I’ve done I get to about 30km and the last thing I want is a drink or to put another gel down, but by that 37km mark you really need it. My biggest tip is to take it before you think you need it and don’t skip one, make sure you take one at all the times you’ve planned to.
"Planning is crucial. Before the race decide how you want space out your hydration, then stick with your plan.”