City to Surf Marathon - Planning is key!, Angus Duncan

City to Surf Marathon- Race Report- Planning is key!, Angus Duncan


Three weeks before the city the surf I found myself round a pub table bantering with mates during which the subject of city to surf was raised. Being the competitive people each of us are we all started to then egg each other on to sign up.

Out of nowhere one of my mates says, “Angus, why don’t you do the marathon?”

I replied, “Mate, it’s three weeks away and unless you’re gonna do it I’m alright.”

The reply, “Nah, you’re just weak.”

And with that I pulled out my phone and signed up for my first marathon. The reverse psychology had worked, but I also managed to persuade all 4 mates to sign up for the 12km! The real victory was mine.

Waking up the next day a little worse for wear the dread set in. The focus was then could I train for a marathon in less than three weeks, work and live a relatively normal social lifestyle all with limited running fitness?


To fully appreciate what I need to do I mapped out the three weeks putting down all social events, all training sessions and milestones I had to hit. Mapping out social events in particular was really important in achieving a balance between sport, work and socialising as well as allowing me to factor in where I might need a little extra recovery. This plan also allowed me to visualise whether I would have enough time to become running fit alongside scheduled rowing and swimming training and some off road mountain bike races paid for.

For each week I scheduled in a long run (20-30kms), interval training, a fast pace medium distance run (10-15km) and a kings park green mile session, per week. Doing the long runs at a slow steady tempo (for me 4.50-5.10min pacing) was really important to improve my pacing ability whilst the intervals allowed me to focus on speed and the green mile helped (in part) with the hills.

The rowing, riding and swimming was also important just for variety and using different muscle groups. However, two weeks out from city to surf I had two big mountain bike crashes in the space of four days which did a lot of damage to my knee and wrist. I was a little worried if I could do the marathon, but soldiered on nonetheless.

Nutrition wise I ate my normal diet trying to do nothing out of the ordinary other than enjoying myself at my favourite craft beer festival one week out from the race. Most people might ask why, but again mapping out my training and social schedule allowed me to factor this in.

If there was one thing I would change for next time it would be doing more hills. Although people had said I was a fool for doing the city to surf as my first marathon because of the hills I took the ‘ignorance is bliss’ approach and did not allow for sufficient hills preparation- not even regular green mile training could fully prepare me.

The Race

The day of the race I woke up at 4am (race started at 6) and smashed down 4 crumpets with honey and a small coffee. Running always tends to upset my tummy after I eat so I wanted to give myself plenty of time to digest my first meal hence my early start.

The start line is a 4km run from my house so I put on my running gear, a warm jumper and jogged off to the start as a warm up. I arrived at 5:45am and focused on staying warm and keeping my heart rate up.

Having never run the city to surf course it helped that most of the areas I ride exposed me to a lot of the course. That and knowing the weather conditions meant I could plan out a proper race plan. I broke down my race as follows:

0-11km: Flat, slight head wind for the first 3km followed by tail wind. Go out fast and gain some time. Pacing- 4.25min

11-21km: Small hills. Go fast on the flats, run down the hills (free time) and hold on up the hills. Pacing- 4.30min to 4.50min

21-30km: Kings Park, hold on up the hills and try to recover on the down. Find a pacer to help up the hills. Pacing- 4.45min to 5.30min

30-40km: Relatively flat with two big hills. Pacing- 4.40 on the flats and 5-5.30min up the hills.

40km-end- Downhill, sprint. Pacing- 4min.

I stuck to that race plan and ended with an average running pace of 4.44min. I was aiming for 4.45 pacing so I was very happy with that.

Although the hills were a challenges and my lack of hills training did hurt sticking to my race plan was key. Taking a moment or two after a hill also helped to bring my heart rate down.

However, many a wall were hit. Alex, Daniel and Vince can all likely attest to the change in demeanour from the first time they saw me pre the first hills section and post. At the 15km I started to cramp really badly in my right leg. I don’t know the reason for the cramp and assumed that my lack of electrolyte intake was taking a toll. Up until then I had only been drinking water. At the next water station I downed two cups of electrolyte and only drank electrolytes for the remainder of the race. That decision paid off and the cramp subsided.

Having only trained on the flats and for 30kms (at max) I entered unknown territory at the 30km mark- the warning of my brother blaring in my head to go out slow. I had nothing to worry about. Despite exhaustion starting to kick in for the last 12km I began to look around and enjoyed myself having the odd chat with other runners struggling through the pain and singing songs out loud with those who had speakers playing. The last 2km were especially enjoyable- all downhill and close to the finish line. My pace picked up with the finish line in sight!

Nutrition wise I underestimate the amount of fuel I needed. I expected to use 6 gels and would just drink water. I ended up using 9 gels and switched to drinking electrolyte after 15km. During the race I listened to my body and tried to take on what I needed to ensure I never got into an energy deficit.

Reflecting on the race, with limit fitness preparation I was really happy with how I ran. I stuck to my plan, made it through the hills, had a stack of fun and finished in 3hr 21min 19 seconds- 9 minutes faster than my goal of 3hr 30 and 1 minute and 19 seconds slower than my aspiring goal of 3hr 20min.


At the finish I headed into the recovery tent , grabbed my street bag, guzzled down a protein shake and chomped on some tasty tasty homemade baked goods all whilst enjoying the company and sharing stories with those around me. After that I hobbled to the beach and made myself weightless in the cold water.

The only mistake I made was not taking the time to stretch or getting a massage after the race. I paid for it over the next few days.


  • Having UWA tri club members cheer me on out on course- thank you!
  • Overtaking my friends doing the 12km and half marathon
  • The overly enthusiastic lulu lemon employees in Kings Park
  • People with speakers
  • Yogurt selection in the recovery tent
  • Beach

So, in the end is it possible to train for a marathon in 3 weeks, work and live a relatively normal lifestyle? It sure is- planning is the key!