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I have been fortunate this year to line up for most of my favourite Australian races & fun runs; quite a feat given that my list of favourites is rather lengthy.

Writing this prompted me to nut out what aspects of an event I value and what it is that draws me back to a particular race. It is an exercise that I would recommend as it reinforces the elements of running that give you satisfaction and will no doubt help when you sit down to plan your race schedule and goals for the New Year.

Before thinking about why I like certain races, I wrote a list of the top favourites that came to mind… Adelaide’s City-Bay Fun Run (fresh in memory and also in my calf muscles from last weekend), The B&E Tasmanian 10km road race Series, Asics Gold Coast Half Marathon, Zatopek Classic, City2Surf, Asics Noosa Bolt, Melbourne Half Marathon and National Cross-Country. Delving a little deeper, I established what it was about these races that made them spring to mind.

City-Bay Fun Run:

As a South Australian born and bred runner, I still recall scanning through the results pages of the Sunday Mail as a young schoolgirl, searching for familiar names. At the time I enjoyed 800m ‘long distance’ track races and cross country running -the 12km City to Bay run down the Anzac Highway was a challenge I h

oped to conquer one day. In year 12 I took to the course for a jog with my sister Abbie, and was peeved to say the least when she surged a few metres from the finish line to clock a quicker time than me. Running in my home state with my team-mates from Team Tempo and a local crowd in an event that holds many memories, are the major reasons why this event sits high on my list. I love the atmosphere at Glenelg afterwards and the more-often-than-not blue skies and sunshine certainly add to this. The challenge of bettering my City Bay time each year is another alluring incentive!

Image by Andrew Giam

National Cross Country:

A key factor that ranks an event highly in my book is meaningfulness. I vividly remember the sickly feeling of nerves in the lead up to Primary and Senior School National Cross Country races. Race day would play on my mind for weeks beforehand and I think this is partly because I knew how much it was going to hurt both physically and mentally. Now that I follow a specific training and preparation regime and have a much vaster history of race experiences to draw on, I am better able to manage this nervous energy. This year’s National Cross country was a great opportunity to race alongside people of all ages and stages in their running careers, as

well as reflect on the days where collecting the pins from each state was my biggest mission outside of the race itself. The character-building lessons, skills, physical strength and mental toughness that I have gained from representing my club, state and country in Cross Country over the years have been invaluable. I believe it is a great event for all distance runners to aspire to.

The Asics Half Marathon:

I cannot deny that the climate adds to the excitement about traveling to the Gold Coast for this great event. The month of July can be pretty grey and dreary in the Southern States so the opportunity to see some sunshine is hard to pass up. Although a 3.45am wake up for a 6am race start sounds pretty horrendous, I love that it starts before sunrise. I have taken part in this half marathon event four times since 2010 and in each one it has been hard not to notice the incredible sunrise over the ocean at about the 5 kilometer mark. The fast course, timing with relation to other races and the professional organization of this event make me keen to include it in the race schedule when I can.

The B&E Series:

Tasmania is a stunning part of Australia that I probably wouldn’t have experienced yet had it not been for sport. To date, I have raced the Burnie 10km and the Hobart 10km events once and the Launceston 10km a number of times. What I love about these events is the way the organisers and locals embrace the event and make the athletes who take part feel very welcome. The professionalism and organization of the people involved with running this series leaves me keen to support it year after year. I love the opportunity to squeeze in as many tourist activities as I can after the race and am determined to spend an extended holiday in this state one day!

Zatopek Classic and City2Surf:

Positive memories and experiences are common features of the events on my list of favourites. My second ever Zatopek 10000m track race in 2009, where I achieved what was a big personal best at the time amongst a deep Australian field of women, was a precious moment. I love the way supporters are able to fill the outside lanes, injecting noise and excitement into the 25-lap race. It is perhaps why I haven’t missed a Zatopek10 since 2008 and hope to add to this. I like the way in which the event pays tribute to Emil Zatopek and reminds us of the incredible distance athlete he was. Similarly, the elation I felt and the belief I gained following my 2011 City 2 Surf winning experience was a pivotal point in my running career. Joining 80,000 others in a race to Bondi is also a unique and special experience.

Asics Noosa Bolt:

The title of this event speaks for itself. In terms of atmosphere and crowd involvement, this one is hard to beat. With cowbells ringing and spectators hanging over the fence, there is a strong sense of intimacy and carnival-like excitement. I really enjoy warming up and cooling down in the scenic National Park and embracing the entertainment that the Noosa festival has to offer.

Melbourne Half Marathon:

In three weeks time I will be racing the Melbourne Marathon, which follows a very positive race experience over the half marathon in 2011. I am looking forward to take on this great Australian course along with around 30,000 others.

Well there is a detailed summary of my favourites so far and I am sure you have many more to add. Thank you for reading and I hope this has given you an idea of which races to consider in future or at the least, prompted your own reflection on race experiences.

Thanks and all the best! Jess

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