Sophie Wilkinson – Sydney Marathon Story

I’ve been a volunteer at On My Feet (OMF) for a year and have loved the experience of sharing a journey with many participants as they quite literally find their feet. I have met so many amazing people and seeing how running, a healthy lifestyle and our OMF community have helped many overcome challenges. Annually – a team of OMF volunteers and participants are selected to go to an interstate marathon and 2023 was my lucky year and we were heading to the Sydney Marathon 17 September!

I was debating between running the half or full-marathon – but then the half-marathon was sold out – so my choice was made. Such excitement!!! What a great opportunity to be part of the special Sydney Marathon, a candidate race for the Abbott World Marathon Majors for my very first marathon.

I had confidence that I could do this but was also so grateful for the support from On My Feet and was so thrilled we were all in this together.

The long runs in my training taught me a lot. They made me realise that I couldn’t just run the marathon on water and electrolytes, my body needed more fuel! A HUGE thanks to our head running coach Michelle Keaughran for our marathon training program, the coaching she provided, along with Kylie Breuer, Ben Matthews and all the support of other seasoned marathon runners in the On My Feet team.

It was such fun training along with the On My Feet team; running together, knowing that we are all there to support each other and were never alone! Surprisingly, I didn’t find anything too tough about the training, even the long runs. I knew they had to be done and were essential to get me through the marathon.

Arriving in Sydney was quite something, and the challenge ahead suddenly became very real. Heading to bib collection was just a little bit scary, but also very exciting. It was finally happening. And wow what a lucky OMF team we were to have a brand new pair of ASICS gifted to each of us at the running show! This was such a cool and touching surprise to add to our already awesome Sydney Marathon journey. It was so cool to meet Tim Wiche, Marketing Director of Pont 3 (the race organisers), who had organised this with Kath. It really meant a lot to me as a humble volunteer 💙🧡. While I felt slightly nervous the day and night before the event, I also felt a quiet confidence in myself. I had done the training, I knew I could do it; I had the whole OMF crew around me, and felt so excited about doing this together.

Race day dawned……finally…..and we were off.

I set off with my OMF running buddies Kylie and Sharon Turner and took loads of amazing photos capturing the fun we had and the sheer joy of the experience. My shoe tag played an important role In my marathon journey. Looking down and seeing my word “fulfilment” engraved on it gave me the confidence to leave my running buddies and go ahead on my own because I was not really on my own, there was 13000 other people there with me fulfilling their marathon goals! 

One funny story en route was that I needed to pee at about 34km’s, and so asked the volunteers at the water station how far to the next loo. They told me there wasn’t another toilet until the finish line! Ah NO! Then I ran around the next corner and saw a whole row of portaloos baking in the sunshine. What a relief!

Some of my marathon highlights included running across the Sydney Harbour Bridge; seeing our amazing cheerleaders Laura Alvin and Sasha Bermingham in their crazy wigs cheering us on and seeing Michael Hooker coming down the home straight when Kylie, Sharon and I were coming round the 16km corner! Realising he achieved a sub 2hr 45min was a really big inspiration to me, as was seeing volunteer Geoff Quinton smashing past the SCG. Other highlights were seeing Kath Mc Quaide breezing along like she’s done this 100 times before (but oh wait she has run over 100 marathons); seeing updates on the app of how Ben Castlehow was doing and then later seeing him, Kara McPheat, Geoff and Michael on the corner cheering me on with 2 kays to go. The biggest challenge was undoubtably the 32 degree heat which meant I couldn’t push myself as much as I would have like to have.

Finishing at the Sydney Opera House was my favourite part of the race and I felt such an incredible sense of accomplishment, fulfilment, gratitude and inspiration. And was just a little tired and thirsty!

Being a part of the OMF was definitely the most important part of my marathon journey and I wouldn’t have wanted to do it without them. I so appreciate all the advice from Geoff, Kara and Laura about how to fuel my body whilst running a marathon and tips and techniques for my first 42.2km! Also a big shout out to Kath – you are a superstar CEO and I so appreciate everything you do for all the OMF team 🤩🤩 

Anyone reading this and tempted to run their first marathon – do it with a group of supportive and encouraging people around you – it makes it much more motivating and achievable!! Without doubt I want to run another marathon – but not in 32-degree heat!