The expert's guide to beating the hardest part of the City2Surf

It's that time of year when runners from across Australia (me included) suddenly realise they have less than a month to get into shape for the world's largest fun run, City2Surf.

Stunning views as you glide into Bondi Beach, lively roadside entertainment and 80,000 plus happy runners, the event's most infamous detail is Heartbreak Hill.

Two kilometres of uphill struggle starts just before the halfway mark of the run. Most recreational runners will take more than 10 minutes to conquer Heartbreak Hill. If you hope to finish the horrors of Heartbreak, fitness guru and Australia's original suitor on The Bachelor, Tim Robards, has some advice.

Don't over complicate it

"To prepare for my sixth City2Surf - I run," says Robards.

"In some ways, it's pretty simple and you don't need to over complicate it. [Even] if you're entering just to have fun, it's always better when you can complete it injury free and still have energy to kick on at the after parties at Bondi Beach."

To be match-fit for the event, complete a minimum of four training sessions a week consisting of at least 30 to 60-minute easy pace runs, interval sessions, hill sessions and speed sessions. Follow a City2Surf training plan to suit your fitness level.

Constant cadence

"You want a beat of about 80-90 beats per second which will correspond with your left foot striking the ground," explains Robards.

"When you hit Heartbreak Hill, you will lose a little speed, but don't slow down the tempo of your foot strike, just shorten your stride a little."

Robards recommends keeping a regular breathing pattern with the rhythm of your foot strike.


"Focus on blowing out fast, especially that little extra reserve that we keep in the lungs by really contracting the last bit of the diaphragm and abs. That means more oxygen in on your inhale, which means you run faster and longer."

To be confident on the uphill, Robards says you can't beat plyometric exercises like hill sprints, jumping lunges, box jumps and ballistic legs exercises using the instability of the rings. "To conquer a big, long hill you need to add some load into the legs and then increase their endurance ability. Focus on doing exercises that give you a deep burn!"

Plot your path

With thousands of other runners to weave past with on the course, Robards suggests always looking several metres ahead, and to plot your path through the crowd.

"The run is very congested early on, so use footpaths when you can or find a small group of people that are running fast together and tag along," says Robards.

"It's always good to tag someone a little fitter than you that will push you a little to keep up, when you would normally tell yourself you're too tired."

Kick butt

The longer than usual distance of City2Surf can test the best of runners. Robards suggests doing 50 metres of high knees or butt kicks every kilometre.

"These moves will shake up the legs a little and wake up the postural muscles that may be fatiguing from being held in the same running pattern for a while," he says.

Also, try running on different surfaces like the road, grass, jump a gutter or even try running on a straight line as if it were a tightrope. These variations challenge your body and get your mind off the discomfort of running long distances. 

Strong through the middle

Good runners have strong cores, confident balance and great joint stability.

Using roman rings and gym or outdoor fitness stations, the program is affordable and caters to all fitness levels, meaning you can incorporate a training session before or after one of your runs.

Pre and post run snacks

"I'm a big believer that it's your over-all diet that matters, not what you have right before or right after a run," says Robards.

"However, for those running at a competitive level that may be a different story as even that extra one per cent can make a difference. Before a race have a slice or two of seeded loaf with some nut butter and some slices of banana. This meal is loaded with plenty of good quality fats that will fuel you for the long haul as well as some simple and complex carbs with plenty of vitamins and minerals."

For a simple post workout snack to have straight away, you'll want to replenish some vitamins and minerals, especially electrolytes.

Robards' green machine smoothie is a great one to throw down after the run. "You may want to add some extra protein, so try adding something natural like Vida Glow hemp, which is a vegan based protein or you can go Rocky Balboa style and add some raw eggs if that's more your style," says Robards.

The goal of one day completing an ultra-marathon inspires running fanatic Laura Hill to clock up the kilometres each week. With a day job in the corporate world, Laura loves nothing more than lacing up her runners and hitting the pavement to clear her mind and challenge her body.

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