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On your marks: 'toughest fun run in the world' is just one sleep away

On your marks: 'toughest fun run in the world' is just one sleep away

Sat August 11, 2012 2:03am

Don't underestimate the difficulty of this race, writes Garry Maddox.

AT AN eye-popping 225 beats a minute, a heart rate monitor suggested the Herald discovered an activity more stressful than sitting a maths exam, proposing, or losing an Ashes Test - running Heartbreak Hill.

First thought: was that even possible while still vertical?

Could the toughest climb on the 14-kilometre course of Sydney's most famous run really push an average runner's heart rate to a level where a hummingbird would be calling a cardiologist?

A capacity field of 85,000 runners get the chance to find out on The Sun-Herald City2Surf, presented by Westpac, tomorrow.

Contrary to the view that the snarling, twisting Heartbreak Hill is the single toughest section of the course, an early morning run this week showed another spike at 225 beats on the climb up William Street to Kings Cross. Then, on a later climb at Dover Heights, the heart rate spiked again at 216 beats. No wonder race record holder Steve Moneghetti calls it ''the toughest fun run in the world''.

But a senior physiologist at the Australian Institute of Sport, Philo Saunders, suggests the extreme results might be more about the hardware than the hard-panting runner.

''Some people do have high heart rates but 225 is getting pretty high,'' he says. ''I'd say there are some errors in the heart rate connection.''

Dr Saunders expects average runners to register 160 to 180 beats a minute, with elite competitors possibly reaching 210 to 220 at maximum effort.

But, even if scientifically questionable, the Herald's test showed what City2Surfers often forget: how brutal other sections of the course can be, especially the early climbs to Kings Cross and Edgecliff then the rolling hills before the scenic descent to Bondi Beach.

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