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COMRADES 2018: BRISBANE TRAINING WEEK, WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN AND WHAT WILL BE

It’s not often that I’m able to take an entire week off work to concentrate on the running side of things. Usually training has to fit around when I’m working, whether my shift begins early morning as it does next month for a couple of weeks, lunchtime or mid afternoon. It’s not an easy task to either set an alarm early enough to get up to do a training run OR stay awake long enough to have a run before sleeping through the dead of the morning. This iswhy this week is generally one I look forward to, even if the early morning wake up calls remain.

The planning often goes out the window for these types of training weeks and this week was no different. Fortunately I was able to achieve a back to back training block simulating what may happen on the day when it comes to walking breaks. Tuesday saw me break up a 10km effort into 4 parts each consisting of 2.5km. Of those the first 2km was a run/jog/sprint before taking a 500 metre walk break as many would do on race day. As a runner it can be hard to fathom why I would need to incorporate a walk break into training but when it comes to race day in South Africa the mind will always want to keep you running and leave you exhausted for when you need the energy. Hence the need to try to train as though this were a race.

Wednesday saw me almost achieve all of what I had wanted to accomplish. The plan was to cover either 15km or 90 minutes incorporating Highgate Hill and the nearby University of Queensland campus in St.Lucia. What saw the time go a little longer than anticipated was a toilet break about 10km in, and a couple of stops to allow traffic to pass. Sure it can be frustrating waiting for a car to go through or traffic lights to change (particularly when you’re under 500 metres to the goal distance) but not all of the roads are like running along the bike track constructed several years ago along the Brisbane River. Still I was pleased to get through the 15km even if some of it included walking uphill.

After a planned recovery day on the Thursday (where I almost lost my phone, left it in a toilet and somehow it was still there about 90 minutes later), I thought everything was all systems go for the big Friday loop heading up and down Mt.Coot-tha. It started reasonably well enough but I sensed the legs weren’t going to be cooperating not too far into the run. Perhaps it was the fact I was running with both knees braced where I normally just protect the right. Maybe the recovery from Wednesday wasn’t as good as it should have been, for my quads were still fairly sore before the start. Whatever it was I had to pull the pin on the planned run just 4km into the day, much to my disappointment and regret. I even thought momentarily that I could try again today (Saturday) but sleep and other plans the previous night put paid to those plans.

At least in terms of training I’m well ahead of last year. I’ve now covered in excess of 92km for the month with a few days (and at least 2 more training sessions to come). The plan for February will be to increase the amount of uphill and downhill running particularly in the shorter training sessions whilst increasing the distance and time on the longer runs. There will be a slight easing off leading up to the half marathon in Wangaratta on the last Sunday of the month, for I’m hoping to go as quickly as the 1:53 I did last year.

Which brings me to Friday night, and doing what was arguably the hardest part of the whole Comrades journey, booking the flights to get me to and from Durban. This year I decided to splash a little more cash whilst departing a day earlier than 2017 (which was a Wednesday for a mid morning Thursday arrival). Instead of commuting via Perth like so many others do I’ve decided to commute this year via Singapore, arriving in Durban on Wednesday morning. The return trip is to Adelaide (footy is on that Thursday night) which means that I will have a lengthy 17 hour stopover at Changi to negotiate (as well as entering customs in Cape Town rather than Johannesburg), although at least I’ve read there are many options that will take up the time before arriving ranging from tours, movies, airport lounges and even transit hotels that won’t need me to clear customs. Hopefully it will be $2000 well spent, for I could have been boring, conservative and $600 better off if I went the standard route. Maybe I’m starting to live life a little!

As for the course whose details were released yesterday (Friday) as well,it’s something I’m going to have to embrace rather than fear. 90 is a nice round number to remember but for me the important numbers are yet to be confirmed. Race plans will likely revolve around when the mid race cut off is and knowing how much energy I can afford to save knowing the the few uphill kilometres after the Drummond mid point will be the make or break point. I’m anticipating actually running the announced finish route on race day (well I have to show some form of positive language) and entering the stadium, so I guess I had better prepare myself for it.

 

STRAVA STATS TO END OF 26 JANUARY (NOTE: Stats exclude cross training/footy training distances which are not recorded)
DISTANCE COVERED: 93km [DOWN 3.3km compared to 2017]
ACTIVE TIME: 8 Hours 54 Minutes [DOWN 25 minutes]
ELEVATION GAIN: 1073m [UP 126 metres]

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COMRADES TRAINING REPORT 2: SLOW AND FRUSTRATING WEEK BUT BETTER SIGNS COMING

Well last week sucked. I can’t really describe it much better or worse. The heat and humidity basically ruined the plans that I had and for once changing the training program on the fly proved to be ineffective. Sure some may say I’ve taken a sensible route by not risking my health at this early stage of the campaign considering Sunday’s temperature up here nudged 40 degrees Celsius. Yet I know the importance of a back to back training weekend and being basically forced to sweat it out at home was frustrating at the very least.

The week basically began with getting a free day on the Tuesday which originally was going to be a mountain run. However not responding to the alarm in the morning is proving to be a regular occurrence that hopefully will not happen in just under a fortnight when the week of training in Brisbane commences. Still I decided to try to improvise and do some grass running at the local footy oval that afternoon. Was planning to do a program of 6-8km depending on the light and how the legs adapted to grass running and road running on the same day. It started encouragingly enough doing sufficient laps for a 2km set on the grass basically in 10 minutes. Then rather than physical conditioning playing tricks with the mind, the next set was cut basically because of concerns of where my belongings were. Carrying a bag with footwear and personal items and trying to run a couple of kilometres is not exactly plan A, B or C, and even though I covered the kilometre at a rapid clip I just couldn’t do the second half of the planned leg. Then after doing what amounted to be a measuring run for a possible footy training warm up, I decided to call it a day rather than try to push on.

A further planned midweek run was basically aborted again because of sleeping through alarms, and Saturday’s initial plan for an 85 minute trot was ruined by seasonably warm weather. By the time I started what was Plan C (Plan B was going to be the 3-4-5 split run that I was originally scheduling for Sunday) temperatures according to a school I passed just before 5:30 was still 37 degrees. Somehow I salvaged doing 3 lots of 3km efforts which rather than doing them at different paces that I was easily doing when confident, in form and slightly fitter, I ended up hitting a consistent 5:30 overall pace for each leg. I wanted to do either a 6km last leg knowing that if I did the kilometres allotted to the Sunday plan then perhaps I could do the big run about 23 hours later, but both physical and atmospheric conditions combined to ruin any schedule I may have had planned. Indeed I just couldn’t escape the confines of the bedroom as listening to cricket seemed to be slightly more appealing.

At least the new week has started on a good note. With little planned and being unable to get some shut eye before working late shifts this week I felt a good training run may get me somewhat back on track. I managed to get a continuous 50 minute run on the board, save for a brief natural break where I hope nobody was spying on me. Conditions were as good as they have been for a while so despite the legs barking a little and a few rises and small hills being thrown in for good measure, covering 9 kilometres was a success. Covering the 50 minutes was an even bigger success after the shortcomings of the weekend. Pace was relatively consistent which was nice, although I would have liked to be able to throw in a couple of fast kilometres that would be sub 5:10 pace. Still complaining about a successful run is as useful as counting Bernard Tomic’s millions that he apparently has (money or pubic hair?) so I’ll be happy having a kip before work this evening.

Hopefully I’ll be able to do another run before the weekend before doing a double this weekend. One run will need to be at least 90 minutes (probably on the Saturday) with the other being either a 3-4-5 or a 4-5-6 split. That said with the Brisbane week coming up I’m hopeful of doing a couple of back to back runs with the centrepiece Mt.Coot-tha run on January 26 so perhaps the split run may even be brought forward to Friday should I be able to wake up that early!

 

STATISTICS FOR THE 9 DAY PERIOD FROM 8/1 to 16/1

22.3 kilometres covered (DOWN 2.7 km compared to last year)
2 Hours active time (DOWN 37 minutes)
239 metres elevation gain (UP 13 metres)

OVERALL STATISTICS FOR PERIOD 1/1 to 16/1

54.4 kilometres covered
5 Hours active time
486 metres elevation gain

ANOTHER YEAR, ANOTHER TRAINING SLOG

So the grind begins again, those early mornings and late afternoons dragging myself out of bed or away from nothingness as the days grow longer and the temperatures get hotter. It hasn’t been like what the southern capitals were experiencing last weekend, for it actually didn’t get over 35 degrees up here. That’s not to say it’s been a cakewalk or anything like that, humidity in this part of the world is often too difficult of a hurdle to negotiate. Yet so far things have been positive in training if not going according to the script.

Even though I’m not intending this post or this blog being a fully blown diary of the 2018 Comrades Marathon journey, this first blog will highlight what I’ve done in the opening week plus give an indication of my intentions for the coming weeks. Naturally when it comes to training plans you don’t have to treat this plan as gospel. After all I’ve never been a running coach (just a level 1 Australian Rules Football coach), I’m prone to changing plans on the fly which I have done frequently over the years and have done so again this week, and I recognised when I was studying a teaching degree that sometimes what you have planned may only work for some and not everyone. Feel free to steal whatever I’ve done or am planning to do, but note that if what I’m doing doesn’t work for you, then feel free to alter any plans to suit you.

COMRADES TRAINING WEEK 1

Week 1 heat map courtesy of Strava.

1 JANUARY: 5km split into 2 x 2km and 1 x 1km. 1st 2km section @ sub 5:00 pace, 2nd 2km section @ 5:50 pace, last km at 5:20 pace

2 JANUARY: Rest Day

3 JANUARY: 6km@ 5:30 pace, was looking for 45 minutes or 8km although I was getting the pace that I wanted to maintain.

4 JANUARY: Rest Day, did some light home gym work on arms and leg presses

5 JANUARY: Rest Day

6 JANUARY: 68 Minute long run, aim was for 75 minutes or 14km (achieved 11.7km, so if I managed to keep going I probably would have made the 1.3 km in the remaining 8 minutes)

7 JANUARY: Trio of Efforts. Was aiming for a 3km/4km and 5km trio, ended up doing a 2km/3km and 4km. I like doing this in training as it gives you the kilometres you want from a long distance run whilst getting a few rest periods in between. Another trio that I like doing is a trio of 5km efforts where I vary the pace (first 5 at 5:30 pace, second 5 at sub 5:10 pace, last 5 at leisurely 5:50 pace).

STRAVA STATS FOR WEEK 1: 32 kilometres covered, 3:00:03 active running time, 247 metres NET Elevation Gain (Strava gives net elevation gains rather than gross)
COMPARISON TO WEEK 1 2017: 8km MORE, approximately 50 minutes extra active running time, 92 metres extra NET elevation gain

FEELINGS: Whilst the figures look low compared to a number of others, particularly those in Africa who have probably been in heavy training looking to get their qualifier at a race such as Two Oceans, this is certainly more kilometres in the bank than I have ever done at this time of the year (in the past I haven’t begun training for anything until the end of January). Even though it hasn’t been the exact program that I have been seeking, the fact that I’ve been active and have achieved those efforts is a success. Now to take the next step.

NEXT WEEK: Monday is a rest day, vital considering I’ve gone back to back run days over the weekend. Tuesday will be extended due to me gaining the day off work, and local landmark Mt Archer will get a visit from me for the first time in a few years. The course will look something like the route below, although there may be slight alterations as I stick to paths at times rather than take up space on the road. This run will be an ideal lead up to what I plan to do around Mt.Coot-tha on January 26, the details of which I plan to share a little later.

You may notice upon zooming in that the run will also include the downhill section of the run. Being a Down run practising and trying to perfect a technique for downhill running, particularly on weary legs, will be a necessity. Running downhill cannot be simulated on a treadmill from what I’ve experienced,

Planning to do a hard 5km on Thursday morning, although it’s still to be determined if it is to be on its own as a run or as part of something a little longer (not more than 50 minutes), before the Saturday afternoon long run which this week will aim for 85 minutes or 16km (whichever comes first). To round out the week on the Sunday it will either be a trio of 4/5/6km efforts or the trio of 5km runs that I outlined earlier in this piece. Of course this is subject to change so what I propose to do here isn’t necessarily going to be what I’ll be reporting on next weekend.

SUPPOSED TO BE RESTING, YET THE TRAINING CONTINUES

So the Point to Pinnacle is done and dusted for another year and the commitments for 2017 have been completed. The run itself saw me apologising to many of the walkers for bringing Queensland’s early summer weather to Hobart when usually layers of clothing battle to keep you warm. Everything was going to plan until the last 5 kilometres which were basically too steep for me to go at anything quicker than a walking pace, particularly when you’ve had a lack of training in the month between Melbourne and Hobart. Still managed to clock in just under 3 hours, which means I’ll have to come back next year to try to get a decent time on the back of a decent preparation. At least the view from the top was superb this year compared to last year when it was too cold to get further than the turn onto the climb itself!

Originally the plan was to record and post a few videos of the day on this site for all to see. Unfortunately the quality of the video and the shots that I got were about as useful as putting sugar in a risotto, so they may wait for another day (a blooper reel maybe). I was even tossing up whether to do the race with the tablet in hand to record the actual run, but until I get a go-pro or some other camera mounted on the head that idea will have to wait for another day.

From the top now #pointtopinnacle2017 #pointtopinnacle

A post shared by Mick Jeffrey (@mhjeffrey027) on

December is always a time to concentrate on work and getting parcels away to the capital cities and smaller centres to try to make people happy when Mr Claus comes along to dispense his brand of cheerfulness. Usually this month is always a case of allowing the legs to somewhat recover in order to be ready for the punishment of a January in this part of the world usually characterised by heat, humidity and harder work that needs to be done.

The haul for this year, by no means a bad year in terms of finishes, but much to improve on in terms of time and getting the big result I’m looking for.

This year appears to be different due to the injury that basically ruined the preparation for the Melbourne Marathon. Whilst it is true that specific training for Comrades, and for that matter the earlier lead in events in Australia, will begin seriously on January 1 much like last year, this month won’t be a total rest period. The aim is not to run any special time unless I feel as though I can go fast without feeling sore or tired, or if I’m basically running some lap sprints around an oval. The aim is to keep the weight in check to an extent as well, although I just need to be careful about food and fluid intake which would be more useful.

Distances will vary from time to time and will be subject to physical and mental condition. Being the so called off season it’s not 100% necessary to push the envelope or to follow some sort of structured program. If I can clock up a 1 hour continuous run then I’ll be more than content with that. If it means I have to split up a 6km day into 3 bursts of 2 kilometres then naturally I will see no problem with it. The only commitments that I will make to myself during December is if I elect to go out for a conditioning run I will not be going through the motions for 10 minutes before returning, and that if I feel as though I can get through a section I won’t be stopping until I get through that section.

 

The next blog post will also signal my plan for January leading into Comrades and also Wangaratta where for some reason I am still tossing up whether to run either the half or full marathon. No doubt the plan won’t be strictly adhered to (no plan I do is ever followed 100% to the letter, rigidity in planning is something that in this era probably isn’t the best method), nor should someone see this as a plan given by a specialist, for that is something I certainly will never be (I think I’ll stick to football coaching rather than running coaching). Indeed I may even release some sort of plan for the months following, if I can be bothered trying to make one rather than just “Winging It”, perhaps remind me on Twitter (@MHJeffrey027) or even here to keep me on track.

 

POINT TO PINNACLE 2017: SATURDAY RANT FROM THE BUS

Shuttle buses from the airport don’t often make great settings for video blog entries, but you’ll have to like it or lump it this time around. Expect more from this weekend in the coming days, with the run tomorrow morning. Yes that’s my phone being dropped, then being fiddled around with throughout the duration, so apologies in advance.

 

COMRADES 2018: NEVER TOO EARLY TO PLAN

Many non runners think it’s madness to start thinking about races that are 7 months away, wanting us to live day to day rather than thinking too far ahead not knowing what lies in front. Yet I learned from my days studying a Primary School teaching degree (partially finished) that planning is everything. Sure it doesn’t have to be as detailed as lecturers and tutors wanted lesson plans to be, but for the big ticket item on next year’s agenda the planning started with the qualifying run in Melbourne. Now the plans are coming together day by day in knowing what I want and when I have to have these things in place by. So here is a summation of where the planning process is for Comrades 2018.

QUALIFICATION/SEEDING

As mentioned completing the Melbourne Marathon in 4:32 was enough to ensure that I would be on the plane to South Africa come hell or high water next June. Fortunately it means that rather than having to burn the legs that I have on entering future marathons with the objective of qualifying, and not being 100% certain that the time would be recognised, I can now even think about using training races as a means to get a better starting position. Of course at the end of the day believing that saving a minute or 2 at the start can lead to having the wrong mindset on race day itself, for specific Comrades race day planning won’t be fully known for a while.

THE REMAINDER OF 2017

Only a solitary event, the Point to Pinnacle in Hobart in just under 3 weeks time, remains on the 2017 running schedule. After that the plan will be to try to rest the legs wherever possible with the aim of starting specific training on January 1 2018. That’s not to say that I won’t be 100% inactive given I’ll be looking to actively recover from mountain madness and I may do the odd trundle here and there just to keep myself sane.

A TENTATIVE 2018 PRE-COMRADES SCHEDULE

Naturally circumstances will change according to fitness and employment, but at this point I am looking at the following schedule to provide me with what’s necessary to get myself ready to accomplish the toughest mission undertaken in my life.

JANUARY 21-27: TRAINING WEEK IN BRISBANE. Like 2017 the week that I always schedule off from work will be spent in Brisbane to do a little training in what should be cooler conditions. The plan will be to run at least 4 times that week (Sunday, Tuesday-Wednesday and Friday) with the run on the Australia Day public holiday Friday to be a lap of the road on Mt Coot-tha, unlike last year when I probably foolishly tried to do a trail run instead of sticking to the road. Doing this week away from my home base should also freshen the mind knowing that I can do this training without feeling as though I’m stepping on egg shells interrupting others at home.

FEBRUARY 10-12: BRISBANE WEEKEND. Work and possibly football commitments may restrict the number of weekends I’ll have to run in Brisbane, but I’ll be looking for some kilometres either around Coot-tha or on the roads of Brisbane on the 11th of February.

FEBRUARY 25: WANGARATTA. At this stage I’m likely to only do the half marathon here, although it is tempting to complete the second lap of the course to complete the full. Being a weekend hit and run mission as opposed to last year when I was forced to take time off work may make travel arrangements slightly rushed, but an overnight stay in the northern Victoria town has been booked so all I need to worry about is when I depart home base. I will even be back in Brisbane by the time night descends on February 25, for the plan is to catch the afternoon train which gets to Broadmeadows (a suburb reasonably close to Tullamarine where the airport is) just after 4PM.

MARCH 17: PORT MACQUARIE. I have entered what is known as the “Breakwall Buster”, an even where runners complete all 3 events offered in Port Macquarie’s Running festival (a half marathon, a 10km and a 5km). Less that 50 runners managed to complete all 3 events last year. The attraction for doing this is this will be to my mind a decent training run under race conditions for that time of year. Added to that will be trying to stop and start again on tired legs as I anticipate I’ll be needing to do in South Africa later in the year. Accommodation has been booked, however flights may cause me to have to look for a day’s leave from work that I wasn’t anticipating having to use.

APRIL 15: CANBERRA ULTRA (50km). The almost traditional lead up for a number of Australian runners prior to Comrades, this will be my 3rd attempt at completing this distance which hopefully will lead to a second finish. Not looking for a time as such but if I get somewhere close to 5 hours which may or may not improve my starting position it will be seen as a bonus. Hopefully things go well this time because as you may know luck has often deserted me in the Capital. It will most likely be the upper limit in terms of training runs unless I find the time to do something beyond 50 with elevation changes so I have to make the most of it.

MAY 6: WINGS FOR LIFE, MELBOURNE. This is something I’ve had my eyes on for a little while but for the first time work commitments won’t be standing in the way of entering. For those that don’t know this run has no finish line as such, rather the race ends when a catch car passes you. We get a half hour head start, but given the car goes 15km/hr to start it’s bad news if you’re not past the 15km marker. With the start time at 9PM in Melbourne (the run is worldwide and starts exactly the same time everywhere, meaning if Auckland had this event it would be an 11PM start time, or 3PM in Abu Dhabi if anyone is that game) even footy won’t prevent me from getting to this event.

MAY 27: ROCKY RIVER RUN (21km). With Comrades falling a week later this year I can return to running the half marathon at my local event rather than just doing a casual 10km systems check before getting on a plane just under 24 hours later. It will be the last meaningful training run distance wise and I’m hoping to get as close to 1:50 as possible, depending on the course as there are narrow bridge crossings which can hold up faster runners. Post this event I’ll probably only do 1-2 more training runs and perhaps do Parkrun at North Beach in Durban as I did last year, but I certainly won’t be doing anything that is beyond 10km or perhaps even 45 minutes if I can avoid it and resist temptation.

 

THE FLIGHT PLAN

Financially I am in a better position than I was 12 months ago, and I have knowledge on when I need to be in certain places based on accommodation bookings (Durban on the Wednesday before Comrades, with the return trip to be via Adelaide for footy commitments). At this point I have made no decision on departure port related to the overseas flights (the 4 options are Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, with the Southern capital being more cost friendly at this stage), whether I wish to spend an overnight stay in Johannesburg which given the flight arrival times via Perth may require 2 nights being booked rather than 1 or whether I choose to fly through to Cape Town on the Monday and fly back to Durban on the Wednesday. A decision on flights will likely be made by the week of the Brisbane training week in January, with hotels being paid for closer to the arrival date.

 

 

Perhaps this will give some indication as to where I’m at in terms of preparing for June 2018, and I haven’t mentioned any training specifics. Sure I’ve experienced a Comrades Marathon before but at this point I’m still to formulate a meaningful training plan taking into consideration employment factors and race weekends/recovery weeks. That may come a little later on but for now I can at least relax the mind if not the body throughout November and December.

MELBOURNE MARATHON 2017 (Part 2) – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED (FOR NOW)

When last we touched base the gun had just signalled the start of the 40th running of the Melbourne Marathon. Usually this is when we see if all the training could be put to good use, but as we all know injury severely restricted this so it was a case of trusting the lessons of the past and hoping all systems hang in for the entire day.

It was the usual slowish start as everyone tried to get some sort of running room and a good position heading into the first couple of corners. It turned out that I had lobbed close to the 4:10 pace group, which would be a good place to start if I wanted this to be a Comrades qualifier. In past years being in this group would mean an ultra conservative start given I’ve lingered in sub 4:00 groups in the first half of the run. Still it felt comfortable running in a decent sized group without fearing that I might run into someone, or even something attached to the pacers themselves for in past years I’ve often channelled the inner Tim Cahill heading the balloons that this year was not present.

As usual the runners scrambled at the first opportunity to stop at the first drink station on St.Kilda Road, which enabled to me utilise my usual hydration plan. It wasn’t until the 3rd station just shy of the 9km marker where I felt the need to take on fluids, something that I often in the past have trained for. Prior to that however there was someone who managed to notice the 2016 Comrades cap that I was wearing, so I was able to have an all to brief chat to her running down the back section of the Grand Prix track. It’s always nice to be able to have a little chat to someone along the way which kind of normalises the run. For those around me it’s not so much a race against the clock but another long Sunday trot around a sports mad city.

Went through the 10km split in around 57:30, slower than some previous years but well and truly on track for what I had set out to achieve. Shortly after came an unscheduled pit stop which fortunately only required an old fashioned wee. There was no panic on my part even if it wasn’t planned, after all it happened at my first attempt at a 50km Ultra in Canberra in 2015 and I actually felt better afterwards. It wasn’t that hard to get on the back of the train through the pit lane, and as I glanced across as I trundled down the main straight of the GP track, seeing the 4:20 and 4:30 pace buses behind was satisfying.

There was a point of difference this year running along Beaconsfield Parade this year in that only one side of the road heading city bound was being used (in past years runners were covering both sides of the road). The biggest mental test of this marathon is always looking for the turning point just after 18km, but this year I wasn’t even giving it a second thought. The half was covered in just over 2:01 which again is slower than a normal half marathon time for me (1:53 in Wangaratta was a year’s best), but again with no pain in the legs and the conservative approach meaning I felt better at that stage than ever, surely keeping up with the 4:10 group would be easy enough. Yet fate again intervened as it did in Canberra a number of years ago. Once again I had to make another pit stop as some chicken chips I consumed on Friday took a couple of days not to agree with me and 5 minutes in the porta-loo was the result. Momentum was pretty much lost in terms of keeping up with the bus, particularly as I had to slightly backtrack to ensure I picked up the first of my Lucozades at the adjacent personal drink station, but everything was still on course and it was just about time to start calculating just how I would need to approach the remaining kilometres to get the goal of a Comrades qualifier.

The time had started to slow a little, although the 30km split at least showed I was still inside the 3 hour marker, leaving me on track for something well inside the mark required. I managed to remark a few times to spectators that me slowing down was as a result of a lack of conditioning due to the injury, so I was still happy enough to have gone well for this long and still not feeling any pain whatsoever in the leg. Plunging down into Alexandra Avenue is always a difficult task given the slower half marathon competitors and a number of 10km chargers are sharing the same bit of road going at a pedestrian pace, but I’m not sure if they had heard my warnings of the wheelchair athlete coming through on their inside (most of them did hear the accompanying cyclist guiding him through the traffic). He was doing it a lot tougher than I was especially ploughing up the rise towards the Shrine of Remembrance so I assume my encouragement was as welcome as the cheers for him that came from the crowd.

Big Man in Blue leading the charge to the finish….well it seemed like it.
PHOTO CREDIT: Marathon Photos

The 35km marker came and went with my time blowing out to 3:35, and by that stage I decided to walk up the hills and use the downhill runs to get momentum to make up any time loss. There was an extra uphill section this year owing to construction works that would normally see us onto St.Kilda Road a lot earlier, but the downhill was helpful and with my second Lucozade in my hands (as sticky as it was), I was able to go through the remaining drink stations without a need to pause. I was almost apologetic to pedestrians looking to cross the road beyond the 40km mark, although perhaps an overhead bridge over the tram lines linking Federation Square to Flinders Street Station could be a solution that Melbourne Council could look at in future city planning. After the usual pose for the photographers waiting around the corner, it was the quick plunge down the final hill although it was at that time that the calf and achilles started to show signs of packing it in.

With the hallowed turf of the G within smelling distance there was a slight problem as to how we could get to entering the stadium. Fearing that I went the wrong way, a volunteer at least assured a few of us we were heading in the right direction. Perhaps they should have gone to Venice to help some of their runners head where they needed to go (DON’T BELIEVE ME, THEN WATCH THIS!). I trotted into the MCG, then for some reason allowed a group of runners to go past me. If it was out on the open road I’d normally have some sort of justification for doing this but perhaps I had felt the time was in the bag and I could possibly help others to get their goal accomplished. For the first time in years I was able to jog across the line without physical impairment, and the final gun time of 4:32:53 (NET TIME: 4:31:13) was similar enough to last year. I can only imagine how well I could run if I was close to 100% in the build up and I had some decent training under my belt!

Makes for good reading, and relieves the stress of having to qualify next year.

After a short catch up with another runner who did the half marathon (bit surprised he noticed but perhaps wearing zinc helps), it was downstairs to retrieve the gear and to get a massage from an Asian lady who worked me over harder than Jeff Horn did to Manny Pacquiao. Pleasingly I was able to confirm the time later that day and on the Monday the details were gladly entered into the Comrades profile to confirm my place on the start line in Pietermaritzburg next June.

 

So where to from here? Naturally I don’t have to enter any marathons for the sake of getting a qualifying time nor do I have to continue to have to train right through December, as my plan is to do minimal training in that period, partially to rest, partially due to work. It means I can plan the first 5 months of the year leading up to the return to South Africa with some surety and knowing I have another “Grand Final” to run. It means I can financially plan well in advance and also I can explore options in terms of when I travel and where I may choose to camp overnight if necessary. In short, it’s safe to say that this mission was a major success that I may not have thought possible 2 months ago!