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October 22, 2014

OK, enough of keeping everyone in suspense over what happens next. After all, it has been a week and a half since the Melbourne Marathon concluded and about that time since I started drawing out the report from the event for this year. For those who didn’t catch up from last time, I left you on the start line just as the gun was sounded to signal the commencement of the event. So let’s pick up the action as I crossed the start line to officially begin the long trek.


The course this year was slightly different to compensate for not finishing inside the MCG. None of this affected the first 10 kilometres, so it was my plan to reach the 10km marker somewhere near 52-55 minutes which I had been regularly targeting successfully in the last few training runs. I found myself ahead of the pace group I was aiming to stay ahead of, and found myself listening to a conversation involving one of the many spartans (those that have run 10 or more of these events). I figured that they were running to a similar tempo, so sticking to their pace for a while would help my legs later on in the day.

The new part of the course was after the Grand Prix pit lane exit. Last year there was a turning point about half way between the pit exit and the “esses” that comprise turns one and two of the Albert Park GP track. This time however we had to negotiate the first couple of corners before the channel narrowed to accommodate the turn back onto the straight. Fortunately I was able to get some clear running the swing a little wider to take the apex of the corner before running wider upon the exit as is my preference. I’m sure many others would have found this part of the course a squeeze, particularly in the well populated pace groupings. The 10km marker also was my first chance to take on board fluid, which even though I had trained not to take on board drinks early in the race was later than I had wanted or expected. My training was geared to run for about 40 minutes or 8km before I would start utilising the drinks stations, and considering there was a water only station at that point this may have been a mistake to wait so long.

Reasonably comfy at the half way mark

Reasonably comfy at the half way mark (CREDIT: Marathon Photos)

The hardest part of the course for me was the long stretch on the beach side of the course, down Beaconsfield Parade for a seemingly endless yet relatively short (in distance terms) short run to the turn onto the Esplanade side of the road. At the half way marker things were still on track, and my plan at that stage was to increase the tempo to get some sort of cushion heading into the final part of the course which I figured was where the mental fatigue would set in. I was able to pass a number of runners….and a person who was attempting to RACE WALK the entire course! I’m sure I passed him 2 or 3 times throughout the day but I had to do a double take to ensure that he indeed was race walking. I’m sure he could have used the dodgiest technique imaginable during the day, for there were no race judges trying to find minuscule faults to toss the poor souls from the race.

If pressed to nominate the highlight of the morning, that would come at approximately 27.5 kilometres. No it wasn’t the fact that I was able to find the bottle of Lucozade I had organised to be left at the personal drinks station (which I must admit was a concern but when I arrived there were 2 drinks left in the area with my number on it, the other was a bottle of Mount Franklin water from memory). It was about this time where I had caught arguably THE living legend of all the Spartan Legends that remain active. Perhaps I was too in awe of Bruce “Digger” Hargreaves to speak that much, or to actually pass him. I was hoping to find a camera on the day (or a facebook shot later on) with both of us in it but alas efforts have proven fruitless. I did however manage to ask a question to him, querying if all 10 of the legends made the start line. The answer was in the affirmative, with one of them even delaying chemotherapy just to make it 37 from 37. Certainly that’s something that I wouldn’t dare of doing, indeed I remarked to work colleagues that this was the new definition of madness.

By the time I had reached the Southbank precinct leaving behind the 33km marker in a time close to the 3 hour mark (which was again a major goal), the left hamstring started to cause trouble. Ever since the Canberra Marathon in April where both hamstrings cramped simultaneously, I had been wearing a bandage to keep the left hamstring warm (for the next event I am planning to wear proper compression garments) for both football and running commitments. In an effort to make the finish line I tried to shift the bandage to my calf which to my pleasant surprise was holding up without any pain. There was a slight delay as I saw a fellow struggler battling to cope with cramping, the temperature having risen by this stage to over 26 degrees. I myself was starting to slow in my tempo, even starting to take multiple drinks on board at the latter drink stations. At least the temperature provided a decent excuse, and certainly there were several others in the same predicament.

With the leg problem temporarily sorted, it was onward to the finish line in a substantially increased state of mind compared to 12 months ago where I just wanted it to end. The last drink station was passed at a reasonable tempo, but the little rise just before the finish line just made me want to wander to the finish rather than to charge across the line. Yet seeing another Spartan combined with the odd come on from the crowd and the timing clock on top of a BMW at least saw me home under my goal time. Some may say the pain is all worth it, and 3 hours 56 minutes and 50 seconds later confirmed my views. Sure I could have shown a little more emotion as opposed to clapping the crowd and casually crossing the line, but I probably made up for it when I gave a lady handing out the prized finishing medals a sloppy kiss on her cheek.

Really felt for these guys, battling to finish in hot conditions.

Really felt for these guys, battling to finish in hot conditions.

The heat did take a toll, post race recovery didn’t see me get up for about 20 minutes despite the post race consumption of 2 bananas and a couple of cups of fluid. Yet after staggering to the massage tables post event (they seemed to massage the calves more than the dodgy hamstring, strange considering the calves felt fantastic beforehand), I made a point of going to the fence to at least be there for the slower finishers who were completing their event. The road closures and re opening times had meant that runners who hadn’t reached a certain point had to complete a loop of 8km near the finishing area. At this stage the temperature was closer to 30 degrees than 13, and I felt sympathy for each and every person on that course, many of whom could barely raise a walk. Hopefully for next year the organisers could get some water to help a lot of these guys out, it looked as though they needed it.


So apart from a new personal best time, what could I take from this event? It was certainly the closest I have ran to a pre-race plan that I had done in previous runs let alone marathons. I hit the majority of target times and made the finish line in less than 4 hours as I had desired. I probably will need to rethink the hydration strategy for next year, perhaps using two personal drink stations as opposed to one (the others were at 11 and 36km, not that I took a lot of notice) or maybe either adjusting the training to train myself to only drink at 10km or actually telling myself physically to take fluids earlier.

Next on the agenda is the final part of the 2014 puzzle, a trip to Hobart for the Point to Pinnacle which is promoted as the world’s toughest half marathon. Unless you want to do research yourself, I won’t expose why except to say that there’s going to be substantial hills training over the next 2 and a half weeks. After that, it’s on with the 2015 plans which could involve up to 5 Marathons, but I’m not going to reveal too much here, that’s certainly for another time.

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