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April 14, 2015

The first marathon for me has been done and dusted for another year, and in some ways some personal demons have been exorcised. In many ways though they haven’t, even though circumstances in the lead in shouldn’t have made me feel a little disappointment. Yet there’s always a story or three to be told and I guess when I eventually look back on this day perhaps there can be some pride salvaged from the day.

Everything started positively enough compared to 2014. I was able to get a decent feed in at a reasonable hour prior to the event, and unlike the restlessness of the previous year I was able to sleep reasonably well before the alarms started to sound. Perhaps the sign of a bad day may have come with the booking of the taxi (“We’re not allowed to pick up on corners” according to the operator), although unlike the Gold Coast the cab arrived promptly and at the start area with plenty of time to spare. Almost too much in fact, because there wasn’t too many people in the expo area at all when I arrived, probably because of the time (5AM) and the temperature (a balmy 7 degrees).

It was these temperatures that meant the warm-up was disrupted. Obviously not wanting to discard clothing too early but conscious of the time needed to warm-up and utilise baggage drop, and also not wanting to warm up with excessive clothing (I had a jacket, a t-shirt and the running top on as well as trackpants, shorts and skins below) I felt I couldn’t warm up properly. Then as I was getting into a warm-up routine, the 50km event was about to begin meaning that the marathon was just 20 minutes away. After seeing off the soon to be weary warriors of the longer distance, there was time for just a few run throughs and an abbreviated dynamic warm-up prior to having to enter the start zone.

Strangely there wasn’t as much anxiousness to get going as I normally would experience. With a smallish field starting this event numbering just over a thousand, finding a decent spot would be easier than anticipated. Given the training loads had been interrupted due to cyclones and inclement weather curtailing key training events, the goal was simply to finish and anything close to sub 4:00 would be a bonus. With that in mind, I stationed myself reasonably close to one of the 4:00 pace runners who were also helping others achieve qualifying times for bigger events such as the Comrades Run in South Africa. Then after a moment’s silence to honour Richie Benaud, poignantly observed at 6:22 AM, it was time to set off on marathon number 5.

The first sign of trouble came at 9km into the event, when I had to take what cyclists refer to as a “Natural Break” into the bushes at the side of the road. I can’t understand why this would be an issue given my pre-race hydration was no different to other events I participated in (a protein shake and a bottle of Gatorade) and I had not stopped at any of the trio of hydration stations to that point which was a planned move that I had trained for. It meant I had to burn a little more energy than hoped to catch up with the 4:00 bus, but I was able to easily complete that task just before passing the 10km timing marker.

The next 15km passed without great incident, in fact I was keeping pace very well with the group feeling comfortable in my stride patterns and overall speed. It wasn’t until just after mid race distance where my stomach didn’t feel too great. Fortunately at the bottom of a section at around 24km was a dedicated toilet block, and after a quick pause for a “number 2” I again felt like I was going to feel alright for a 4:00 finish, especially as I followed the pace runner into the loo (he needed a leak). But 5km later proved disastrous. Again feeling something in the stomach not agreeing with me, I spied a porta-loo not far from a drinks station. Unfortunately the porta-loo needed to come about 40 seconds earlier, and the subsequent clean up and time spent in the loo cost me at least a chance to record a 4:00 time.

The ordeal wasn’t over after that, although I did manage to pass through the personal hell barrier of 31.5km where I suffered both hamstrings cramping 12 months earlier. Towards the 39km mark with the finish line seemingly within touching distance, I started to feel a little pain in my right foot on the outside and towards the ankle joint. There were a couple of moments where I could feel excessive pain meaning I could only walk quickly, but the adrenalin kicked in passing the final drinks point at 40km. Managing a reasonable pace at the end of the day, I spied the clock ticking over to 4:09 as I entered the finishing chute, and almost 70 seconds (and a couple of “That’s Gold’s” for the photographers and the NRL Footy Show) later I had crossed the line in a time quicker than last year yet short of my expectation.

After the race the pain in the foot kicked in as I waddled away from the race precinct in search of transport back to somewhere close to my accommodation. The pain in the foot lingered throughout Monday along with the usual soreness in the quads and thighs, and at this stage strapping hasn’t really helped the problem. This may mean that upon return to Rockhampton I may have to seek medical consultation which I hadn’t planned or budgeted for in the hope that there isn’t a fracture. Stay tuned for further updates on that, although I hope it won’t affect participation in the remaining events on this year’s busy schedule.

As for next year, if I return to Canberra it will almost certainly be in the 50km event. It’s not that I have goals in the 42km race in the nation’s capital that I haven’t accomplished. Rather this would be a new challenge and a very different adventure to prepare for and complete. That’s not to say that the traditional 42km events will be ignored, and in fact entry for the Gold Coast is one of the next items on the agenda to finalise. Plus there are other shorter distance events to enter, and hopefully complete pending this foot problem.



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