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MELBOURNE MARATHON 2015: FAILURE ISN’T A DIRTY WORD….PERHAPS

October 31, 2015

By now I’m sure you’ve all seen the videos from the varying pre-event locations (either in Brisbane or in Melbourne) that document the feelings before a morning of getting down to business. Therefore I’m not going to rehash what’s been recorded on the video, but I’ll pick up the story with about 40 minutes prior to race start, after stretching and the pre-race toilet break where the queues were somewhat shorter this year (although I’m certain that the lines would have increased in the minutes after I did what I had to do.

It all looked relaxed enough heading down for the warm-up in the Melbourne Park precinct, but the area choice could have been better. I felt some moisture on my back, not because I lost my footing but because the surface chosen was damper than I had anticipated and the back of the top was slightly grubby. Still by the time I finished my final sharp run throughs across the road from “Eddie’s House” (the Holden Centre), the body felt relaxed enough and I still had a little fluid in the bottle to top up with in the start zone.

After anticipating the charge of the light brigade in the first kilometre I actually found the start to be rather sedate. Runners obviously were conscious of the distance remaining and the space needed for everyone to get through. The only contact I made with other runners in a physical sense was down St.Kilda Road as many merged to get into the right lane after crossing the tram tracks, but even that was minor if anything. Everything went according to plan in the first 10km in terms of fluid intake, where I replicated the previous years plan of taking my first gulp of water at about 8km. Everything was going BETTER than anticipated in terms of time, for I was near the middle of the front 3:50 pace bus through the checkpoint at 10km.

Figuring that everything was going well enough and with a plan of increasing the tempo from the mid point, I decided to slow just a little heading northbound along Beaconsfield Parade. It seemed to relax me given this was the first year where I wasn’t overly anxious to see the turning point, and the fact that I had decent company around me told me I was well on course to achieve the goal of a sub 4 hour. I was hitting the pace I wanted to run as I collected the first of my 2 personal drinks (Orange Lucozade) at 23.5km, where the attendants were very much on the ball in finding what I wanted.

Just after the 31km mark was the first sign of trouble. After slowing a little though the 30km station to take on board a little water and to dispose of the Lucozade bottle, I started feeling a cramp in the right hamstring. Whilst it isn’t the first time I’ve suffered cramping on a marathon course (Canberra 2014 comes to mind), it meant that I would probably need to slow my pace to manage a decent finishing time. After a couple of minutes of stretching to sort that issue, the major pain reverted to the left knee. It was at this time that Digger Hargreaves, one of the 8 “Spartan Legends” remaining on course wobbled past. Figuring that I could keep up with his pace (or more to the point, him keeping up with my pace given he had put in a big effort to get within 4 hours as well), the next 5km was a mixture of running, walking, limping, conversation, listening to the onlookers who knew him as well as their next door neighbour and generally trying to ignore the increasing pain.

It came to a head just after the final personal drinks station, which according to my planning would be my final drinks stop for the day. But it wasn’t the fluids that became an issue, instead the fact that I can only struggle to put any pressure on my left knee became a burden to great to overcome when it came to reaching a time goal. As I slowly wobbled away from Domain Road and headed back to Federation Square, all I could do was limp around and try not to get in the way of the 4:00 and eventually the 4:10 pace buses as their ever dwindling numbers trudged past.

By the time I made the last turn into the MCG, the pain in the knee almost saw me screaming “NOT NOW” as onlookers wanted to shout their encouragement (although when struggling I never see it as encouragement, I tend to see it as a put down, it’s probably just me more than anything else). It was almost a case of hopping towards the line on the matting indicating the final lap of the hallowed turf. By this stage the 4:19 on the clock and the fact that I yet again failed to deliver on my expectation didn’t matter, I was more concerned about how I was going to be mobile for the short term. Fortunately there were St.John’s officials on the scene to assess the damage as I crossed the line, although I’m sure my case was less important as those who were suffering dehydration or other ailments. I saw at least 3 runners on the side of the road being attended to on course between 34 and 40km, and as I was wheeled into the visitors dressing rooms at the MCG, there were at least 15 others in the room with varying medical issues.

The assessment made by the trainee nurse was that she thought I had a small meniscus tear, and the knee was bandaged for the next week as I limped around. It meant that the post event massage was curtailed for removing and reapplying the bandage was placed in the too hard basket. However the on course strapping probably could have done with reapplication for it almost ended on the floor by the time I reached my base later that afternoon. Fortunately the knee has improved to being in decent condition today, meaning that Point to Pinnacle is still on the agenda when for a time I thought that could be in doubt.

 

Naturally it would be foolish to suggest that I should give up after this failure to focus on shorter events. I need to complete another 7 Melbourne Marathons to reach Spartan Status, which proves mental toughness and longevity and is a club I aspire to join one day. Add to that the ambition to do the 50km event in Canberra next year and the longer distances remain more than a passing interest. Just one more event to complete this year (Point to Pinnacle in Hobart in 3 weeks) then a short break before resuming run specific training in mid January is the plan from here.

 

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