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June 5, 2018

Training for an event such as Comrades is tougher than many would imagine, especially if you’re alone and are trying to do it with minimal group runs or help. Hence the long road often includes many race runs doubling as training efforts. Whilst Wangaratta proved to be a false start as mentioned in the previous post, there was still quality kilometres to be pounded in both Port Macquarie and also in Canberra. Both of these had left me with a good tale to tell (or so I think), so here is the race report in a kind of  conjoined contracted fashion.



This would be a series of new experiences for me, namely the first time I had ever been to the Port and the first time I had run 3 races in the one day since high school athletics carnivals when I ran 400m/800m and the sprint relay (the house wanted to field 2 teams because everyone else did). With a calf injury hampering preparations, a visit to the local Chemist Warehouse for Voltaren and bandaging in addition to the pre packed K-Tape would certainly put the mind at ease over whether I was going to run. Hence the plan was to take it easy and try to time my finishing times so that when I finished one leg the second leg would be about to start or had just commenced.

It started out reasonably well, managing to get through the warm up without trying to overly extend myself (which had been an issue at both Sydney runs last year) and tagging along with the 2 hour pace runner for much of the trip during the half marathon. There were times where the nerves started to rise, particularly when running across a bridge that felt like it was swaying when runners flew across it, and along the narrow breakwall section where the rocks were decorated generally as a tribute to someone. I fell off the back of the pace on the 3rd lap and basically crossed the finish line, navigated my way through the crowd and ran straight over the start line to commence the 10km. By that stage I was feeling OK physically except I felt the need to do some business requiring a toilet. Any momentum I had gathered was lost to the extent where the calf started to feel a little sorer than normal and I was reduced to little more than walking pace.

By the time I came through to start the last leg, the kids were all lined up and about to start their race, and there were only a handful of adult runners that were completing the last 5km. Yet knowing I had Comrades to think about, I knew it was important to finish the last 5km well. The track was clear enough until I hit the breakwall for the 6th time (3 times for the half marathon, twice in the 10km) where I was dodging the general public who were looking for fishing/surfing/sightseeing spots and the kids with their parents heading in the other direction. Fortunately I plodded into the finish in a time that needed a sundial to measure as opposed to a stopwatch, and I ended up with 4 medals from the day (even if I now have 2 finishers medals for the 10km and none for the half). Most importantly though for me, it was 36km in the bank done for the big dance which was the most important aim of the day. I intend to be back for next year to try to get through the whole thing a lot quicker than I did this year.



By contrast to the Port, this was the 3rd time I would be starting the Ultra Marathon in Canberra and the 5th time overall where I would be running there having done the marathon twice. In an attempt to prevent the boredom that the course became some sections were deleted and another loop in a suburban area added, plus instead of going anti-clockwise around Parliament House we ran clockwise. Yet one part of the course had everyone talking, for a volunteer marshall who was either asleep at the wheel on his briefing, or was guessing big time, directed everyone except the first 3 male competitors onto a section of the course 20km earlier than we need to be. By the time I had arrived (after an unscheduled pit stop less than 3km into the run) I half thought about going straight but trusting the corner worker I wandered on the turn up to the bridge. It turned out that just about the entire field were coming the other way with instructions to turn around, and the thought has since passed that if I trusted my instinct that the course was wrong before making the turn, I would have been in 4th place in a National Championship (this doubled as the Australian 50km championships) for about 2-3 kilometres.

After that it was a case of just taking it easy and if I did manage to get a time that would improve seeding for Comrades it would be a bonus. The simple walk/run strategy incorporating signage worked better than anticipated. Conversing with other past and present Comrades runners (some of whom were using this as a training run, others as a last chance qualifier for this was the last marathon prior to the qualifying date cut off) left me more relaxed than ever. In contrast to last year where I was the 7th last to clock in, this year there was still a reasonable throng waiting at the finish line some 5:39 after the commencement, although they were there to see someone from the Indigenous Marathon program become the first to finish the 50km since their inception rather than seeing me. It was probably the most content I had been crossing the finish line in the capital, and after that I thought that if I had crossed the 50km marker at Comrades in 6:39 then things were really going to plan. Whether that forms part of the whole plan remains to be seen.


There were a couple of other decent training runs and of course the local Rocky River Run that have been done since, although the quality of those runs probably weren’t as good as they could have been. But it’s now too late to worry about those sort of things for as I type this I’m in the Singapore Airlines Silver Kris Lounge preparing for departure!

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