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May 4, 2019

It can be weird how many classify how tough a marathon or ultra marathon is. Some find them tough because of distance (applicable more in Ultras), some see the toughness factor hidden in elevation charts if not in the distance, a few see the elite nature of a field as the indicator that this will be tough. Then there’s climactic conditions where some find it tough because of heat (or lack of), humidity, wind and rain (intensity and frequency). The inaugural Cairns Marathon last weekend fell into the tough category thanks to tropical warmth and showers not falling consistently.

After settling in following the error of forgetting to lodge an entry before Saturday, I was thrilled to discover that the fridge in my motel room wasn’t operational. That said I conceded that if I was going to run this event it may be useful to try to simulate what I’ll be facing at Comrades as best as possible. Knowing that my motel in Durban doesn’t have a fridge in the room at all perhaps this was a blessing in disguise, particularly when I would be using the drink of choice in the opening couple of hours (orange Lucozade) and wearing almost identically what I intend to run in next month.


With the motel about a kilometre from the start precinct I wasn’t that worried about departing from the motel later than I had liked. That said with the wet conditions prevailing at the time perhaps it may have been wiser to go early rather than late. It was an earlier than usual starting time compared to many marathons in Australia, although starting later than 5:45AM probably would being the heat factor into  even sharper focus. Owing to the heat I planned to utilise as many drink stations as possible even though at Comrades I’ll revert back to using the 2nd or 3rd station for my first fluid replenishment opportunity. It was also determined that for the first 10km or so I would keep pace with the 4:15 pace runner to test if I was able to maintain some sort of moderately fast tempo befor before reverting to survival mode (walk/run which I’ll be practicing throughout May). There probably was little point or chance of keeping up for the whole distance with that pacer, partially due to conditions (and the dropoff in pace training in warm conditions early in the campaign would be enough proof), partially due to long term thinking.

For the first hour despute the heat everything went pretty well according to plan. It would be the only lap where the field would depart more than a kilometre or so from the Esplanade, running up to Aeroglen, turning into the Botanical Gardens, then shooting up a backroad to the airport starting what would be a trio of loops. The walk/run mode began just after the 70 minute marker, if only to try to cool the body down a little in between showers. Indeed the on again off again nature of the showers was frustrating as a runner, for it was harder to judge how I wanted to approach the run. Running in wet conditions is far different to clear running on a damp surface, particularly in sighting landmarks where you want to start or finish an effort.

Speaking of such efforts, it probably showed that I had learnt from Canberra that I was able to run less like a footballer when those efforts were made. I was able to go that extra 150-200 metres that I was looking for in my capital surges. Yet the conditions weren’t helping the feet. I passed a first time marathoner who had to discard his shoes and run in bare feet when his shoes were too wet to cope with. I too was battling this problem although knowing that these shoes would be a training pair after this race and with a dry pair waiting at the finish line persevering with what I had would be the plan.

This would turn out to be the least of my issues. At around 28km i started to feel tightness in my right hamstring. Perhaps I should have thought long term at this point and called it a day, but the fact that I was relatively close to the finish (2/3 race distance), the lure if finishing an inaugural event and wanting to bank the kilometres prior to Comrades saw me continue. For a while I did find a way of coping with the discomfort by shortening the stride pattern, which I’ll need to utilise for the hillclimbs in the first half of the up run. By the end of the final loop I was actually slowing up waiting for another runner to finish alongside me (even if some of the club runners were urging me not to), leaving a pedestrian 5:15 finish time as a result. That said upon looking at the overall results I’m actually not feeling as bummed about this time, with just 4 runners breaking the 3 hour mark. Certainly there would have been faster times if it was dry and cooler, but with Cairns based in the tropics the conditions probably wouldn’t have been much cooler.

I was thankful that each finisher got a towel, certainly much more useful than the tea towels Gold Coast dished out 2 years ago (I’ll be determining whether I enter in the coming weeks). Yet I didn’t end up going for a recovery dip in the pool falling asleep with the legs stretched out that afternoon. Due to the hamstring issue that hampered me for half the week at work, I couldn’t complete any training runs, which may be a blessing to give the legs a little freshen up before a solid 3 weeks to complete the big bloc.

Despite the injury it’s still a definite start for the Wings for Life event on Sunday in Melbourne. If I am restricted to walking then that’s what I’ll be content with. If I can run sections and get close to 15km (I covered over 16 last year) it will be beyond expectations. The purpose of this training run is not necessarily kilometres or time, but a chance to run on motorways much like the start of Comrades. I won’t get another opportunity to practice running on a slightly different surface to a normal road, even if it’s a 9PM start time. Expect a vlog on my YouTube page tomorrow prior to the run to go through the details of what the Wings for Life world run is, and perhaps it will be reposted here depending on if I use some motel WiFi to upload.

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