Another Tick on the List
I umm’d and ahh’d about when I should write and post about this given the recent events in Boston as they shocked and appalled me when I woke Monday morning and saw the news. I’d actually turned on ESPN to watch the scheduled show and then couldn’t believe what was going on. I honestly will never understand what drives certain people to do such things but then I suppose that’s why we term such things as senseless. I guess for a wee while yet there won’t be a good time to post this so I may as well go ahead anyway and so I would like, if I may, recount my thoughts and feelings upon completing a silly target I set myself last year after I completed the Canberra Half-Marathon.
It wasn’t long after I’d finished that I started to think about what I’d do for my next challenge or goal. Initially it was to be completing Fitz’s Challenge but, as some know, I managed to fracture my wrist two days before and unfortunately couldn’t take part. So when an email from the Australian Running Festival appeared in my inbox you could say that I was tempted. Thing is though when I first mooted the idea to Cat she correctly pointed out I’d have to train and start running further than I’d ever ran as most sensible people training for marathons work their way up to around 30k just before they run their marathon; I’m not very good at training for things.
Before both of the half-marathons I’d completed I’d not really done any “traditional” training. Before Cardiff I’d purely been cycling (albeit lots of it) and I literally went out the Sunday before and ran a half-marathon just to check I was even capable of completing it. Equally lacking was my training before Canberra. Having only recently moved to Canberra I’d spent most of my time doing other things and football training and thoroughly lacked in any motivation to train. If I was going to complete a marathon I couldn’t just turn up and run like I had at the half-marathons especially since I’d never ran anywhere approaching 26.2 miles (42k)!
So I mulled it over for a bit trying to decide whether or not I’d train hard enough to justify entering as it wasn’t cheap ($119) and I knew that at the very least I wanted to finish. In the end, obviously, I figured I could and would train. We stumped up the entry fee and suddenly realised what I’d just done and I thought ‘what the heck have I just got myself into?!’ I could now write about the ups and downs of training, of the hard slog and long hours pounding the nearby running routes… thing is I’d be lying. True to form I just couldn’t commit to a training programme. I looked at a couple and even had one passed on to me by a friend and they all looked good, well thought out plans but I just couldn’t motivate myself to get out there and run. I’d cycle to and from work (around 20 miles) and by the time I got home I just wanted to put my feet up and relax and once pre-season football training started I was then training Tuesdays and Thursdays. The last thing I wanted to be doing on any other day was go out and run. I sneaked in a few “training” runs here and there including a couple over Christmas one of which turned out to be the longest run I’d complete before the marathon at 10 miles. Two days before I was due to run I was bricking it; I was almost sure I was going to fail and knew I only had myself to blame but I wasn’t about to back out.
The day of the race arrived, I got up nice and early at around 5am to make sure I could get breakfast in me well before the race start at 7am. Cat joined me nearer our leave time and then we headed off to the start. Due to a lack of car parking I was dropped off and would meet Cat just before I was due to start. Once I lined up I looked around for a pacer and initially started next to the 4hr 15min man. I figured out before the race that I’d try to run 8-8.30mins/mile for as long as I could, figuring by dropping from my usual pace I’d be able to go longer in to the race before I hit “the wall.” As the race began I took off and slowly settled in to my rhythm. Catching up to the 3hr 45 min pacer I figured I’d run with him thinking that it’d be around the pace I wanted to run and would help motivate me but then I thought ‘if I try to open a bit of a gap then when I slow down later I’ve got a buffer.’ Cunning plan or not it’s what I did and for the next hour or so I didn’t see the pacer until I got the turn-around point for the marathon. I wasn’t far ahead but I was still going and my legs felt pretty good as I’d settled on a regime of two drink stations of water followed by two of sports drink and a GU energy gel (which tasted awful by the way). As I completed my second lap and headed out for my final loop of the course I realised that I was still keeping a good pace and, more importantly, I hadn’t been lapped by the leaders! Things carried on much the same as I kept within my pace limit and my legs kept churning and as I reached the turn point for the final time realised I was still ahead of the 3hr 45mins pacer. However, as I neared the finish another runner joined me and advised me that he was catching and not too far behind. Having slowed a little the 8.30-9min/mile pace I decided I was close enough to finish to push and give whatever I had left to keeping ahead of that pacer. As the finish neared I felt lifted by the awesome crowd which had been backing all runners for the entire course and couldn’t believe the time I hit as I crossed the line 3:41.38! Not only had a finished but I came in under four hours, a time I honestly didn’t think I’d get anywhere near. It was also, strangely, exactly two hours more than my half-marathon time; spooky!
Looking back I realise two things. First of all, and most importantly, I finished. Time aside I completed a challenge that a little over two years ago I wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere near. Secondly, I got lucky. No-one in their right mind should ever do what I did and try to run a marathon without any decent preparation. If I were to do another, which I’m tempted to do, I would most certainly train though perhaps not in the traditional sense. While I enjoy taking part in organised events such as this and the Parkruns I don’t really enjoy just going for a run. I do, however, enjoy other sports like cycling/football so I’d probably try to incorporate that somehow into my training. Longer cycle rides on tough courses and such like; at least that’s the idea. At the end of the day though I can now officially say I’m a marathoner and you have no idea how proud I feel!