Sunday, October 21, 2012

2:51:27 - Melbourne Marathon


A three-and-a-half minute PB!

OK, that's the short version. If you don't want to waste time reading the world's longest race report, stop here.

I flew down to Melbourne on the Friday before the race. After the previous week's hot weather it was a rude shock to wake up and find a grey, rainy, windy and cold day (it was snowing further up the mountain). My flight was scheduled for 12:15pm but the weather delayed everything so I didn't end up leaving until a fair bit later.

Finally landed in Melbourne and made it to my hotel (so easy with Skybus - had a nice chat to the driver when I was the last one left on the bus. I asked him to explain how to do a hook turn... I decided I'll never drive in Melbourne). Quick dash to a supermarket to get a couple of things then out for a short run. I was feeling so, so nervous.

I slept in late on Saturday because I was worried I'd have a restless sleep that night and I wanted to be as rested as possible. Eventually headed out for a very brief run on which I started to feel... fantastic. My legs felt strong and I was full of energy. Phew! Good thing that taper decided to kick in!

I had to be at the MCG at 1pm for the elite athlete briefing. Took my time getting there, dropped my personal drinks in then had a look around the expo before meeting with the other runners and the competition director, Tim Crosbie.

It is truly a privilege to race as an 'elite' runner in this race. I've been lucky enough to do it three times and it is such an amazing experience. The title 'elite' is a bit misleading - yes, there are some real elite athletes involved, but there are also runners like me who have some solid results and are racing as part of their state or territory team.

 The 'elite' group has access to facilities under the MCG on race day - before and after the race. Any runner knows how valuable that is - we have toilets, space to warm up, showers, water, sports drink, bananas and people to help us. No lining up for anything, no waiting in the cold. It's awesome.

Tim and his staff do such a great job of looking after all the elite runners - not just the super fast ones - and I am so appreciative of all their work.

The briefing was pretty standard - an overview of the rules and info on the course, drug testing and the schedule for race day. We got our bibs and we were on our way.

As anticipated, I had a lot of trouble getting to sleep that night. The alarm was set for 4am (three hours before race time). Eventually I nodded off, but I woke a number of times - frantically checking the clock to ensure I hadn't overslept.

When the alarm finally went off I felt OK. Nervous, yes, but ready to race. Breakfast, shower, dressed (NSW uniform and Mizuno Elixir), more breakfast (lucky raisin toast) and some anxious pacing around my room.
Early morning MCG.
I got to the MCG about 5:40am. Plenty of time to warm up, go to the bathroom (a million times) and get into 'race mode'. This part of the day is, as I said before, such a privilege. Everything is so easy and you don't need to waste energy worrying about queues, getting a good start position, being cold, getting rid of your warm-up clothing... it's all taken care of. About 35 minutes before the race started I took a tablet to stop my dreaded 'toilet stop'. (As an aside, I think I may now know what causes this - supplements that contain a high dose of magnesium).

It was a relief to hear the gun go off - finally I was underway and I knew that in under three hours I'd be home and hosed (I refused to entertain the idea of running over three hours!). I planned to go out at 4 minute ks - a strategy I've followed in the last few marathons I've done - go out at 4 min k and see how long I can last.

This time, thankfully, I held the pace for much longer than usual. Although I detest racing in my Garmin (it stresses me out) I knew the split information would be valuable in analysing the race so I wore it (and forgot to turn off the sound so the stupid thing beeped at me every kilometre).

I settled pretty quickly and began ticking off the kilometres fairly evenly: 3:47, 3:54, 3:57, 3:56, 3:58, 3:56, 3:57, 3:55, 4:02 (oops), 3:57. The official race results say I went through 10k in 39:41 (my Garmin didn't match with km markers so better to use official timing).

16k marked the point where I started doing a few more four-minute kilometres, with some sub-4s interspersed.

At about 31k a piano fell on my back and the ground turned to quicksand for a while. I felt like I was running in slow motion - at 33k I ran a 4:09 km and at 34 I ran 4:08 before dropping back down to 4:02. The hill between 36-37k threw a spanner in the works - I ran a slow 4:14 then a horrendous 4:23. Ouch!!

The results give my 10k splits as follows:
10k: 39:41
20k: 40:26
30k 40:21
40k: 41:45

My Garmin has my halfway split at 1:23:48 (it's odd that the race doesn't record a half split).

When I crossed the line, in 2:51:27, I had nothing left in the tank - I was exhausted and so, so happy about it. I really believe I gave it everything I had.

I was thrilled. And relieved! After focussing on (and worrying about) this race for the past 11 weeks I could finally relax. The thing that made it even more wonderful was the knowledge that I had trained really hard to achieve that time, and it had paid off. Yahoo!

I had a massage after the race (during which I had one of those awful foot cramps where your foot curls up like a claw and won't release). I was feeling pretty sore. Back at the hotel I flooded the bathroom by having a epic-long shower then sat by the window overlooking Jolimont Avenue and watched the procession of runners continue. Those people are champions - I don't know how they keep going for hours and hours and hours.

The winner of the female race was Lauren Shelley in the stunning time of 2:36:29. Jane Fardell was second in 2:37:52. Both these women qualified for the world championships next year - amazing runs.

I finished 11th overall and 10th in the Australian Championships. A record number of women (22) ran under three hours. Go girls!

I spent the afternoon enjoying the Melbourne institutions of coffee and retail therapy with fellow NSW runner Magda Karimali-Poulos - one of the most consistently strong (yet unbelievably modest) athletes I have the pleasure of being friends with. She finished fifth in the fantastic time of 2:45:36 - and still had the energy to go running after a bus at the end of the day.

Unlike last year, when I flew back to Sydney straight after the race, I had allowed myself another night in Melbourne to kick back and relax. So lovely.

Felt surprisingly OK when I woke up on Monday. Sore and tired but not as bad as I had been anticipating. I thought I was supposed to do an easy 20 minute recovery jog so I did (turns out that wasn't on the program). It was lovely being able to run without thinking, "Will I do it? Will I run well in Melbourne?"

But the gods have a sense of humour and couldn't let the weekend go by without having a laugh at my expense. When I flew into Sydney I couldn't wait to jump in the car and get home. I'd timed it so I'd be ahead of peak hour traffic so I'd have a nice, stress-free drive. Ummm... no. My car battery was flat. Dead as a doornail.

This was a saga in itself, involving me asking the carpark office and every single car rental place if they had a battery charger pack before standing next to the pay machines and accosting everyone there. Without going into detail, my poor (and wonderful) husband was three quarters of the way to the airport when I was saved by a car park officer and sent on my way - three hours after my plane landed.

So there you have it.


Huge thank you to my coach Sean - this wouldn't have happened without him. Also thanks to Mizuno for supporting me. Finally, endless hugs and kisses to Andrew who has done absolutely everything so I haven't had to worry about anything except eat, sleep, train and work.


  1. Great Job congratulations

  2. Jo, in distance running there is no substitute for hard work. You have done all of the hard work and it has paid off. I hope that this will lead to many more great marathon (and other) runs for you.