When Teddy (aka David Chadwick) suggested we co-blog Melbourne Marathon together, I jumped at it. After both competing in the Tassie team at Sydney Marathon and now about to embark on our second marathon four weeks later, sharing our stories side by side seemed like a bloody good idea. So here it goes….
You’re doing what?
Four weeks ago I ran my first sub 3-hour marathon and I’m going to try to back that up, running a new PB this week. I’ll admit the recovery period seemed skinnier than catwalk models in the 90s, but I figured that was no reason not to give it a go.
Most of the online reading was not that encouraging, but I consoled myself with the thought that the articles I read could have been written by the running version of Pete Evans. Having run a few marathons by now, I was actually quite excited to see what I could do, I have a very strong philosophy that if I really want to get the best out of myself I have to challenge myself with goals that I will occasionally fail at. By doing so, I remove fear of failure as a limiting factor to my performance and allow myself to achieve far more (and others who are braver than me achieve even more again, at the same time as occasionally taking on challenges that are much too much- if you think I might be talking about you, then I probably am).
So having accepted the challenge, the next step was coming up with a way to recover quickly and bounce back ready for Melbourne feeling strong, fresh and well-prepared.
Finishing Sydney Marathon was a whirlwind of emotions for me. Pride, gratitude, fulfillment and absolute awe in the capabilities of the human body. So after feeling like I’d satisfied my running goals for the immediate future, I laughed off the idea of running Melbourne Marathon just four weeks later. Then as my hunger to explore new limits would have it, it didn’t take long for the seed to grow and seven short days later I was researching airfares and accommodation options.
Now I didn’t make his decision lightly, to Teddy’s point, the general vibe around the grounds was that running two marathons in four weeks wasn’t exactly smart or generally done at all. But rewind to the day(s) following Sydney Marathon and I had been genuinely surprised about the lack of soreness/niggles/fatigue. Even my massage therapist was surprised how my body had pulled up so I decided to capitalise on this moment and push my body to do something different. The marathon itself no longer the challenge.. it was doing two in four weeks, and well, that was my new goal.
I’m not kidding myself, nor expecting to run a PB at Melbourne. Let’s be honest, I wasn’t even expecting the 12min PB (3:16:57) at Sydney so my MelbMara goals remain realistic.
1 – sub3:25
2 – sub3:28
3 – sub3:30
4 – finish the bloody thing
Week 1- Keep mobile, nourished and hydrated.
This really was just a recovery week for me. I did a fair bit of walking and light work on the exercise bike in the first half of the week, backed up with plenty of stretching and time on the roller. I also ate and drank with purpose, making sure I rebuilt with plenty of complex carbs, fruit, and protein. By Thursday, I was ready for a shuffling run for about 5km. Although this was a bit uncomfortable, it seemed to loosen me up for a better effort running around 8km the next morning and an easy-paced 24km on Sunday.
Week 1 – Listen to my body and ease back into a few short sessions was the goal. I waited until Thursday to run a slow 10km it felt really good to flush the legs out and get moving again. I focused on maintaining a strong, balanced diet and keep on top of all my vitamins and minerals, especially through this first week of recovery. I did a few walks through the week but no other cross training and then Friday morning I did 10km, really easy. On Sat I stretched the legs for 23km and I really noticed the fatigue in this run. It was just a weariness, which I was completely expecting 7 days post race.
Week 2 and 3- Get moving and get my confidence back.
I didn’t feel like I had any more time to rest up and was keen to put in a bit of hard work for the next two weeks, averaging about 70km and two strength sessions a week for the fortnight. After the first few days, it felt good to be back into a high tempo routine, too. I set the tone early on Tuesday, doing a 3km time trial at full speed, and included a number of other speed sessions and tempo runs as well as the slower long runs. I also changed things up a little with my diet by consciously reducing my food intake, reasoning that 93kg was a little heavy for running marathons. I wasn’t doing anything silly here (I hope) and still ate more than most people I know. Still, the change had an impact, bringing me down to around 90, which gave me confidence that I would have an edge this time around.
Just 9 days post marathon I decided to take the plunge and commit to the next. I spent time planning my runs around recovery and lead into tapering… a very strange concept. I felt great, tired but really great. Tuesday and Thursday I got back into speed sessions at a lower intensity and even did my first ever 3km time trial in 11:57. I did a long run on Sunday, 2 weeks out from the race which was 20km at 5:06/km. I wouldn’t say my energy levels were back up yet but I was certainly feeling strong and injury free.
Week 4- Get excited.
I normally try to get a few more sleep-ins and early nights during race week, but circumstances had other ideas. I could already feel excitement building and it took considerable self-control to restrict myself to an easy 10km on Wednesday and eight on Friday. I consciously increased my food and drink once more and began adding the occasional dissolvable electrolyte tablet to my drinks every couple of days (I know the body doesn’t store excess vitamins and half of this was psychological, but it helps to know you are not going into the weekend already low).
By the time week four came around the excitement was out of control. I was feeling strong and mentally in a good place. It’s time like these that I feel particularly blessed to have a husband who totally gets it. My crazy ventures and urge to reach new heights is only made so easy with Toby encouraging me quietly from the sidelines. As life would have it the week at work was brutal and the evenings somehow piled up with events and activities. I limited myself to two runs to stockpile all the energy I could. Wednesday was a delightful 9km with my favorite group run at The Running Edge and on Friday I went out for an easy 8km with the Sole Mates.
And now the race is ready for us. Whether it was wrong or right, my preparation is complete and now all that is left is to run the race to the best of ability. I’m not going start with any expectations that my body is still fatigued, as that could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. My body feels rested and it wants to run. With another great group of people up for the race, I know it is going to be an awesome weekend and I might just go one better than Sydney.
Race day – Teddy
I had little in the way of nerves this morning. Just excitement. This only increased as we joined the seemingly endless mass of people lining up for the start of the race. One of my friends had said they might see me at the start line, but without an exact meeting point, this was about as realistic as Turnbull saying we might meet our Paris Agreement emissions target after abandoning the recommended Clean Energy Target.
I was hoping to run under three hours again today, but didn’t worry about getting too close to the pacer at the start line, preferring to share the final build-up with Gabby and Annie. I crossed the start line with a smile and began to pick up speed, weaving between a press of bodies that was a densely packed as the Richmond Tigers’ bandwagon. It finally thinned to a more manageable level by the time we crossed the Yarra and I was able to hit race pace.
At this point I was running at a touch over 4 minutes per kilometre.
Which was a fraction faster that my target speed, but not bad for the early stages of the race while I was feeling fresh and excited. The pacer had gotten away from me a little, while I was weaving in traffic, but my slightly quicker pace allowed me to naturally catch back up over the next few kilometres.
In little time I had run five kilometres and it was time to eat. I’m normally pretty casual about when and how much I eat, but my race mum, Aimee, can be very disapproving of this so I had challenged myself to run to a more structured race plan, eating 2-3 Skratch Lab lollies a salt tablet every 20 minutes and a Wiggle Bar every hour. By now I had caught the pacer and we were sitting on a very consistent 4:10 per kilometre as we cruised down into Albert Park.
By the 10km mark we were most of the way through Albert Park, running as part of a large group of runners on the three hour ‘bus.’
Aerobically I was feeling great, but my hamstring was causing me a bit of concern. It wasn’t really hurting, but it didn’t feel right and- much like Peter Dutton- I really didn’t trust its integrity so worried about what it might do in the future.
We rolled out of Albert Park, down the gentle slope of Fitzroy Street and turned right into the long run out to Port Melbourne along Beaconsfield Parade. It was perfect conditions. Barely a breath of wind and pretty mild temperature so I was starting to believe I could do another PB, but I was tempering that enthusiasm with the knowledge I had a long way to go. I had a Wiggle Bar and another salt tablet at the hour mark, whilst continuing my policy of grabbing as much water and electrolytes as I could from every aid station.
We turned close to the Spirit of Tasmania and began to the long run back the other way. I stayed close to the left side of the track so I could keep an eye out for friends coming the other way. I was thrilled to see Gabby, Lewinski and Annie, all flying past and looking great ahead of their target times and wondered if I was pushing myself hard enough, but I was really determined to stick with the pacer for as long as possible today so stuck to my plan.
We passed halfway in almost 88 minutes exactly.
This was a trifle faster than I expected- as our pacers were anticipating having to slow a little on the way back- but I was breathing easily and feeling good. There was a bit of occasional chatter amongst the group and I tried to contribute as much as I could, but it was pretty quiet for the most part. I barely looked at my watch and just focused on the runner in front of me and allowed my mind to wander as our pacer kept us moving at a constant 4:10 pace.
We ate up a lot of Ks without realising it as Beaconsfield Parade became Marine Parade before we finally turned for home, as the group began to shrink a little. The course doubled back on itself so I kept my mind occupied by looking for friends in the stream of runners going the other way. There was a gradual incline up Fitzroy Street once we turned away from the water, but our pacer urged us on, pushing us up the hill without dropping speed. This probably wasn’t the ideal time to eat my second Wiggle Bar, but I had planned to eat one every hour and managed to force it down as doggedly as the conservatives forced the unpopular plebiscite on us. I also popped a couple of Revvies Strips into my mouth as well.
After three-quarters of the race I was still feeling pretty good, but I was aware this was unlikely to last.
I was right. We were under 3-hour pace and the entire group, myself included, slowed at around 35km. I had hoped to have a bit of strength left for the final effort, but was really battling to hold my 4:15 pace for the final 5km. I had wondered whether I would struggle with increased fatigue from Sydney, but while I was certainly tired, I didn’t feel any worse than at a comparative time four weeks ago- if anything better than four weeks ago. On the other hand, I didn’t feel as mentally strong as the previous month and really struggled to push myself to endure the same level of pain. Not that I wasn’t hurting or working hard- I certainly was, but I was still smiling as I ran out into the MCG and began the final lap, still running at the nearly the same speed I had run for the whole race.
It was a great feeling crossing the line, and even better for the fact that I had set a new PB, beating my time from a month earlier by nearly a minute.
I couldn’t say for sure whether I could have shaved any further time off with a different race plan and I didn’t much care. I was pretty happy with the result. I took a few minutes congratulating the athletes who finished around me before ducking away and grabbing my bag so I could take photos of people finishing on Gabby’s phone. I then spent the next few hours hanging out right by the finishing line watching people come in. It was fantastic watching finishers waving to friends in the crowd with expressions of such joy and I got caught up in the emotions of a number of complete strangers as well as those of my friends.
It was such a beautiful, clear morning and with our accommodation just 700m from the MCG we met up with fellow Tassie runners at 6am and walked excitedly to the start. The race village was bustling with energy and as usual we enjoyed soaking up the infectious vibe. After a group photo we made the trek down to the start line. Annie, Teddy and I decided to start together. We pushed and poked our way to the front few lines, stopping while our national anthem was performed.
Countdown…. gunshot…. and we were off.
I kept my head down and concentrated on the sea of feet surrounding me as the crowd started to thin out. There were a few moments of trips and staggers as everyone around me found their groove but in a short time we’d taken two left-hand turns and started the stretch out toward Albert Park.
As we got closer to the 5km I remembered a work colleague, Bel saying she’d be at this point. I’d never actually met her in person before but spoke heaps over video phone so I scoured the spectators and soon spotted her on the sidelines. I yelled out and waved excitedly as we ran past, there’s nothing quite like having a friendly face on course.
The first 10km went by really quickly, as we looped through the park there were plenty of opportunities to see Teddy, Annie, and Lewinski along the way. I was conscious not to go out too hard but as I crossed the 10km timing mat in 44mins and my average was 4:21/km so I knew I needed to keep a lid on my excitement and pace. A quarter down, I looked forward to settling into the next 10.
My fuel plan was a little different to Sydney Marathon, I was quite nauseous in the last few km there which I put down to too many gels.
This time I had my usual two bananas for brekky and then decided to have a gel every 30-40mins instead of every 5km.
As I neared the halfway mark, my pace was decent and I noticed the 3:10 pacer still hadn’t passed me. This was a real surprise though I also noticed an unwelcome level of fatigue as I crossed the timing mat. It wasn’t until much later that day that I realised I just got a half marathon PB!
I’d been running in no mans land for the second quarter and I started to realise it wasn’t doing me any favours. I’d said in the days leading up to the race that I was going to try and stick with the pacer (3:10 or 3:20) so I could lean on others for mental support and somehow I’d completely forgotten to do that and found myself alone, again.
Suddenly a familiar face sidled up next to me and Richard was there. I knew it was his first Mara and had been following his journey on Strava so it was brilliant to say hi and chat briefly before he cruised past me.
I decided to steady myself and fall in with the group who were now just a 100m behind me.
As the 3:10 pacer and his posse gathered around me I settled into a snuggly corner in the pack and realised this is where I should’ve been 20km ago. It was lovely, but unfortunately, it didn’t last.
The fatigue had crept in slowly and in the minutes that followed the pack got further and further away, I couldn’t hold it. Even though the pace was only 4:30/km it seemed too late and too hard to keep up.
I pushed my way through the next few km and just after the 24km mark I took my first walk. Just a few seconds as I regained some mental strength. A quick pace check had me at average 4:33/km, so I’d slowed down a bit since the halfway mark but still on track for a very reasonable finish.
The next 10km felt less than ideal. I was pretty tired but every time I started running after a short walk I’d be straight back into 4:30/km pace which made me think it was more of a mental struggle than physical. The 30km sign loomed up ahead and there was Bel again. I smiled for a photo and blurted out that I wasn’t feeling great. She was great, quickly dismissing these negative comments and encouraging me to be strong and push through. She gave me the boost I needed and I was back on track.
At the 34km aid station, I ditched my gel for a banana and it was a really welcome change.
I felt a lift after just half of it and chucked the rest away. I remember thinking at this point, I was going to opt for some more natural fuel options on my training runs in the future. The weather had been bang on throughout the whole race. Sunny but not too warm and there wasn’t a drop of wind, which is apparently rare on this course. I felt lucky to be out here, enjoying the energy from all the spectators.
The half marathoners rejoined us after they exited Albert Park and it was quite a shock to the system. The influx of runners and at the slower pace meant that I really had to concentrate on staying upright and not tripping over. As we turned up toward the Tan and swung around toward the MCG I could hear the volunteers saying over and over again. “2km to go, well done!”
I was confused, looking down at my watch I’d only done 36km… surely they had it wrong, how could there only be 2km to go? After the fourth volunteer yelled the same thing… I stopped quickly and turned to see a sea of half marathoner bibs running toward me. “Shit, where are the marathoners?” I asked a race marshal. It was obvious that I was lost.
I only had one option…. run backward and try to retrace my steps.
I was disappointed, but not annoyed. I ran against the crowd for what seemed like forever but in about 600m I saw where my race had come undone. I crossed the crowd and rejoined the marathoners to loop up into the Tan. I was pretty sure the 3:20 pacer was well in front of me due to my mishap but I thought maybe even the 3:30 had passed me too.
A bit disoriented and not sure how much time I’d lost, I grabbed a Zooper Duper handed to me by a small, smiling child. It was the bomb, literally exactly what I needed.
As the 40km drink station came round it was all too familiar, and now the volunteers yelling “only 2km to go” made more sense. Hurting all over, but getting excited for the iconic MCG experience ahead I just tried to keep a steady pace on for the last 2km and to avoid walking. I stopped a couple of times (still unsure why) but was soon swept back up by the encouragement of fellow runners and in no time at all, we were running through the gates and into the MCG.
The sun was shining and the crowds were intense. I smiled and surged forward to complete the lap up to the finish line. Arms in the air, I crossed with a smile as I saw my time of 3:26:37. I was happy, I’d wanted to see if I could successfully finish a second marathon just four weeks post my Sydney Pb and I had achieved what I set out to. Albeit a little over my 3:25 goal I had lost 6mins from my silly mishap so all was good. Teddy, Annie and Lewinski were waiting just in the chute and I was so wrapped to hear they’d all had an amazing race.
We all hung out here watching and cheering as the rest of our crew finished their races. The day was incredible, the race vibe, the encouragement from others as they crossed that line achieving their dreams. It was time to celebrate with burgers and beers at the local pub, dissecting our race experience one km at a time.