4 Solid Months of Training… 2 Best Mates by Your Side… Blue Skies and Cool Temperatures… and Vomiting (Huh)!
Yep – this years marathon on the beautiful Gold Coast was set to be my quickest yet. With a goal time of sub 3:15:00 I was aiming to qualify for the Legendary Boston Marathon. 7 days earlier I nailed a 20km run in 1:22:16 so I was feeling ready.
Quiet week leading up with only a couple of small runs. But come Saturday, all my well executed plans were thrown out the window.
I woke up Saturday morning feeling sick in the stomach. I knew it wasn’t nerves or anything because I have done too many of these races and 20 years of tennis tournaments to know the difference. Yep – I had a stomach bug. The diarrhea started at 7am and didn’t let up. I vomited around mid morning just to make sure I was completely dehydrated (not good!).
You can imagine all the thoughts and doubts that ran through my head, but they were only brief. I made up my mind I was doing the marathon so my body just had to figure out how to stop this rubbish. By 3pm I finally had enough fluids back in my system that I could have my first pee of the day. Hydration was definitely going to be an issue tomorrow, but at least things were looking up.
By 4pm I was nibbling on water crackers and drinking powerades and dry ginger ale (to settle my stomach). Playing catch up on hydration is a good idea but a day like this was going to have its effects at some point.
Eat toast with peanut butter and a banana.
Start drinking fluids.
Strap feet arches and heel to stop skins rubbing on heel.
Vaseline toes, crutch etc (you don’t need the details).
Felt good arriving at the track. Still not 100% but a world better than yesterday so knew it was game on.
Originally my plan was to run at sub 4:30min/km and get to 10km by 43 minutes, 21km by 1:29:00 and hang on for the last half.
I started out feeling pretty good. The morning was cool so getting a nice speed early was easy. First 10km was basically bang on target crossing at 44:00. My brain has periods of time where it calculates and re-calculates splits and times at certain kilometre markers to know I am on time. It’s a nice way of passing the time.
By half way I was on track for my goal time, but I was already starting to feel the pinch. Energy reserves were already showing signs of my Saturday setback.
21km to 26km was not comfortable. I felt sluggish and doubt was running through my head no matter how hard I tried to take my mind of things. Staying positive is not just a mental thing. It required energy. Energy I didn’t really have to spare today so I just ran.
By 28km I began feeling better. Staring out to the gorgeous Gold Coast surf coast instead of looking at people’s asses was giving me a nice mental break.
I knew that if I could get to the 32km mark with an hour to go I was back in the game. I made it to the mark and was in the game as far as the clock goes, but my body was already running on dehydrated reserves. I had been shoving Endura Gels down my throat with good regularity. But I could feel that my cells were depleted from the day before. It’s a feeling any distance runner knows when attempting a long run after a night on the piss.
The last 12km’s became a battle. My body was empty. Any attempt to refuel was basically just enough to keep me going but not go faster. It’s a quasi-frustrating experience as you realise you want to go faster to achieve your goal but the pain makes you lull into a surreal acceptance because sometimes there is really nothing you can do but take another step forward and then deal with the next step after that.
Seeing the big “40” on the side of the road is a milestone in itself. You know you’re home. Even though anything can happen in the last 2.2km’s.
Coming into the final turn as I passed the 42km sign, my body was cramping in a teasing way, when suddenly my hamstring on my left leg grabbed me like a bolt of lightning. I stopped in my tracks as I let out a painful yell. The crowd went nuts. I couldn’t have orchestrated a better way to get them going.
All I cared about was seeing my wife and kids in the final home stretch and crossing that damn line.
I began running again but at this stage it was more like hobbling. With the crowd cheering I could still make out those voices that sound so familiar to a husband and father. Looking over to my left I could see my beautiful family who support me day in, day out. Time was no longer an issue so I wandered over and stopped to give them all a big hug and a kiss. As my left hammy began seizing again, I said, “I better cross this line or I’m going to cramp”.
That final 100 meters of a marathon is something special. I decided to ramp it up a notch by egging on the crowd like a rockstar at a concert. “Make some noise” I yelled as I lifted my arms into the air a few times to encourage them even further. The noise is amazing. Everyone gets inspired by marathon runners. I felt as uplifted as anyone as I crossed that line. It’s over!
The thing I love about marathon running is how it strips everyone back to their rawness. No egos. No hiding yourself. It’s sweat, blood and tears at it’s finest. You discover something about yourself every time you finish. one. You discover something about humanity just watching one.
Whether you are on the course as a runner or a spectator, the inspiration is the same. Whilst I idolise the quick Kenyans and incredible speed and stamina – this year it was my mates, my own effort, the World Record set by Bernie Portenski in the Female 60-64 age group with a time of 3:01:26, the crowd coming out to cheer people they don’t even know – that is the human spirit at its finest.
May everyone experience a marathon at some point throughout their life. It changes you in ways nothing else can.