Most of my marathons tend to be well planned out. I do adequate training, with multiple long runs spanning over 30km. However for some reason this time around, I threw all that out the window.
During the months of November and December, I had cut back my KMs as I was in offseason mode and did not have any races planned. After running 30km worth of trails one Saturday morning with the NRG club and feeling surprisingly fresh after it, I decided quite irrationally to see if there were any marathons around. I saw that the Hobart Marathon was due to take place on the 11th of January, which was only a week away…
In terms of goals, I’ve always wanted to go sub 3hrs 30 minutes in a marathon but realistically never thought that this would be the occasion. I’ve been chasing the 3:30 goal for a long while. I attempted 3 marathons last year but never really got close to achieving that goal. A combination of injuries and overtraining, led me to not really getting close to hitting that goal. For Hobart, I thought my best case scenario was 3hrs 40 minutes considering my PB was set in Canberra last year (3:42:59). I would have settled for a sub 4hr finish. I came to this conclusion as I had not logged any long runs bar the 30km trail run. As a base goal, I wanted to notch up another marathon to take my overall total to 7.
I signed up to the marathon last minute and before I knew it, I was off on a plane to Hobart for the very first time. After an early wake up Sunday morning, I was on a bus, out to the Cadbury Factory where the start line was. There were only 338 runners in the full marathon so there were no City2Surf style crowds.
The gun fires and the runners are off. The first 3km or so of the marathon were done by having 2 laps around the Cadbury estate. My first split was over 5min/km and I was feeling ok this morning, so I decided to stick to an average pace of just around 4:55min/km. I never expected to maintain this. I know that everybody says to run a negative split, but I decided to go with feel this morning. I just kept on going at a pace that was fast but not too fast, if you know what I mean.
The course consists of 2 laps of an “out and back” run to Goodwood and the Bowen Bridge. The first lap is slightly longer as you have to loop around the Windmere Primary School. Mentally I made notes of where the key points were before the race. So I knew that at 3km I would be exiting the Cadbury estate, around 13km I would be turning around for my first lap, 23km is where I would turn around for the final lap and 32km would be the last turn around for the final slog home.
I kept my pace the same until about 12km when I noticed the 3:30 bus ahead. I guess by just nudging my pace under 5min/km meant that I was making inroads to catching the 3:30 pacer. At the 13km mark and the turn around point for the first lap, I overtook the pacer and started to speed up. To be honest, I’m not sure why I started speeding up but I felt comfortable doing splits at around 4:40-4:50min/km. This was never really part of my plan, as if I had enough energy, I really wanted to attempt negative splitting and run quickly over the last 10km.
For a long while, I never really knew how far ahead of the 3:30 bus I was. I just assumed they were on my heels. There was a turn around point at 23km and at that moment, I knew I would get a good indication of where I was relative to them. I turned around and they were further back than I thought. Perhaps a minute…
Out for the second lap and having done the first lap meant I knew the landmarks and inclines a bit better. I knew where the drink stops were and where the turn around point was. I really wanted to reach the turn around point and start heading back because that would be the final run home.
At about 30km, running became hard. I was starting to feel the affects of running at that pace for that long. I turned around and started to count down how long I had left. So 10kms meant about 50 more minutes of pain, 8kms meant another 40 minutes of torture, etc. I took the gas off the accelerator slightly and hovered around the 5min/km here as I didn’t want to run out of puff at the end. A policeman said to me “Nice seeing you but I don’t want to see you back here again.” I totally agreed with him.
At the last couple of drink stops, I literally stopped, drank a couple of cups of water and mentally refocussed. I said 4 more kms, only 20 more minutes of agony to reach my goal. At the 40km drink stop, I remember an elderly lady asking me if she should run with me to get me going again. I kindly refused her gesture and I recall her saying “it’s only 2km left, only the HILLS left.” HILLS I thought.
So with 2km left, I used all of my remaining energy, powered up the hills and saw the crowd. I saw the jumbo (relatively speaking) finish sign and could not muster the energy for any showboating gestures and just ran straight over the finish line.
I looked at my watch and it said 3:27:30. A PB of over 15 minutes!!!!!
I looked at my splits here on strava and noticed they were fairly consistent. I think I may have done a positive split by about 60-90 seconds, which I’m totally fine with.
Overall the course I found to be relatively flat. It’s not Gold Coast flat but it’s also not hilly like Sydney. It’s probably on par with Melbourne or Canberra. I actually don’t mind the fact that it is 2 “out and back” laps as the 2nd time out, you get a fair idea of what is up ahead. I had fantastic conditions, minimal wind and a reasonable temperature.
So Marathon number 7 is in the bank now and my sub 3:30 goal accomplished. I really had that as my main goal for this year. I never expected to accomplish it so early on in the most unexpected of circumstances. At the end of the run, I was so tired and content with my run that I vowed never to run another marathon… Let’s see how long that lasts for…