Marathons are hard. No doubt about it. I’ve done 8 now and they do not get any easier. I signed up to Gold Coast late last year. I thought this was my chance to do a really good Marathon time given it was a super duper flat course. But as I’ve learnt with running and in particular training for marathons, nothing ever goes as planned…
I had a very interrupted lead up to to the race. I was out for about a month and had about 6 weeks to prepare. When I got back to my club NRG, it was good to find out that other people (Bec, Dani and Petra) were also doing the race and I could tag along with them when doing my long runs. Tag being a very loose term.. it was more like hold on for dear life in training runs as those ladies were super quick.
Race week I had a bit of a hiccup with a virus knocking me over. But I was determined, so I stocked up on the vitamins and kept my fluids up so I could be ready come Sunday.
The start time for the Marathon was 7:20am. I understand why the organisers put the Half Marathoners before the Marathoners as it helps with logistics however I find it a bit unfair as the conditions do get worse for the Marathoners the later it starts. At the start line I see my fellow NRGers and they look extremely pumped and excited if not a tad nervous. Bec and Dani go up to find the 3:15 pacer and I hang back with Petra. The gun goes off and we’re off.
My strategy was simple. I was trying to stick to 5min/km as closely as I could. I kept this pace pretty consistently at the start. Two things distracted me. I was running with the 3:30 pacer for a while and I was so close to him that I constantly had to swat away his green balloons. There must be an art to running behind a pacer. The other thing that distracted me was the fact that I was running behind Rugby League icon Mat Rogers. This was extremely amusing as spectators on the sidelines kept on cheering him on and giving him high-5s.
The course is simple. It’s 15km out towards Burleigh heads and then back. As I approached the turn around point, I see Dani zooming past in the opposite direction. She looked super focussed and she looked like she was going to set a good time. I turn around and start heading back. It really dawns upon how flat the course is. There is barely any elevation. A lot of people warned me about this and how your legs would start screaming out for some variation and I’m starting to see why.
The other factor is the heat. There’s hardly any shade so the heat is barring down upon me and it’s taking it’s toll. Equipment wise I use a TomTom Cardio and that has an inbuilt Heart Rate monitor. Sometimes it struggles to find my heart rate because of my boney arms. Today was one of those days but when it finally kicked it, I noticed that my heart rate was well over 200bpm. So I knew I couldn’t keep this up for all the way until the end.
By about 30km I start stopping at drink stops and taking my full compliment of water and endura. This is another mistake I made on race day. I started drinking endura even though I’ve never trained with it. I think this caused my stomach some problems as I mixed it with gels as well.
The 32km mark is a difficult section of the course as you run past the finish area and the crowd to do a 5km loop. My splits were taking a serious dive at this point. I was barely keeping it together. I was crashing fast. The last 10km was dire. The negative thoughts started coming into my head. I didn’t take my last gel because I didn’t feel like I could stomach it. It felt like the drink stops were 20km apart even though in reality they were probably only about 2km apart.
The last 2km all I recall is my legs starting to cramp up. I didn’t feel like I was running anymore. I felt I was hobbling around trying to inch myself to the finish. Somehow I see the blue mat and I will myself to the finish. I didn’t have the energy to sprint or raise my arms. I hear my name and cross the line. All I can think about is how hard that was. Official time of 3:46:20. Almost 20 minutes slower than my PB but it felt just as hard.
So what are my takeaways?
1. Marathons are hard. No matter how many you do they are EXTREMELY hard.
2. NRGers are extremely FAST. Bec did 3:18:22. Dani did 3:22:21. Petra did 3:35:36.
3. Also I don’t know how this happened but I ended up finishing before Mat Rogers (3:51:53)…