3 weeks ago I ran the Sydney Marathon for the 3rd time. The lowdown is this. It was my 2nd fastest marathon time. I completed it in 3:37:16. It was the 3rd time I had done Sydney and it was fastest I had ever done it in. However, running isn’t always about individuals. It isn’t always about me. Case in point, look at Strava. There’s a feature in their labs section called “The Roster” which shows how often you have run and who they are. Looking at my stats here, 43% of my runs, I’ve run with other people.
I run with a running group called NRG and one of the very first people I met in the group was Neal. I figured out quite early that Neal had spent sometime in Swizterland like me. He also ran at a similar pace to me (until he started training the house down) so I would see him quite often. I was absolutely flabbergasted when I found out that he hadn’t run a marathon before. So I got to work. Eventually after harassing him for ages, harassing being the right term, he decided to do his very first marathon last year (here’s my race report). His goal was to do a sub 3:30 marathon and he came extremely close only to fall short when his legs cramped up at the 40km mark. He ended up doing 3:40.
So a few months ago, Neal tells me he’s doing Sydney again. He’s going to run the marathon and he wants to do sub 3:30. But this time he’s got a plan. Actually he bought a book. This book here. If you don’t want to read it, it basically involves running a whole heap of KMs per week (70-100km), slowly. And that’s what Neal did. He stuck to that plan through thick and thin. I rarely saw him at running group because our group runs didn’t align to the training plan. Also to add extra spice to the story, Neal was flying back home to the UK for good after Sydney. So this basically was his last shot at doing a sub 3:30 marathon in Sydney. Oh the tension and the pressure!
For me, I never was quite sure of doing the Sydney full. I had just come off doing Gold Coast and that took quite a bit out of me. I originally signed up to doing the half but impulsively upgraded to the full. Sunday 20th of September comes around and I’m at the start line again. I saw Petra from running group. It was about the 3rd race in a row (Gold Coast, City2Surf and now Sydney) that I had been at the start line with her. It’s always reassuring seeing fellow NRGers at the start line, especially Petra because I do a lot of training runs with her. She’s a fantastic runner who is so humble and often talks down her abilities. If you’re reading this Petra, you’re a super duper runner!
7:20am ticks over and off I go. Only another measly 42.2km to go. I see Chantelle on the left straight away. I recall asking her why she wasn’t running and then realised that she had only completed GNW the week before and was only just the 3rd female finisher!!! This was actually a theme throughout the day as Chantelle would pop up all over the place supporting the runners. I think I counted at least 5 occasions that I saw her.
Throughout my run I saw Dani, Jeroen, Seth, Meryl, Alan, Gina and of course Neal. It felt very poetic that someone I had spent so much time running with over the last couple of years, I got the chance to run with for one last time. To be honest, I don’t really like the course much in Sydney however that is countered by the amount of local support everyone gets. I remember so many people shouting encouragement. These are the people I remember in no particular order; Iain (and his partner), Chantelle, Petra’s family, Matt after his amazing half marathon PB, Phil, Dave and Tad.
I kept at about 3:30 pace for about 30km so I saw Neal at a lot of the switchbacks and he definitely looked in control for all of the race. So in the end Neal finished with a PB of 15 mins, crushing his target and finishing with a time of 3:25. Sometimes racing and running isn’t about you. It’s about those around you. Sydney Marathon 2015 for me will be remembered as Neal’s last run in Sydney, the day he crushed his marathon goal. So all the best Neal. I hope you keep on running and don’t forget to get on Strava my friend!