Sunday October 15th it’s just gone past 2am – I’m wide awake.
It’s the race I’ve had circled on the running calendar for 12 months, I try to go back to sleep but it’s not happening. So I just lay there, and think about the race plan. I’m not nervous, i’m calm and thinking about the things I can control, and also grateful that the things I can’t control, like the weather, are all lining up to be perfect for the day.
3am – still too early for breakfast, so i kill a bit of time playing Madden NFL on my phone, 3:45 rolls around and I decide to get up, head down stairs and try not to trip over any of my brother’s 4 rag-doll cats. They’re beautiful and very affectionate, but can be furry safety hazards while navigating stairs.
Breakfast around 4ish and its a couple of crumpets with honey and a cup of black tea, I was feeling a bit tired and hadn’t had any caffeine for 2 weeks so thought some tea ( I don’t normally drink tea) would be great. Turns out black tea doesn’t taste real good so added a good dose of honey to that as well.
4:30 – Back upstairs for a shower and get into race kit, the tea has done the job and I’m feeling good. Nick has organised an Uber ride for us, the driver will be here at 5:20 so still stacks of time.
5:00 – Back downstairs for a stretch and roll on the foam roller, one of the cats decides it would be good luck to waive its tail in my face as i foam roll for 5 minutes, somehow I end up covered in cat hair, no harm done though.
5:20 – Uber driver arrives and we all pile in, he correctly guesses we are off to the city for the marathon (I think the smell of heat cream gave it away), he’s relieved as his previous passenger was highly intoxicated and wanted the driver to take him home…. he took him home and it took him 15 minutes to convince the passenger he was home….
Just after 6am and we arrive just outside Flinders Street station, we make our way towards the MCG and it’s an interesting mix of lycra clad runners, rugged up support crew and people on their way home from a big night out. The course is still being set up, and the city council are laying out the sawdust… sawdust you might ask? Yeah the sawdust as I found out is to absorb all the chunder from the previous nights party goers, they let the sawdust dry and then a street sweeper picks it up… you stay classy Melbourne!
6:30 – I go for a 2km jog as a warm up in my heavy shoes, it’s really more of a shuffle to gently loosen up. The atmosphere is building and the weather is magic. It’s about 7 degrees and not even enough wind to blow out a candle.
6:45 – I change into my race shoes and sip on a raspberry yogurt flavored torq gel, its delicious and have to resist the urge to gulp it down, one last trip to the toilet as the sound of the national anthem engulfs the crowd. The place really is buzzing.
6:55 – I’m fortunate enough to have a preferred start so I find a nice spot about 6 rows back from the line on the inside left of the road, the first turn is a left so don’t want to have to cut across people. It’s almost time for the gun and it’s strange to see people pushing their way to the front who don’t really need to be there, there’s 42.2kms to go and there’s people trying to win the race now… I go over the race plan one more time, take some deep breaths and feel confident i’m going to do the best I can.
7:00 – Right on 7 and the gun goes. It’s surprising to me to see so many people smash out a quick first 2-3km, I try to settle into 4:00/kms and feel comfy, those that were pushing for start line position or took off hard early are starting to settle into their rhythm. At 2kms I see Brady and it was awesome, I yell out and he briefly spots me. I didn’t know he was coming down so it gave me a nice lift to see him.
5kms in and I’m checking my watch every couple of minutes to make sure I’m not going too fast, I feel great but am super conscious of not going too hard and having nothing by 35km. Around this time one of the runners I worked with during the Gold Coast Half (Cameron who is from Adelaide) spotted me, we had some banter and and decided we would try and work together today, a couple of kms later Luke Crameri (one of Brady’s good mates and another member of his coaching squad) joined the group and this lifted the spirits again.
We had a good bit of group chat going on, some banter which was fun, It really helped take the mind off what was coming up, the next 10kms flew by and all was going well. At 19kms I had a bit of a light headed moment, but within a couple of minutes that went and normal service resumed. Going down Beach Road, we had a group of 8 guys working together, I tucked into the middle with Cameron and Luke and by this stage i’d stopped really caring what was showing on my watch each km and had settled into race mode. I was trying to run controlled and relaxed (trust the process Joel Embiid style), knowing I needed to have something up my sleeve (or shorts in this case) for the journey up and around the shrine at 37kms.
The first 21kms the plan was to roll around 4:00 to 4:05/km but it had to feel easy (ticked that one off), 21 to 32 was then where we could set up a good result, or stuff it up completely if I accelerated too hard. From 25kms the group had broken up and we were largely strung out single file as we rounded the turn and made the way back to the city. I slowed a couple of seconds per km being cautious once again. Over the next 6km anyone I was able to tack onto I would ask how they were and offer some encouragement, I wanted someone to work with, and was hopeful of maybe forming another small group to take on the Shrine and the charge for home. This worked with mild success until the merge with the half marathon runners at 31kms on St Kilda road.
I took my last gel at 34kms and was still feeling in control, fatigued but in control. Being back in the city now the atmosphere was lifting me. The music was pumping, the crowd was encouraging (and offering jelly snakes, hi 5s and icy poles) and a PB was there for the taking. I made my way towards the shrine and spotted Brady, he shouted some encouragement, I asked nicely (probably yelled) to see if he’d come run a couple of kms with me, but he still had to finish pacing his mate Benny in the half marathon, I got up the first hill around the shrine, still running a bit within myself, once I got over the hill I dropped the hammer and treated the last 4km like a parkrun, I was beginning to chase people down and knew the hard work was nearly complete.
The last 1500m I was cooked but still choc full of adrenalin. I was fist pumping with the volunteers at the last drink station and had a smile from ear to ear. I thought to myself, these are the moments you live for, the hard work and sacrifices you make are to be able to put you in a position to have small moments of joy like this.
I entered the MCG and ran as hard as I could, trying to take in the atmosphere, see the crowd and those around me, and then it was all over…. I checked the time and had run 2:48:54 which was a PB by 2:51 and I was ecstatic and completely stuffed.
I made my way over to the boundary fence, not really able to stand properly. I watched as the sweat poured out of my legs, and looked up the scoreboard. I was giggling like a little kid, delirious most likely and what I’d been able to achieve and the experience I’d just had. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a positive experience on race day in the marathon for one reason or another, I felt very fortunate to have things turn out the way they did, so I just stood there and smiled… it was great.
After about 10 minutes I spotted some familiar faces in Trevor and Roman, fellow Shepparton Runners Club team mates, it was good to have a chat and hear how their day had unfolded. Brady also came over and it was awesome to tell him the good news and unpack how the race went. I’ll never forget the look on his face and how happy he was for me when I was able to tell him about the time. He knew how much today meant to me. Without his guidance, support and friendship, none of this would of ever happened and for that i’m extremely grateful. We continued to have a chat, did some stuff for his podcast and I slowly made my way off the MCG to search for Norah, Nick and Jenna and find out how their race days had gone.
Fast forward just over a week now to today and I’m recovering well. It’s all sunk in now. The memories are still fresh. I’m not in a hurry to get back out and smash any fast runs. Just a few short, easy runs until the body is feeling a bit more “normal” I’m still unsure what the next race or goal is, but that’s something else to think about in the future.
Also special thanks to my loved ones and friends who continue to support and encourage me along the journey. Distance running is a pretty selfish sport at times, and I can’t thank them enough for understanding and putting up with me being tired, grumpy and being dressed in bright colours, lycra and short shorts most of the time, it means the world.