Sydney Marathon (Marathon 13) was a really tough experience, both on the day and in the week after. I felt like I had lost fitness, re-injured an old achilles problem and gotten very glum in the process of it all. Not ideal.
Fast forward 3 weeks and the 17 marathons fun bus was heading over to Western Australia. This was my first ever trip to W.A and I was travelling there to run Busselton Marathon on Sunday 8 October. Whilst I still had the nagging achilles issue that was stopping me from running, I was grateful to be feeling way more positive in the lead up to this one. I was worried about my ability to complete the run, but positive nevertheless. I was particularly worried when I discovered the day before that I hadn’t actually signed up to the run at all! OOPS!! I am starting to believe that there is such a thing as 'runners brain’…. its a thing….
My training in the 3 weeks leading up to this marathon was non existent. A few pilates sessions, a few swims and a few deep water running sessions. No running. Nothing structured at all really. Everything was just based on feeling how my achilles was feeling, which varied between rubbish and not-quite-so-rubbish. On Friday, only 2 days before race day, I tried my first run / walk for 25 minutes (very slowly). There were a few twinges and nervous moments but overall it gave me enough confidence to think that I could finish. It would be slow, but I could finish.
To be honest the pressure was kind of off…. I just needed to finish to keep the ball rolling on to Melbourne Marathon one week later, then there was a longer break.
I had spent a fair amount of time chatting to Ali, my physio at 'Port Melbourne Physio and Pilates', as well as Gary at 'Up and Running Podiatry' over the previous couple of weeks, attempting to get things right. I am so glad that I have got them on my side. They have never told me to stop doing this 17 marathons journey and have always worked with me to make things better and working around the challenges that I have thrown their way. I am sure they are looking forward to 2018 when I won’t bother them so much, but I genuinely can’t thank them and their organisations enough for this year. True legends!
I had thought about trying a run / walk strategy at Gold Coast Marathon earlier in the year, but my ego got in the way on the start line and I ended up running the whole way. i don’t regret that decision as it resulted in my best time of the year (3:08) but I had unfinished business with the run / walk trial. So, that became the plan for the mornings activities…as long as my ego didn’t get in the way.
As the race started, I began running really tentatively. Nice small steps with a high cadence. Basically, I wanted as little impact and as little stretching of the achilles as possible. Even 13 minutes in to the run, I was questioning whether I should be doing the run / walk strategy. My ego was coming out to play and I knew I needed to suppress it. I actually delayed the first walk by a minute as I continually debated in my head, but then, as I slowed to a walk on 15 minutes and committed to this new way of doing things, I felt a sense of relief. Nobody said anything, in fact nothing happened at all except, I got my breath back, my heart rate came down and I stretched my arms above my head. I actually felt great. OK then…13 more of these…. At this point I began genuinely believing in what I was doing and committing to it. The maths started and I figured that this run was essentially like a giant intervals set with 14 reps of 14 mins run / 1 min walk.
The run would look like this: 14/1, 14/1, 14/1, 14/1, 14/1, 14/1, 14/1, 14/1, 14/1, 14/1, 14/1, 14/1, 14/1, 14/1 = 210 mins
The plan in every race is to beat 3hr42 (my dad’s best marathon time) but this usually translates on flatter courses into a target of 3 hours 30. To do that, I needed to average 5 mins/km. That meant running at about 4:50’s and then the walk would top that up. So that became the goal.
The course at Busselton is 4 loops of 10.5km each. It is pancake flat and runs along the foreshore near Busselton Jetty. Not a bad place to spend 3 and a half hours at all…. The half marathon, 10km and 5km runs all began about 45 mins after the marathon and so it was great to be joined out on course by plenty of runners including my wife, who was running the 10km.
As the run went on, I grew in confidence and increased the speed a little. It was exciting to be trying something new and learning along the way. Each run / walk section came and went and I knew that as long as my achilles played nicely, that I would be ok for under 3hr30. There are a few tight(ish) turns on each lap, which gave me shivers down my spine as I waited for the achilles to ping. It never came thankfully and before I knew it we were over the 3 hour mark on on the last lap.
After 3hr 26 I crossed the line and was relieved to grab my medal, get a bottle of cold water over the head and lie on the grass. Box ticked.
Strangely, I don’t think i have ever pulled up better from a marathon and I have to say this is one run that I am really proud of. It wasn’t the fastest, wasn’t the hardest, but it challenged me and taught me a lot. That was one of the main aims when I came into this 17 marathons journey. To learn and then pass that learning on to the runners that I coach. I fully intend to explore the run / walk option with a few runners in the coming months.
So what did my recovery in the following 7 days look like?
I swam almost every day (15-20 mins).
I used magnesium cream on my lower legs and took 2 x magnesium tablets every day.
I drank more booze than usual (hey…I was kind of on holidays….)
Ran an easy 7km with my wife on Tuesday
Ran an easy 10km with friends on Wednesday
Plenty of walking.
The above is a surprise to me...My recovery weeks never really look like this (except for the booze bit…) I did a lot more and was surprised at the change from being unsure if I was going to run, to finding a way to make it work during the run, to recovering and running again.
So the fun bus then moved on to Melbourne Marathon on the 15th October. Another 7 day turnaround between runs which is always fun and challenging at the same time. It always feels like the whole challenge gathers momentum during those weeks and this one was no different. , especially being back on home turf and including so many of the runners that I coach. Being away for most of that week allowed me to reflect on a few things and I have to say that I am really proud of how my runners have all trained and dealt with the things that life throws at them during their preparations. Most of them have been through some sort of drama whether it was personal, family or work related in the past few months and have had to make changes to their training or expectations. If this marathon in Busselton showed me anything, it was that sometimes we can’t foresee all the circumstances, no matter how well we plan. At the point when we need to adapt, its about how we make the most of the cards we are dealt. I am proud of myself and the runners that I coach for doing exactly that.