Watching a movie? Going to the footy? Or going out for some fine dining? All viable options for a fun way to spend 2 hrs and 32 minutes of your time. And neither of them take too much prep time either. But where there is not much prep or initial investment for these activities, you’re also not getting any major reward or satisfaction at the completion.
‘How was your weekend, do anything fun?’Typical workplace conversation on a Monday morning
‘Oh yeah, it was alright, just the usual stuff plus I saw a new movie, that was pretty fun’.
I did none of the activities mentioned and instead subjected myself to 2 hrs and 32 minutes of running in the 2022 Adelaide Marathon on the weekend. And yes, I had fun. In fact, I had a bloody great time.
I entered the Adelaide Marathon after completing the Pichi Richi Marathon in late June. I was happy with winning that event but felt I was capable of a faster time on a flatter course and wanted to see how low a time I could go. Perfectly situated in between trail running races, on the weekend of my older sister’s birthday and some bushwalking work near Adelaide all signs were pointing to me make the trip down to Adelaide for the marathon on the 21st August. I’d be ticking the good brother box, reliable employee box and also have something fun to do on the weekend. I like box ticking.
I kept the training up after my ski trip, held it at a pretty high load through both the Melrose 50km and Sturt Gorge 20km races I won before I settled into a nice two week taper. The training block of the last 5 weeks prior to the Adelaide Marathon compared to the 5 week block prior to the Pichi RIchi Marathon was kind of similar but also not. The average km’s I had for the last 5 weeks for both blocks was the same at around 130km (including a two week taper in each block) but the amount of quality ‘sessions’ (interval type workouts) and quality marathon specific long runs (as opposed to long trail runs) was up by 50%! This left me feeling confident pre-race that I was a better runner than Pichi Richi seeing as I also had the strength of that effort in my legs and mind still. Still, despite the good training I was putting in prior to the event I had a few more work commitments this time around and was concerned that bushwalking whilst tapering wasn’t exactly best practice but work is work and I must do it like any other general citizen.
Knowing the general consensus, from trawling the dark web, that a time at the Pichi Richi Marathon is about 5-8 minutes slower than a flat course I suspected I had a 2:35 marathon pace in me. I also knew that going off my Seacliff Parkrun times I was probably around the 2:30-2:35 mark. It’s all well and good to know the research and what the stats say but that means jack shit when you’re in the heat of a marathon. There’s a lot of variables to be controlled for in two and a half hours of running that could slow you down; drop a gel, fail to hydrate properly, slip over, get tripped up, get bad chafing, unexpected injury, bad stomach issue, the list goes on. If it can happen to pro runners in the Olympics it can happen to any recreational punter like me. So getting back to my original intention of entering the Adelaide Marathon, to run a fast time, I went through the obligatory process of setting some goals to give myself some boundaries to work with.
A Grade Goal: 2:30 – 2:34. 3:33 per km – 3:39 per km.
Like I said, I’d like to think I was capable of hitting this time but who knows in the marathon game. It’s kind of crazy to me that just a few seconds per km slower gets you a time that could be 4 minutes slower than your intended overall time. Big difference. One day I’d like to run sub 2:30 but I’ve got to crawl before I can walk so a 2:30 time at the Adelaide Marathon was my ‘Don’t you dare run any faster than this pace at the start no matter how good you’re feeling’ pace.
B Grade Goal: 2:35 – 2:39. 3:41 per km – 3:46 per km.
This time would still get me a 2:30ish time which is nice. It’s also a good goal to have in case running the first half at A grade pace puts me in the red and I fade out to this B grade goal.
C Grade Goal: Beat Pichi Richi Time.
If I didn’t reach this goal I’d be pretty disappointed with myself. No-one likes a regression.
So I had my goals in hand, had a similar fuelling strategy during the race, same playlist prepped and the weather forecast was looking gooood. An additional motivating reason for entering this race was I was looking to compete with some faster runners to hopefully drag me to a 2:30ish time. If that meant that on race day some blokes run 2:20 or 2:30 and I don’t win but I get my goal times I will count that as a success. Another additional motivating reason was that the South Australian Road Runners Club had organised significant prizemoney for this event. The better I ran, the more chance I could get some moolah. This does bring two possible outcomes though:
- More prizemoney > better runners come along > therefore more chance of getting paced to a 2:30 time > less chance of me getting prizemoney > still overall success….OR
- More prizemoney > no better runners and just me going for it at 2:30ish pace > slower racing conditions > I bail on time idea to avoid risk of blowing up at some point and just settle in to increase my chances of getting more prizemoney > A.K.A Sell my soul to the prizemoney gods.
Running in my little silo of life out in Quorn I had no idea what to expect though from the increased prizemoney and who would be out on course. Would I have company at 2:30 pace or not? Leading up to the race I was pretty comfortable in going through my routines I’ve been fine-tuning over the last 10 races this year. The pre-race questions though from family and friends is the first time I actually get to verbalise my intentions of what I am hoping to do. It’s a hard game at times. Be confident in myself, say ‘I’m going for 2:30ish and a potential top 5’ or just play it safe and go with the ‘I’m just going to give it my best’ type line. Being a believer in watching my words because they become my habits I was clear in that I thought I could get 2:30ish but it’s always game-on in these long races (meaning anything can happen). I should also admit here that I am aware I do all my running in training by myself with 90% of it occurring unbeknownst to anyone (ain’t no-one at my home in Quorn to talk to post-run). This means that when people are asking me how I think I’ll go they’re not coming at me with pitchforks and expecting me to announce some prophecy of smashing out the race. They’re just interested in my running because they only hear about it at race time. So when I surprise them with my response of what I reckon I’m capable of and then process their feedback internally as ‘shit, maybe I’m not capable of XXXX’ I’m actually just sabotaging myself off the opinion of someone who may or may not know my running background. So what me myself and I worked out is that you need the bare minimum of 1 person to believe in you to have the confidence to complete your goal and that person may as well be my bloody myself because, this is hypothetical, if I don’t believe I can do it who the fuck will?! And what’s the point of lining up at the start line with goals you don’t believe you can achieve?!
I’ve built up the pre-race mumbo jumbo long enough now. It’s race morning at Bonython Park and it’s awesome. There’s close to 500 people plus their friends, partners, whoever’s all wandering around the start area. I’m strolling through to get a sense of the logistics for the second lap and all I’m thinking is, gee it’s nice to be surrounded by some like-minded people! Races are the only time I run with other runners and by having it like this I always get an extra spring in my step when I soak up the race atmosphere. Importantly in this pre-race atmosphere I said hello to a few people including Steve from Trail Running SA who gave me some intel that there was a Victorian (from Geelong) and a French guy both aiming for the 2:30ish mark in the race. Thanks Steve, stick on them and I’ll be happy I thought.
Off we go at 6:30 in perfect running conditions and straight off there’s the Victorian guy and Frenchie trotting away at a pace that feels fast but so does everything when you’ve gone from standing still. I jump on their tails and look behind and shit, there’s already a gap to the next bloke after a minute. I either keep up with this supposed 2:30ish pace or drift back to a more conservative pace. If there was a dealer around I’d have told them ‘all in mate’. I hitched my wagon to the two in front and for the next 21.1km’s there was a Victorian, a Frenchie and a South Aussie in the front pack. This first half was bang on the money for a 2:31-2:32 marathon time. I was sticking to my fuelling strategy and enjoying spotting mates and familiar faces out on course. It felt fast and I was concerned of blowing up but I also reasoned with myself that if I didn’t at least try to hold on to 2:30 pace for as long as possible I wouldn’t know where I’d sit with my A/B/C grade goals. Having made it through the first half I was now hoping to get to 30km with the front pack.
Going through the 23/24 km our French comrade dropped off the pace and such is the nature of the course at this point me and the Vic’o could see exactly how far behind he was. I clicked on my music, same playlist as Pichi Richi, and felt terrific! This feeling stayed with me for a few kms and then it faded slightly as we approached the 30km mark. Known as the ‘halfway’ point of the marathon I’d aimed to reach the 30km without going too hard and was happy with where the body was at. At times, I’d surge a bit then Vic’o would surge and I’d struggle but up to 30km things were pretty relaxed. Good good.
The 31km-ish aid station brought on an exciting game of ‘dodge the slower runner’ who was blocking the water cups and in this game I lost, and caught the Vic’o’s back legs. He wasn’t too happy and neither was I but I quickly apologised. Whoops. I hung on to him for a few more km’s but through 34/35km’s I was feeling weak. Is this the wall? Have I fucked up? Oh shit, I’ve fucked up… The Vic’o get a couple of metres away from me and I was starting to really question my race tactics here. I managed to grab back on to him and from here entered into survival mode of just trying to hang on. I didn’t want to get caught in no-man’s land between Victoria and France because that is a bloody big gap and dangerous things happen there…
Each kilometre sign was a relief as we clicked through 36, 37 and then 38. From 38 I was thinking, right, maybe I’m on here again for a win. I also was thinking, yeah, but if you blow up big time at 40ish and miss out on a 2:30ish time you’ll be pissed. I kept holding on and I think my face was really starting to show it. In the first half I was all thumbs up to spectators, chatting, keeping the mood relaxed but now I was the opposite. Not quite pain cave bad but just really grimacing it out. My name was on my bib and anyone watching my face quickly read out my name with a ‘keep it up’ in there too. At the time I thought, far out, why do all these people know me, stalking has gone next level, forgetting my name was on my bib…
Just after the 40km mark I knew I had the A grade goal in the bag if I held my pace. The end was near and so was relief. First place however was not so near and he was moving away from me. I didn’t have the strength to follow. I had been doing my utmost to hold on since 34km at this pace and didn’t want to chance my luck a second time by fighting to get back on to him. Knowing I was close to home with my A grade goal pretty much wrapped up I let him go. This doesn’t mean I dropped off and jogged it in, nah nah I still finished strong and laid down a time of, well you already know, 2 hrs and 32 minutes and finished in second place! We got ourselves an A grade finish! A result that if given to me at the start of the day or when I was debating on entering a month ago I would’ve immediately taken. Especially when it comes with some prizemoney!!
After the race I was pretty happy and had a great chat with the winner and the Frenchie who came in third in the end. We all cracked PB’s and it felt like a great race the whole time to all of us which was awesome. Getting to do my one favourite activity at the moment, uninterrupted for 2hrs and 32 minutes, cheered on by spectators and other runners, in the heart of Adelaide with some great competition was bloody awesome. Can’t top that for this year’s experience I don’t think.
This year’s experience? Yeah well, of course there’s always ways to improve and having now made it from a 2:41 marathoner to a 2:32 marathoner I’d like to crack the sub 2:30’s next time. To do so probably means a longer marathon specific block of training, blocking out some time away from work and trail running races and just continuing the processes I’m working on. I’m not going to drop a sub 2:30 marathon this year, bit hard if I don’t enter any marathons either, but I’m hopeful that next year I’ll commit myself to lowering it once more.
Hopefully through reading this report I’ve made you realise how running a marathon can be a fun and rewarding process. If not I’ve still got work to do to convince you. Speaking of work, I’m back at again for two weeks straight, bushwalking and climbing before I enter Race 3 of the Trail Running SA Series. Extra Long Course, 33km, Mount Crawford. Can’t wait!
Thanks for reading!