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Canberra Marathon

Updated: May 13, 2021

By Artem Pilipchuk


The day had come, after long 15 months from Dubai Marathon 2020, I went to the start line of Canberra Marathon 2021. The morning was wet, windy and very brisk which made it quite unpleasant. I was shivering and could not wait to start moving.


Firstly, we went to warm up, during which I had a little discomfort in my left side of the body, but, thankfully, it disappeared at the end of the jog. Once we finished the warm up and done stretching, Rob, Chris and I went to the start line. I was super excited to race the marathon again to say the least.


Off we go

Countdown, 10… 1, gun, the race has begun, and we started our run! Straight away I decided to not get super excited, but to settle into a comfortable pace around 3.50-3.55 mins/km. Three kilometres in I changed my mind and decided to increase my pace to 3.47 mins/km, which would give me sub 2hrs 40mins at the end of the race. I knew I was not ready for this pace but decided to take a risk and see what my body was capable of.


I settle in at 3.47s and got to the first drink stations at 6km. Now I have to roll back a bit and say that the day before we provide organisers of the race with our personal refreshment (my order was as follows: 6km – electrolyte drink, 9km gel/water, 25km gel/water, 38km gel/water and one more electrolyte drink I gave to Rob’s partner Claire to give me at 19km).


Trouble!

Anyway, when I got to the first drink station, I just could not see my bottle, because there was no indication whatsoever. When I lost around 10-15 secs at the table, I finally picked my bottle and saw that 38km was written on it. Boom! The race nutrition plan went to the bin (thankfully, I had four gels in my pockets). At this stage I said to myself: “Alright, just stick with organiser’s water and electrolyte drinks!” In general, drinking stations were very poorly organised and whenever I picked the glass up, I would spill half of it and would be left with less than two sips of water.


Back to the race. After my failure with bottles, I found myself a little group: a guy and a girl (who ended up winning the ladies marathon) and our trio was 'helping' each all the way until 24km, when I picked up one more glass of water. However, my fellow group members did not, and they got around a 10m gap to me. Oh, if I knew what this drink station would cost me, I would never pick this “sip of water” up.




Into the grind

On this stretch we hit a huge head wind and a series of rolling hills. Because I so wanted to pick the group up again I tried very hard (it can be seen on my heart rate data), but the gap did not diminish at all. It continued all the way until 29km, when we made a U-turn and got a tailwind and the same series of hills. I was still trying to catch the guys up and then I realised that something was going on with my left hamstring.


I still was putting in a huge efforts, but the hammy was getting tighter and tighter and at 32km I decided just to finish the race and started slowing down my pace to around 3.55mins a km. I remember the coach told me, you should be aiming to run sub 40 mins for your last 10km. I remembered that and thought: “okay, do that and you should comfortably finish sub-2.45”, but the pain was intensifying, hence the speed was dropping, but I continued maintaining this sub-4min pace.


We had one more U-turn at 36km and then a headwind coming back. At this stage I was still battling, but pace dropped to about 4.05-4.10 and I could not do anything about it.


Finishing off

The next stage of the race was a very uncomfortable stretch on the wind-exposed bridge. I suffered, but still more or less was running. Once, I crossed the bridge, I saw the most disturbing picture I could see at this stage of the race (but that was not the last disturbing image). I saw Claire and Chris walking. Straight away something sparked in my head: “Oh my God! What happened to Chris!?!?”. That was at 38km and I just said to myself: “You cannot walk Artem! You have to finish strong!”, but the pain in my hammy was getting more and more disturbing.


After 38km, the organisers planned something very special for us – a hill that was around 1km long, turn, and then roll down the same hill. My hamstring was killing me, and I thought if I continued to keep my stride length, I will do some real damage to my body! I increased my cadence and reduced the length of strides, and was still fighting. Then, at the end of the hill I have seen one of the fellow marathoners, who just dropped on the road and grabbed his leg and started stretching. This image just killed all my ambitions and I just told to myself: “Bring it home Artem, just bring it home!”


At 40km I saw Claire again, and she shouted: ”You are doing great Artem, looking good!” – I knew that I did not look good and each step was just hard. Anyway, we hit one more small uphill at 41km and there it was - a finish line, which I was really happy to cross with an 8min PB at 2.47.53. This race was once again was a reminder that the marathon is just a little bit more than a Sunday long run!


In summary

I was extremely happy with my level of fitness and for how long I could maintain my desired pace. Also, I will definitely bring more nutrition to the future races - it is better to have more on you than less. Of course, I probably have to say that I have to have a more even split (and I will definitely try to do it in the future), but I am happy that I took this risk this time to have a clear indication where I am standing at the moment.


I want to say a special thank you to the Distance Culture squad for all the support and motivation, to Mike for being a great ‘teacher’, to Chris, Rob and Daryl for doing this training block with me and Claire for helping during the race!






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