• Distance Culture

Marathons Can Be Cruel

By Chris Waters

I have to apologise in advance for this race recap because

1. It’s late in its delivery to my amazing coach Mike

2. It’s overwhelmingly negative

3. It’s to this day disappointing for me

I should know that the marathon is cruel and unpredictable and I should learn to accept less than favourable results, however it doesn’t make it easier to take at the time!

My goal for the race was to head out around 2 hr 30 min pace which is roughly 3.30-3.33’ per km pace. I had been lucky enough to have a great preparation for the event and a seasoned marathon teammate to run with in Rob Collins.

As usual in race week, I developed a cold and had the usual sleepless night worrying if all of my hard work was in fact now down the drain due to my health. These feelings I believe are fairly normal in marathon taper week, but in all honesty my health wasn’t ideal. I flew to Canberra on the Friday two days before race day. My nose was running into my mask worn for covid purposes the whole way. Yuk.

Despite my health, I tried to maintain a positive outlook and the truth was that I was fitter than ever before. My training had been excellent and in my head, 2.30 was going down!

On race day, the weather was supposed to be cold and maybe windy. I woke to light rain and no wind. I had packed arm warmers, a beanie and gloves for the weather. As I finished my warm up jog, the weather was 9 degrees, cloudy and still (perfect!) I quickly made the decision to ditch the warm weather gear and run in just singlet and shorts.

The gun went and quickly I had settled into race rhythm with 3.30’s coming fairly easily as they should and a group to run with had formed by about 6km in. The course was fairly undulating, twisty and unfortunately, it seemed the weather was turning maybe a little windy. The kilometres seemed to disappear ok without me ever feeling great, I was getting through the work ok.

A few minor mishaps with drinks/gels and thanks to Claire, Rob’s lovely fiancé’ and Rob, we seemed to be working well as a group of 4 come the really windy stretch from 25-29km. Rob and I had spoken about not fighting into the wind, and we settled in behind the other guys for as long as we could without totally ruining the friendship!

At 33-34 km I was starting to feel quite cold and the 3 other guys opened a small gap on me that I was not particularly worried about at the time. However, the body had slowly started the marathon fade, and 3.30s became 3.40s and small hills seemed to have me completely zonked.

One of the other guys by this stage had dropped back also and at 37km he yelled encouragingly to me only 5km to go! This to me now seemed almost impossible. I was feeling horrible.

By the 39km mark I was really quite dizzy and disoriented, I felt I had to walk or I might fall over. At this point I was more than happy to step off but I walked on. As people yelled encouragement all I could do was say how cold I was and try to jog here and there.

Anyway, thanks to Claire (again) I slowly walk/jogged my way to the finish line where Rob was diligently waiting for me after crushing a sub 35 min last 10km to come 2nd overall. I had stopped the clock at 2.35 something and after a quick "how are you feeling mate?" he quietly escorted me to Greg, my volunteer doctor friend who was to take care of me for the next 20 minutes.

I climbed on to the bed and quickly felt myself peacefully drifting off to sleep, only later after reading my medical chart I discovered that the disorientation and sleepiness may have been due to my temperature being a mere 33 degrees.

So in summary, I was COLD, very cold and perhaps my health had played a part but overall, who knows, maybe just another not-quite-there race result. I’m disappointed. I’m gutted that the dark early mornings didn’t translate to success this time but now I’m over it.

On reflection, I love the training, I love the journey and the downs make the ups even better. I’m going to try again. I am confident the result I’m after will come eventually.

As a new running friend made during the race proclaimed to me loudly: “There’s only one thing worse than being a runner Chris. . . and that’s not being a runner!”

Thanks for that one Travis. I love it!

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