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Second Place at the Canberra Marathon

By Robert Collins


After 18 months since my last marathon (Amsterdam 2019), it was really nice to be racing the classic distance again. And I enjoyed every minute of the Canberra Marathon, from the chilly start right through to being in a world of pain at the finish line. With the last 12 months being marred by Covid-19, I no longer take a scheduled race - of any distance - for granted.

Starting Out

On the start line I was secretly relishing the cooler weather, and it brought back fond memories of racing in the UK. There was very little chance of overheating! With the wind being quite strong, a group of eight of us formed in the early stages and we ran a sensible, controlled pace.


Fortunately, all of the group members were willing to contribute to setting the pace, giving us a chance to relax (as much as we could) in the wind. From 10k to roughly 18k I wasn’t feeling great, which I just told myself was due to the undulating course.

We reached half way in 75 minutes, and I did become a little anxious at how slow the time was. These thoughts I quickly erased with positive self-talk – I was here to race my competitors now, and weather conditions were beyond my control.


Let's Race

Our group slowly whittled down from six at half way to four at 25k. Our pace was still consistent, but we knew from 25k to 29k this would drop with the looming headwind. Fortunately, our group of four continued to cooperate, each of us taking turns at the front and providing shelter to the others. We hit the turnaround point at 29k and there was a collective sigh as we now had a tailwind for the next 7k.

Our group stayed together until roughly 33k, where to my surprise it was teammate Chris Waters who was first to drop off. Another kilometre down the road and another dropped off our group which was now down to two.


Originally I had planned to wait until 35k before driving for home with coach’s words of “Patience” ringing through my ears, but at 34k and with just two of us left it was the perfect opportunity to start racing for second place.


As we increased the pace I could sense my competitor starting to labour and bumping into me occasionally, so I made an effort at 36k to push ahead on an uphill section. The tactic worked and now it was full gas to the finish line.

The closing stages of the race was the first time my brain was actually functioning properly this late in a marathon. Due to this I was able to continue the positive self-talk, focus on remaining relaxed and push all the way to the finish line. I missed my water at the 38k thanks to some “interesting” setups of personal refreshments, but it didn’t faze me. Second place was sewn up, and there was remarkably still a remote chance to run a PB despite the early pace. The last kilometre was a battle up a small hill and around a few tight turns, and I hit the line in 2:29:17.


The aftermath

After a few quick congratulations with the winner Myles, my focus turned to cheering on my fellow Distance Culture teammates down the finishing chute. After a couple of minutes I became anxious for Chris who had still not appeared, and shortly he came through completely spent. It was hard to watch, and I knew that he was in much better shape and ready for a PB today. But that’s the marathon, sometimes we don’t have our best race on the day.


Shortly Artem would arrive at the finish line with a big PB of 2:47. We’re all very stoked for Arty and the discipline he has showed in the build-up, and this result is well deserved.

After a couple of days to reflect on the race, I am quite happy with my performance. I was able to actually “race” this marathon which was a nice change. I was after a faster time, but the conditions on the day did not allow this. A small PB, second place and a negative split is a good result, and has given me plenty of motivation to attack my next marathon later in the year.


Thanks

Now to thank a few people that have had a massive contribution to this performance. Firstly to my partner Claire who was a massive support out on the course, giving us drinks at the right time and yelling encouragement. She also made things much more stress-free at home in the months leading in to the marathon. I need to pull my fair share of chores at home now!


Next to my coach Michael Whiting for all the training schedules, support and boundless energy to get us to the start line. There is no way I could have performed this well without Mike’s direction.


Next to my training partners Chris, Arty and Daryl (who unfortunately didn’t make it to the start). Getting up at 4am each Saturday morning for training was that much easier thanks to these bloody great training partners. The rest of the Distance Culture squad have all been a great support over the build-up, and the positivity each member brings really helps us to perform. I’m now looking forward to returning the favour and helping these guys out with their training over the shorter distances during winter.


To my old coach back at Thames Valley Harriers in London, JJ Quirke, who I’ve been in regular contact with since we left the UK in 2019. JJ really helped in the fortnight before the race, providing positive thoughts and keeping me focused for the big day.


Finally to my teammates back at Thames Valley Harriers, who have done it tough over the last 12 months due to Covid-19. The club lost two integral athletes during 2020, and the memories of Chris Smith and Paul Woodgate kept me pushing hard in the latter stages of the marathon. Rest in peace lads.

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