marathon

My First Marathon – Part Four

The Race

I was hit with the majestic realisation that I was finally running my first marathon. 

After months of hard training, my moment had come as I joined shoulder to shoulder with fellow runners, a massive wave of bobbing heads and heaving bodies, our feet together unsettling the cool morning dew, spilling into the empty Melbourne streets behind the shadows of the rising sun. It was incredibly inspiring to know, despite being from all walks of life, men and women, young and old, we had all been dedicatedly training our minds and bodies for this very moment.

As we came down St Kilda Rd, I noticed a few portaloos had been setup along the way. A few anxious runners who, like me, had missed out on getting to the toilet before the race began, tried to get in but realised the organisers hadn’t yet unlocked them. Unabashedly, they then proceeded to relieve themselves by the road side. I wasn’t prepared to commit such an indignity to such a beautiful city, so I continued to hold on. 

I remembered the advice to hold back in the beginning, so I kept my cadence at an easy pace. However, it was not long before I found myself passing the 4 hour pacer as we were coming out of the MCG. After 10 km, as we rounded the corner into Albert park, I soon caught up with the 3h 50min pacer, who was a marathoning veteran in his 50s. Although I didn’t feel I was overexerting myself, when I checked my pace I was surprised to find it was 5:06, which was pretty fast for me. I figured any headway I make now would only payoff towards the end when I would be tired and slow, so I continued to cruise along at this pace while enjoying the sight of ducks waddling in the lake along the route. After finally catching sight of a public restroom, I took my chance and went for it. By the time I managed to rejoin the race, I had lost sight of the pacer and had some catching up to do. I also started feeling a mild pinching sensation arising at the back my left calf. Cautious that the discomfort could progress into a bigger problem as the race progressed, I tried to apply some plaster on it. Unfortunately it seemed to make it even worse, so I had to quickly remove it again and continued on with the race.

Exiting the park and coming down St Kilda Road towards Port Melbourne, I still at a comfortable pace, it felt amazing taking in the view of the road lined on both sides with the encouragement of cheering crowds spurring us forward. The scent of the sea was in the air as we rounded the corner to Beaconsfield Parade along the shoreline. Running beside me was also the Incredible Hulk. I don’t mean a metaphorically beefy guy or even someone wearing a Hulk T-shirt, but here was actually a man who was dressed from head to toe in a neon green novelty Hulk suit, complete with fake green muscles, face mask, Hulk feet and everything. Now normally this would seem quite amusing, but he also happened to be blazing fast (well, I guess he’s the Hulk after all), it really was quite impressive given how hot it must be under the weight of his costume. Everywhere we’d go,I’d hear calls of “Go Hulk!!!” from the crowd. 

At 16kms in, I soon caught up with the 3h 50m pacer again and after staying with him a little, I picked up my pace a little and continued to pass them. Beaconsfield Parade seemed to go on forever, a never ending, completely straight and flat stretch. When I finally thought we come to the the end, we merely turned around to go back the other way. Normally at the 20km mark in my training, I’d start feeling tired and slow, but here I now felt I was truly and comfortably in my element. It felt like the time to hold back was over and I should really start pushing myself. Donning my headphones, downing a energy gel and and taking a gulp of water at the next drink station, I was ready to go. I blasted off, blazing past other runners, leaving them in my dust. It felt incredible to be finally running free!

My new found enthusiasm, unfortunately, did not quite last as long as I had imagined. After gaining on other runners for a few more kilometres, like a leaking balloon, I slowly found my energy slowly being sapped away under the weight of the beating sun, now high overhead, while the dull aches and pains in my legs also started to call out louder for my attention. By kilometer 28, the tables had really started to turn, as runners I had gleefully zoomed passed before were now easily overtaking me again and I was really beginning to struggle, regretting the surge I had performed earlier. The Hulk had long left me in the dust and I was growing ever more frustrated I could not muster the energy to keep up as I helplessly let others pass me left and right. The only redeeming thing I could do now, was to try to ignore the ever louder screams of pain in my legs and just to keep going. At kilometer 30, any trace of that feeling you get that running is so much fun had completely disappeared. The pinching sensation that was in left calf I had felt earlier in the race was barely even noticeable compared to crashing crescendo of pulsating pain tearing through my whole body as I continued to lift one foot after another. 

It was now a question of whether I could survive through this.

My First Marathon – Part One

Hello. 

It has been a very long time since I have posted anything here. No good excuses really. I just haven’t. 

But since there also aren’t any actual readers here, its all good. The force is still in balance.

Last year, I wrote in my own personal journal about running my first marathon. It was a remarkable experience for me, so I wanted to document my journey. Then I thought, hey, this could be something nice to put on my blog. Soon, it became really long and was also just some badly written ramblings on a page. So, I did the only sensible thing in this situation, procrastinate. Finally, after some of cleaning up, I decided it might work better as a series of blog posts. 


So here’s goes. Hope you (my non existent reader) like it!

The Beginning

I still remember when it all began. I was running late. Like really late. Our meeting was all the way across campus. There was only one way make it. Panting and wheezing on what was actually a very short sprint, I realised, ok, all those burgers had taken a worrying toll on me. I was really unfit. 

Ever since then, I took up running, first as ‘eye of the tiger’ moment, but as I enjoyed it more, it became my go to for my relaxation. There was no better way to live than going for some fresh air, exploring my surroundings while breaking a sweat. 


A few years ago, I had the opportunity to run the SMH Half Marathon. On my first attempt, I finished in 2hrs and 1 minute. Next year, I thought, I’m gonna really put in effort and finish under 2 hours. 


The next year my time was 2:05. Not quite what I had hoped for, but I also hadn’t ‘put in the effort’ I rationalised. Then the next year after that my time was 2:10. Alarmed with my gradual decline, I resolved it was the moment for some of that ‘eye of the tiger’ again. I’m really gonna get this 2 hour mark next time. For the first time, I had a goal and I wanted to meet it. 


As the race approached, I started my training with regular runs, mostly after work, gradually increasing my distance while maintaining or increasing my pace. However, it wasn’t always easy to squeeze in the time to keep my routine up. Then I had an idea: why don’t I simply run home from work. Two birds: I’d get my training in and I will arrive home. At first this seemed a bit cray cray, I didn’t exactly live close by and my normal train commute would take around an hour door to door. But what did I have to lose? After mapping out a route and leaving all my belongings at the office, I braced myself and took to the streets. 


My first attempt was hard, hobbling through the dark, I was exhausted, spent, yet it also felt fantastic when I wobbled through the door at home through the pain all on my own two legs. It felt like a momentous achievement, if I could do that, what couldn’t I do? Yet despite the distance, I was still pretty slow. I knew, if I was going to make sub 2hrs, I really needed to up my training and push myself even harder. Over the next few weeks, I continued to run home once a week, pushing as fast as I could and I could see my time slightly improving with every run. I mixed in some interval runs to increase my power and I felt confident that if I could keep this momentum up, I may just reach my goal this year. 


On race day, with my stomach full of guilt free carbs, I was ready. Huddled at the start line, with my running friend Harshi, we took in the buzzing energy of our fellow runners. The gun went off and so were we. As I heard our feet rhythmically hitting the asphalt disrupting the morning dew, I felt it was such a joy and privilege to be there. The cold air, however, was not kind to my asthmatic lungs, unaccustomed to such an early start, I had to take a few extra squeezes of my puffer as we twisted round the corner towards the Rocks. Around 5kms in, on the overpass towards Pyrmont, with the splendid view of sunlit Darling Harbour glittering to my right, I felt I had finally found my rhythm. 


I knew the route well, the same every year, but this time it was also different, I pushed myself unrelentingly through every corner, incline and step with a fierce vigor towards my goal. As we climbed the hill past the observatory, the slope was the source of my exhaustion and pain. Yet somehow, this also fueled my fire further. In a cruel joke only the organisers could find amusing, as the end approaches and you are wanting nothing more but for it all to be over, the route directs you past the finish line, with its cheering crowds and all, but does not let you cross it. It then redirects you to do a full lap of the Royal Botanical Gardens before letting you circle back. The last few kilometers were just hell. When I finally reached the finish line in an exhausted bliss, I looked at my time: 1 hr 53 minutes. I had beaten my goal by an entire 7 minutes! I was stoked.


After munching on some free fruit that was offered for recovery, a thought welled up. If I could do this, what else could I achieve. Whats next, I thought? “It’s time you did a full marathon”, Harshi, said to me as we stretched out our beaten legs on the grass. I had just been thinking the same thing… 


In the following months, the warmth of Autumn slowly faded along with exuberance of my half marathon achievement. The chilly weather provided me the perfect cover to lazily rug up under my safe blankets and ignore the cruel pavement. My wife had a spare flight ticket we needed to use. Having once romanticised about the idea of a destination marathon, I considered how awesome it would be to see a city and run a marathon while doing so, like some sort of masochistic tourist. I googled upcoming marathons around the country and they were all too soon or far into the future. I found one in Hobart sponsored by Cadbury and wondered what sort of disconcerting relationship they must have in place. The next one I found was in Melbourne, who would be hosting their marathon in October, perfect.

With my tickets booked, Melbourne, here I come. 

I will try and get theses posts up every few weeks, so stay tuned for the rest!