Sunday, 20 April 2008

See, it did hurt!

Posted by speedygeoff on Sunday, April 20, 2008 with 5 comments
The pain of the marathon

and it hurt others even more than it hurt me.

Thanks to Jim White for these two photos!

AAAH those pre race rituals.

Our lives are filled with all kinds of ritualistic behaviours. Runners employ many different rituals which prepare them mentally and emotionally for their training as well as their racing.

Different running groups have very different rituals too; I amazed to watch the rituals of someone with a triathlon background for example, it’s almost like a foreign culture. It makes me realise how ingrained some of our activities can become. And how difficult it would be to merge cultures, and why some athletes seeking out training groups are very quick to cast judgement and move on. The rituals differ so much.

What then were my marathon day rituals?

Preparing for April’s marathon, I start settling into a familiar routine. I always get up hours before the race starts – the alarm was set for 4:30 – and after a warm shower have my normal breakfast, which consists of muesli (dry) with bananas, something I have had daily since 1963.

Then I go through the checklist I prepared the previous day, so even half asleep nothing is missed, making sure everything is packed and accessible when I need it.

Off to the race venue, in the dark (this year the darkness was punctuated with ominous lightning) and a handy parking spot close to the race finish line.

One hour before start a coffee (black no sugar), then walk around the start and check-in areas to see that there are no surprises.

Then a toilet stop or two, and on go the racing shoes followed by a very slow warm-up. For most races the warm-up starts an hour before, but for the marathon a compromise and start 30 minutes before.

A stretch or two, a last gulp of a sports drink, a last toilet stop, make sure the shoe laces are just right not too loose not too tight, and with ten minutes to go I am lurking around the start line.

The pre-race ritual is the same for every race. When it is a big one, like the marathon, I try to picture myself heading off to a more routine race, like the BBQ Stakes, trying to minimise nerves.

Then when the race starts, start conservatively being happy to be behind schedule at 1k and being prepared NOT to take off at that point to make up any “lost ground”. It worked well, target pace was 4:30 and I eased through in 4:28. Downhill (worth a few seconds) versus the time to from gun to start line (5 seconds) makes that about right.

Drink electrolytes at every drink station. Gel liquid at 25k (the gel provided was good, it didn’t stick in the throat)

Badly fatigued at 22k so immediately adjusted pace from <4:30 to <5 min per k. This worked like a charm and I maintained that pace right to the end, save a short burst up Kings Avenue when I temporarily felt better. Unfortunately at the top of Kings avenue the second set of wheels fell off, reverted to <5..

What rituals have I dispensed with?

One was to do with protecting the feet: I didn’t put bandaids around the toes, I didn’t use any Vaseline (or bodyglide), I wore Nike Free 7.0s. NO blisters other than a couple of minor toenail blood blisters that I didn’t feel, but the road surface did feel hard as you’d expect with Frees, and I still cannot recommend a perfect road shoe.

And the other was to do with carbo loading: I didn’t deplete and I didn’t load. If I had I might have run a faster time, but I would have paid for it with post race fatigue and health risks I was no longer prepared to take at my age. I believe depleting/loading is extreme and I would recommend more long training runs as a better way of running a faster marathon!

And there’s the key. I tired at 22k for one simple reason – I had not run sufficient single long training runs. If I run another marathon, I must do those longer runs. Religiously.


  1. Great 'painful' photos from Jim - looks like Eagle (CR cap) in the background.

    You did well - 3:18 with no sets of wheels left for the last 17k is good!

  2. I'm thinking about the long runs too. Maybe longer long runs.

    Spotting Eagle in the pic, Ewen has good eyes for an old guy :)

  3. did you step on that fella's shoes? that's not nice. you've been hanging with ewen too long. he's got dirty tricks.

  4. IHT: Stepping on his toes didn't help at all; the b****r passed me again later in the race. I will have to stop running with Ewen, at least all next week. He's such a bad influence.

    Tesso: Great to hear from you: you must have recovered!!!! See you at the Bush Capital marathon in Canberra on 26 July?

    Oh cynical ones: that's no wry smile! Not on the outside anyway; at the very LEAST I am hurting in sympathy. And anyone thinking along the lines of what the alleged "Monnas" wrote, that's me in the foreground in pain, I assure you.

  5. 3:18 without long runs is a great effort & achievement. Nice photos as well !

    Sling Runner