I had been looking around for marathon options early in the year for a couple of reasons. First because my usual fixture of Gold Coast marathon is out for me this year because of holiday plans, but also because I wanted a solid block of training without the work travel that I typically have in May and June each year. So after tossing up a few I came up with Canberra. The last time I had been to Canberra was 13 years ago and not really great circumstances. After being away overseas for 7 weeks I found out on the way home in Singapore that my Uncle from Canberra had suffered a stroke and was critical in hospital. Unfortunately I got the news that he had passed away when I got off the plane in Brisbane and so promptly booked a flight down to the capital to be with my family. It was a pretty sad time because he was only in his mid 50s and I remember him as being my Dad’s eldest brother and a big strong Canadian fellow. So it was kind of strange going down there because I had been there quite a bit as a kid to see my Uncle and cousins but life got busy in the meantime and I hadn’t been back. My kids had also missed out on the usual Canberra trips for school because of changing schools so Emma and I thought we would all go down and have a look around. We did that and it was great to see places like the Parliament Houses (the old one is better), Questacon, Telstra Tower and the Australian War Memorial which was a highlight. It was even greater to see my Aunty and cousins.
I also had a marathon to run and a goal which was 3:10 or a pace of 4:30 per kilometre which would get me well within the 3:15 that I need to qualify for the Boston Marathon. My training for this marathon wasn’t the greatest early on to be honest. Last year I had blown out my adductor at Gold Coast and then went on the New York still injured but committed. I set myself a 12 week program to give me enough time to rest and get over my adductor issue. I also sought advice from Jan Wanklyn who got me working on my hip, glute and core strength along with watching my diet using My Fitness Pal with a view to dropping 3 or 4 kilograms. I also decided to drop a couple of runs each week out of my usual program and replace them with bike rides. All of these worked really well. I did have another problem that came up though – 2 plantar warts! I had never heard of them but I have now and they are painful little suckers. Week after week I went to the Doctor and he chipped away with freezing it off. It actually never quite got right although it is now. One of them was on the ball of my right foot and any tight turns became painful and you can be sure that I felt every rock on those Forgan trails – right on the spot. Anyway, I soldered on and by the time the marathon came around I was feeling in shape and ready. I hadn’t run any major lead up races but I had done a couple of Park Runs in the low 18s which gave me real confidence that I was on track to get through and meet my goal.
We were staying a couple of kilometres away from the start area which was right between Old Parliament House and the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. On the Saturday the 5 and 10 kilometres events were held and I took a dash down to shake out my legs but also get a feel for the starting area. It was a pretty cool 6 degrees and a perfectly clear day. The next day was forecast to have a bit of rain but it looked like it wasn’t going to come through until around 10am which suited me fine because with a 6:25am start I should be done and dusted by then. On the Sunday morning though there were a few drops on my walk down to the starting zone. Shortly after I went to the toilet and put my bag in, the heavens opened and at around 5:30am as many runners as possible were huddled under marquees trying to get out of the rain. I remember looking out thinking that this isn’t going to be fun being out in that for over 3 hours. But the show had to go on!
Luckily the rain stopped at around 6am and although everything was wet, there was no rain. The gun went at 6:25am and we rounded the new Parliament House and did about 10 kilometres on that side of the lake before crossing the bridge to the other side. At that time the sun actually came out and it started to warm up. We went past the War Memorial and headed along what is pretty much a highway out into the rolling hills of the countryside of Canberra. The course pretty much goes around the lake with a couple of loop backs here and there to make up the distance. Quite a few U-turns and undulations. I ended up running with a fella called Gavin who was running his second marathon and pacing for a sub 3:10. His pace suited me just fine so we ran together for the first 28 kilometres or so before a stitch struck me and I slowed up a touch. He was a great guy from a small town a couple of hours west of Canberra and I have him to thank for keeping me on pace. Between 30 to 35 kilometres there are a couple of hills which bite just at that time when you need everything to go your way and they did slow me up a little. I got through them OK though and headed towards the finish. I haven’t mentioned that by around 25 kilometres the rain came back and stayed with us for the rest of the race. I remember coming into the final kilometre and seeing my family as the rain teemed down and I just dug in to get to the finish. The rain was really heavy then but I didn’t really care. I had just finished another marathon and beaten my personal best time by around 5 minutes with 3:12:38!
My time is under the Boston qualification time but precariously close. Last year the quota cut out at 3:12:51. Those couple of hills late in the course that had cost me a couple of minutes put me right on the edge. There is no way of knowing whether my time is enough until going through the process, but I still have time to have a crack at another marathon later in the year before having to put an application in during September. Overall I really enjoyed the marathon. The weather wasn’t great and the course wasn’t the best with a number of turn arounds and unwelcome hills but I ran my best marathon yet there. If you are looking for a marathon in the early part of the year in Australia then I would definitely recommend having a crack at the Canberra Marathon.