A year ago today, my family and I went to Bunbury to see my good mate Jeremy Savage run a marathon, while we were there I ran the 10km event, Tracy & Abbey ran the 5km. We had such a good weekend, with a great bunch of people that we decided to come back the next year. Yesterday the time came to go back, and this time I was headed for the marathon. Anyone who has done a marathon will tell you that the week before the event is terrible, your plan says don't run much, every minor niggle is life threatening and you feel like you should be wearing a bubble wrap tracksuit. The night before is just as bad, get some rest people say, when you are as excited as a kid on Christmas eve how do you do that?
The morning finally arrives, I set about getting ready and it seemed that I'd allowed myself plenty of time as I had a few minutes to sit and listen to some music until it was time to head down to the start.
Walking down to the start from the hotel was a short walk but freezing, I chatted with Danielle & Peter, stalwarts of Pioneer parkrun and some other people also doing the marathon. When I arrived at the running club there were so many familiar faces, a nervous energy rippling around the place and a great vibe. The race briefing came and went and we wandered over to the start, a quick photo of parkrunners, a few nervous jokes, well wishes and we are off. The marathon start line is around the other side of the park from the finish line and the runners run round in a loop before going through the finish line area and setting off into the course proper. I realised at that point how good a decision my shirt had been, already people were shouting out cheers for "Batman".
I had decided to try and stick on a pace of around 7min/km for as long as I could, knowing that I would slow down a bit later but might have some time in the bank. Faster runners moved off ahead of me but I kept telling myself to run my own race, stick with comfortable pacing and don't get involved in any secret racing. I pretty much managed to hold that pace for most of the first 10k's partly because I kept seeing people I knew approaching me, its bloody hard to slow down when a tsunami of high 5's is coming towards you.
I slowed a bit as I went past the runners club, partly because of the uphill towards the lighthouse, partly because I'd picked up my tailwind bottle and partly because I didn't know this part of the course. There is certainly something to be said for having run a course before. Although I was now going a bit slower and starting to take some walk breaks I still felt that I was very much on track.
Plenty of people where still coming the other way, so encouragement was plentiful. I was amazed when Roberto Busi came past, giving me a high 5(delivered down low for aerodynamic purposes I assume), the speed he was travelling nearly spun me around, and I spent the next 15 minutes marvelling at the mans speed, I don't recall him passing me on the way out(though he must have) but I'll always remember him coming back towards me.
I'd been keeping Ann & Theresa in sight but was determined not to waste energy trying to catch them if I couldn't keep pace with them, we came together in the suburbs of Bunbury, I think they had stopped for some reason, immediately I knew that I couldn't keep their pace, so I let them go. I kept them within sight most of the way back to the runners club, but never really got close again.
As I approached the halfway point I heard cowbells, even over my headphones, Natalie & Didi showing the support in true parkrun style. I came back through the halfway point with the clock showing 2 hours and 40 minutes, a half time I'd be happy with on any day. I saw Abbey, stopped for a hug and ran on. As I went back out I passed the parkrun tent, and Shuggy & Kelly gave more support and encouragement.
The second half got a bit more rugged, less people on the course and my pace was slowing,I battled around the Big Swamp and started telling myself stories that the hard part was done though at no point did I feel defeated. Once more into the headwind, convinced that it would blow be back to the runners club when I turned around, as everybody knows it does nothing of the sort.
Passing the Runners Club for the last time was tough, about three quarters done and knowing that all my friends and family were over the road, I really just wanted to go in and finish.
The last 10km was a grind, one foot in front of the other, my left hamstring started cramping about 36km,stopped to stretch it out and kept on. By this stage my 5.30 finish was gone but I was still pretty confident of being under 6 hours. I kept pushing to run, the walk breaks became more frequent but I didn't get despondent. I knew I had less than an hours work to do as long as I kept going.
The last hour is honestly a blur, one foot in front of the other, Emma Luscombe passed me, encouraging me on as she went, I saw Gary just near the Dome, more encouragement, then just around the corner one of my clients is having fish & chips at Aristos, I'd love to have stopped for some snapper and a beer but unfinished business you know.
My cramps return just after that, near the playground, it's frustrating because I know I'm close. I limp on for a bit trying to stretch out and walk, there's no panic but my pace has just about come to a standstill. By this stage I'm not running at all, just walking with periodic stops to stretch. The cramps subside enough for me to try a bit more running, I manage to get on the path that leads up to the lighthouse, I know it's mostly downhill from there. My cramps strike again and I'm pushing up against a wall trying to stretch my hamstrings they loosen a little and it's around the lighthouse and down the hill. I know I'm close now and I take out my headphones, I want to hear people, the volunteers at the road barrier encourage me to run into the chute.
I hear someone yell out "Here come's Batman" and I feel the energy of the finish chute, my cramps are gone and I'm getting high 5's all the way along, I suddenly feel like I could do it all again as I cross the mat in 6hours and 1 minute. Tracy & Abbey are there along with my parents. Then it's like a blur, catching up with everyone, photos & congratulations, hugs, handshakes and backslapping.
It's hard to beat the feeling of finishing a marathon, it's also very hard to describe the level of satisfaction that you feel, but it's a feeling I want to have again and again. Next up Perth Marathon. I cannot wait.