A cool and cloudy morning greeted us on Sunday the 18th of October, just perfect for running and though my preparation had been interrupted due to work travel and a virus, I felt excited for what lay ahead.
I woke at 4.00am dressing and eating a breakfast of muffin with honey, a banana and black tea. Up alone with my thoughts and the silence I started to get nervous with a few doubts and negative thoughts that rolled around in my head. It was the usual suspects "I haven't trained enough, can I finish?, I want to show everyone I can do this". So I countered with, I've run this before, I know what to expect, my training is what it is, stop worrying, this is your day, enjoy!
Before I knew it the time was 5.15 and Jeff was at the door to collect me for the hours drive into the city centre. The morning was cool but not cold, about 14 deg. C so other than my running gear I did not need anything heaver than my rain jacket for warmth. The drive in went quickly as I dozed off for about 20 min and before we knew it we were parking and walking to the gear drop off point within the bowels of the MCG.
We walked to the start line getting there about 15 min before the gun, hanging towards the back of the assembled runners. The MC was doing the usual things to rev the crowed up and giving away prizes to runners picked at random but how they were picked I don't really know. 5 minutes to go ...... 1 minute ...... 30 seconds, we shook hands wished each other well and we were away, first at a slow walk then a jog with it taking 4 or 5 min for us to go under the start kite and over the electronic timer. Just before the kite Jeff stopped to retie his shoes so I was about a minute ahead when he caught up to me, we wished each other all the best and he was gone into the sea of backs and bums.
My race strategy was to run my own race, to enjoy the moment, walk to drink at the aid stations and to push if I had it in me. As we were toward the back of the 7,000 + runners I started passing people at my own pace almost immediately in fact before the firs drink station there were people walking. The first drink station loomed at 4km and on reach it I took a cup of water and Gatorade walked as I drank which was only a matter of seconds and I was running again.
The mood was festive and good natured as I spoke to others as I ran and I was feeling good about myself and the world. Between the 2nd aid station and the 9km mark I ran up to a guy who was a Spartan Runner and he wore a singlet that read I've Run them all 35 years 1977 -2012. When I reached his shoulder I said you need a new singlet that ones a bit old and we had a laugh. I asked him what his PB was and when he set it, 2:32 he said in 1982 and it's been down hill ever since he laughed. We ran together for about 3 or 4 km talking about our running and life before I moved on. He was hopping for a 4.30-4.45 finish and I was running at 4.00hr pace before running with him so I increased by pace back to that.
I continued to walk and drink at the aid stations alternating between water and Gatorade. At about 17km I ran up on another Spartan Runner who had also competed in every Melbourne Marathon and again I sat at his shoulder for a couple of km talking to him and his companion. He introduce himself as Terry and he was running with a friend who was competing in his first marathon at 63. I asked Terry what his PB was 2:40 in 1988 he says, adding it seems like just yesterday but to a different person. I asked him about the Spartans with him saying to qualify you have to have run 10 Melbourne Marathons and its a great club full of wonderful people.
I was feeling good running within myself so I slowly ran on ahead again at 4.00 hr pace. Then before I knew it I was under the 21km kite and running along the sea front heading up St. Kilda Rd with a stiff breeze in my face. I was still feeling good legs a little heavy but nothing to worry about as I turned around and ran back down St. Kilda Rd from whence I came at just over 26km. I went through 26 km in 2:34.15 and the morning was now bright and sunny and cool sitting around 18 deg C perfect for running. Then out of the Blue at about the 31km mark I cramped in my Right quad high up in the muscle, I stopped and walked it out, then started running again. about a km up the road I cramped again so I walked until I had worked it out. Unfortunately this was the pattern for the next 10 km until the finish, my right leg would almost seize up with the cramp until I could walk it out.
I don't know why it happened I had taken fluids, water and electrolytes the whole way, until the cramps struck my legs were good and I felt great. I was frustrated as I was looking at around a 4.00 finish but it wasn't to be and as I got closer to the finish I saw many people far worse off than me so I just accepted this was the way it was, hoping each time I cramped that this was the last one. I entered the MCG for the last 300 metres around the boundary under Blue skies and my quad was cramped the whole way and I was in a world of pain. I could not lift my leg much above allowing my foot to come forward but when I went under the finishing kite after the initial relief upon stopping a wave of both pride and disappointment at what could have been blanketed me. So relieved to have stopped was I that I didn't even look at the time or my watch until I was being ushered into the stadium to receive my finishers medal, food and drink.
On receiving my medallion, and a Poweraid I collected my bag and went to find Jeff and our families. Jeff had run 3:36.15 and was rested and upon finding everyone I lay down on the grass for a while before being picked up and slowly walking to pick up our tee shirt and goodie bag. With this done we then made a very slow walk back to the cars as my leg was cramping again. It took a couple of days for my leg to come right and I've been over and over the race in my head to see if I can put my finger on why it happened but alas I have no real idea. The only thing I can think of is because of my travel for work and a virus I didn't run as many long runs as would normally have but this is only a guess.