Halfway through my 2nd marathon, I was convinced that my story here was not going to be one of thrilling success but rather a brutal beatdown. But it doesn’t make sense to only document the successes, since the failures gives you a fair perspective. So here’s my take on the Bunbury 3 Waters marathon, held on Apr 12 2015.
For the impatient, my time was 04:28. That’s 30min more than what I wanted. So umm…. yeah.
The first mistake was the Comrades Ultramarathon cap. I had no idea that there would be so much recognition of that race by a single sight of my cap. As a result, there were folks coming up and talking to me about Comrades and having an expectation of something worthwhile from my performance. Ahhh how I proved them all disastrously wrong…. I saw the reactions go from “Ohh you did Comrades?!” to “Did you do Comrades?” to “Guess you know someone who did Comrades?”. By the end, I was doubting that I did it myself.
The marathon (42.2km) was an absolute gorgeous one with a good part being run along the shore. My last marathon (almost 2 years ago) was run in 04:17 with a lot of muscle cramps along the last 5km. So I figured a target of a sub 4 run here would be an ideal balance between realism and optimism.
I had set a few groundrules for myself to make this happen, on top of the physical aspect of being able to run and all.
1. Run the first half at an average pace of around 05:30min/km even though my body would insist I should do faster.
2. Run the second half at an average pace of around 05:40min/km even though my body would insist I should do slower.
3. Maintain a run cadence of 160bpm or more.
4. Make use of downhills wisely.
5. Salt pills at every 30min to avoid muscle cramping.
6. No music for the run. Stay conscious of the pace and how the body is going.
7. Smile more. Don’t be grumpy.
Only Rule#2 failed. But oh did it fail miserably!
The first half went as per plan and I averaged a pace of 05:28, right on target! But pretty much a minute after crossing the mid-point at 01:55, my stomach started cramping up. Owing to some personal issues, my mindset before the race had been a bit of a clusterfuck anyway. So the added physical setback was a major spanner in the works. The next 9km was me desperately trying to push myself to run/walk/crawl and at the 30km mark, I finally decided call it quits. I had had enough and told myself that there was no reason for me to put myself through this absolute BS and that it made a lot more sense for me to drown my face in some good pale ale instead. That’s when Pete happened.
Just when I stopped at the 30km mark, I felt a hand on my back and this 70yr old guy come up next to me. He said “You can’t stop, stopping is way too hard.”. And he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He asked me if I had done many marathons and goes on to tell me that the 30km mark is the make or break point. I asked him if it gets any better and he honestly says that it stays just as shitty for the rest of the race. This man was my saviour. Pete was running this marathon as a celebration of his 70th birthday. You would think that not wanting to be beaten by a 70 year old would motivate me but it was really just respect for him that made me want to run more. He would absolutely not take no for an answer and insisted that I beat him at the race. Eventually I convinced him to go on ahead after promising him that I would see him at the finish line. Through the remaining race, I saw him 2 more times at turns and bends, and he made sure to call out to me and help me stay strong to my promise. I owe this finish to you, Pete.
The last 10km were pure hurt. To give you an idea, I “ran” the last 10km in the same time that I ran the first 17km. So much pain and yet it was the most interesting part of the race. I ran/jogged/hopped for 3km with a man who had just lost his job a week ago. I walked another patch of distance with a South African who discussed the Comrades race with me and then about his earlier years in Cape Town. I saw some incredible volunteers stand out in the rain (yes, it started raining on the last 3km stretch but the pain was too much for me to give a flying rat’s arse) and talk to the runners to help them smile. And I ran the final 500m with all my remaining might while the wonderful people of Bunbury cheered me on by my bib number.
The race clock ticked at 04:28 when I crossed the finish line and to be fair, that’s heaps better than what I expected at the 30km mark. Regarding why my run suffered so much, I don’t really have a clear answer to that. After talking to some of the other runners, my suspicions lie with the strong headwinds on the uphill section that covered a quarter of the course. Or it could just be something simple as my lack of preparation. Nevertheless, it was a humbling experience that ended on a good note.
On a closing note, I want to add that this was my first visit to Bunbury and the vibe of the town made me fall in love with it. Or rather the people in it. I don’t know if it’s a small town thing or if it’s just my luck, but throughout the day I had wonderful people come up to me and have nice little conversations no matter where I went. It’s almost like they knew I was there alone and wanted to be of help. This was especially true on the race, even when I was doing well and looking strong. Definitely made me feel very welcome and I am grateful for that. As for the running, I write this post with aching glutes, quads and hammies. But I’m certain that as soon as I can get back to running strong, my sights will be back on to that sub 4 marathon.