After a solid preparation my week leading up to Canberra marathon didn’t go exactly to plan. I was unable to get rid of the head cold from the previous week and felt pretty poor until mid way through the week. Following this I had a bad migraine on Thursday which kept me off work which carried over till Friday. By Saturday I felt better and spent most of the day flying to Canberra for the race arriving in the afternoon.
On arrival in the nations capital it was very evident it was cold and very windy and not ideal for running a marathon. It was windy through the night and the forecast was for similar conditions on race day which proved to be correct. With an early start of 6:25am meant an early start of 4:45am, getting to the race start by 5:45am with seemingly plenty of time before the start. Quick trip to the port-toilets took longer then ideal and after a dash to the car to offload a jacket I arrived on the start line as the announcer said one minute to go. Got in a nice spot near the front and in no time at all Canberra marathon was underway.
I quickly settled into my goal pace of 4:05-4:10 min/km, goal for this race was sub 2:55 and at worst to beat my personal best 2:57 from Seoul last March. First part of the race heads around the Parliament house square before heading along the foreshore to the Telopea Park area of Canberra, some small uphills and downhills during this area made for comfortable running and I was able to settle into my rhythm fairly quickly. I settled into a small pack of runners during this part of the race and just concentrated on keeping my pace consistent and being mindful not to run too fast at this point.
After this part of the race between 8- 16km we ran out of the city circle and to a freeway type area that was exposed and made for a tough run into the headwind. During this period I told myself to focus on being patient and not working too hard into the wind. Following this was a nice parklands area which was undulating and nice scenic running. At the turnaround at 17.5 km to head back into the city circle I made the decision to use the on course toilet. I was disappointed by this but needed to go and knew it would make me feel more comfortable and I’d run better afterwards. I was passed by a 6-7 runners in this time and was annoyed with this, next kilometre went through in 3:55 as I tried to make up for the minute I had just lost.
Heading back to the city area went through half way in 1:27, right on schedule for a 2:55 but knowing I didn’t have much time to spare if things got tough later on. By the time I was back in the city I was caught by a small group of runners, some half marathon and marathon competitors and I recognised one runner former Olympian Shaun Creighton by the name on his bib. I ran with this group for about three kilometres, they were running a bit quicker then my goal pace at 3:50 min/km but I thought it was a good risk to take to run with a strong group if I can hang with them for a while. At 27-28 km into the race I drifted off the back of the group as this pace running into a very strong head wind was giving me doubts for later in the race. This was the toughest section of the course, running into a big headwind, I was relieved to get to the turnaround point at 29km and head back for a down wind stretch till 36km. In this period the running was getting difficult, my legs and lower back were painful, I was still running well and taking advantage of the strong tail wind now but it was very evident the marathon was starting to bite.
The next couple of kilometres were running back over the bridges to the area near the start, a mix of periods with and without headwinds made for difficult running. When we turned with out of the city area to the Telopea Park area that was run near the beginning of the race I knew exactly where and when was left to run. The last 3-4 kilometres were tough running and my pace had dropped to 4:20-4:25 min/km, ticking off the time to go and willing myself to continue. I turned into the park to finish with a 200-300m run to the finish and put on a little effort to cross the line in 2:56:10 and a new marathon personal best.
Really satisfied to get another sub 3 marathon and new personal best. A different experience to my first sub 3 where I was very excited to finally reach the big goal. This time I didn’t experience any real emotions on finishing, maybe because the last few kilometres were tough going and I was just happy to get to the finish.
I enjoyed my second Canberra marathon. The first one was 2002, I ran 3:08 in tough conditions with heavy rain throughout after an injury hampered preparation. 16 years later a 2:56 in just as tough conditions with strong winds and cold weather with a mostly trouble free preparation. Good but challenging course, good atmosphere with plenty of crowd support and I hope to be back for this race again soon.
Every marathon I’ve run teaches me something about myself, today I learnt that I am able to fight through and give my best effort when the conditions aren’t great and things don’t go exactly to plan. While mostly my race went to plan the tough moments during the marathon are the ones that stick in my mind the most. Some of the headwinds were brutal, particularly those between 26-29km on a mostly uphill section. The last four kilometres are tough in every marathon, this race was no exception. Being able to get through these periods and then be able to run on to a new personal best were rewarding moments. Onwards to the next one now, whatever that may be.