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Melbourne Marathon 2014 - The three hours barrier

My Melbourne Marathon 2014 story begins, as it often does, with my previous Marathon, Gold Coast 2014. My preparation for the Gold Coast Marathon was the most intense one I had ever experienced. It is common for runners to pick up their training with time, but this one, for me, was a giant leap forward. I’ve started increasing the training volume six months in advance, have switched to seven sessions a week, and have increased my weekly mileage up to 140+ km and my longest run to 45 km. I was hoping to become stronger as a result and was also hoping to avoid the cramps I kept suffering from on the last k’s of every Marathon I ran. My confidence had increased and my performance had improved dramatically. I ran a 5k PB of 18:16 on Vic Milers and broke the 4 min/km barrier at Run for the Kids and at the Geelong Half Marathon. Those runs have made me more ambitious and thus the GC Marathon target time was set on sub 3 hours. During the preparations, a great group of runners from within the Crosbie Crew was assembled and we’ve decided to start the race as a pack. While the rest of the pack did very well, I was struggling in what turned out to be one of my worst running experiences ever. Probably due to a cold I was suffering of prior to the race and afterwards. 23 k’s with the pack and another long, painful and frustrating 19.2 k’s by myself. I was happy with my friends' remarkable PB’s, yet I was greatly disappointed by my lack of ability to deliver. As I had registered to Melbourne Marathon shortly beforehand, my focus had switched there at once. After 8 Marathons and one Ultra-Marathon, Melbourne 2014 was set to be a special one for me – my first repeat. After running in Cologne, Tiberias, Tel Aviv, Christchurch, Melbourne, Berlin, Great Ocean Road and Gold Coast, I felt it was symbolic that Melbourne is my first repeat.

So one rest week and one five session week later, I was back in training routine. It took me a while to return to the familiar paces and to fully recover. Busy consecutive weekends brought with them The AV 10 and 15k races and in between I did Sydney's City2Surf. I have managed to run PB’s on both AV runs thus setting PB’s in every road distance but the Marathon during the course of 2014. I regained some optimism, but as the runs grew longer, the tough recollections from Gold Coast had accompanied them. I could feel the monkey on my back and it was no a fuzzy Capuchin, oh no, but a massive Gorilla. The weeks went by and with them Tuesday night speed sessions at Olympic Park and the tempo runs with my awesome training partners, James, Joe V., Joe R., Randall and, of course, the inspirational Kirstin Bull – thank you all. The rest of my runs were early morning ones, usually in the cold and darkness. Many of those early runs were with Alana and this is a good chance to thank her for that.

Marathon day was getting closer and, naturally, I was checking the weather forecast about eight times a day. That is, of course, pointless, especially in Melbourne. Towards the weekend the Sunday forecast started getting warmer and warmer and I got pessimistic. On the Saturday I caught up with Carlota and Brian leaving a bottle of flat coke with them and doing the same later with Patricia. Towards the evening the forecast improved by a bit and I switched into race mode. It’s game time!

Sunday, 5:40am. The cab was already waiting outside my place. Got to the MCG and between bags check in, random meetings with fellow CC’ers and a final visit to the loo, when I was leaping over the barriers to the start line it was already the midst of “Advance Australia Fair”. James was waiting next to the 3:00 hours pacer and we took off. The first kilometre was a bit busy and thus slower than target pace, but that was expected and in the following k’s we were juggling between target pace and a few seconds faster. Albert Park Lake brought some consistency with it and by 12 k’s the 3:00 pack was left behind us and we were gaining spare seconds. Fitzroy St got us to pick the pace up along the beach a bit and that remained until the turning point in Port Melbourne which brought back memories of my old house nearby.

At 21.1k the watch showed about 1:28 hours and I was wondering out loud whether it’s not too much of a lead. At 22 k’s I saw Patricia with a big smile and told her I’ll grab the coke of her when I’ll be on my way back. It was sunny and getting warmer past the Elwood turnaround and I just tried to keep it steady. When I saw Patricia again I was getting close to 30 k’s and picked the pace up a bit towards the uphill segment of Fitzroy St.

It was getting warmer, but St Kilda Rd was pretty shaded still. I clocked 32 k’s and “Don’t stop me now” by Queen had started playing in my head. I had turned left at The National Gallery (35k) where Carlota and Brian were waiting with another bottle of coke and lots of encouragement. Coping with the Half Marathoners on City Rd was far from ideal, but at 36k after getting some support from the crew (thanks guys!), it was the hill that got me. I slowed down to 4:20’s and then it hit me! Both claves cramped at once as I could not believe it was happening. I stopped and stretched against the curb and then the most supportive yet calm voice came from behind “doing great, Izzy”. Like an angel on a bicycle, Alana showed up at the toughest moment. I continued running only to stop again after 300 metres due to the same cramps. The monkey on my back tightened its grip, which had loosened a bit in previous kilometres and clawed deeper into my flesh.

I was going downhill now and I had Alana riding next to me, cheering. Through Domain Rd, I could hear Ryo and Claire as well. Hitting St Kilda Rd, my legs were screaming and twitching. It was painful, but I knew the end is not far. Different thoughts about my running mates, some of which I haven’t seen for over a year were popping through my head. 40k’s down.

Turning right into Flinders St. Not much left. I was getting psyched. Running down Wellington Pde South and picking up the pace. Downhill. Pushing it. It burns. A quick look at the time lifts me up. Turning right, turning left, here’s the finish line. I gave it everything that I had and I could feel it all inside me raging, overflowing, flooding. Tiberias, Gold Coast, Visa, Tel Aviv-Melbourne-Tel Aviv-Melbourne, Monkey, Which monkey? Which monkey?!!! BOOM!

 

A massive thank you to my coach, mentor and friend who's always there for me. Thanks Tim!

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