Recent results suggest Australian distance running is in an exciting renaissance phase. Three runners have stood out and recently produced Australian records on the world stage.
Sunday marks the 40th edition of the Melbourne Marathon, and on a personal level it represents the fifth anniversary of this columnist’s voyage into the unknown.
On that occasion, at the behest of an ambitious friend and completely out of my depth without any semblance of training, I considered myself fortunate to cross the finish line in four hours and 13 minutes having nearly collapsed with seven kilometres remaining.
Yet something clicked following the chastening experience, as attested by my latest date with 42.2 kilometres standing as my sixth outing at Melbourne and 11th overall. Not that the job becomes any simpler – the suffering is a perpetual component – but it’s a matter of reducing the effect.
The dreaded runners stomach in 2015 and being on the recovery trail from injury 12 months ago means the cherished sub-three hour milestone hasn’t been achieved at the event, with three hours and five minutes in 2014 remaining my greatest return to date.
This elusive barrier was mercifully shattered by mere seconds at Great Ocean Road in 2016, with this year’s edition yielding a personal best of two hours and 52 minutes, though Melbourne remains unfinished business, and to that end expectations are quite high on this occasion.
If I wasn’t a serious runner previously, I’d consider 2017 to be the year that it’s straddling a full-time commitment, pushing myself to a level which had once been inconceivable. With over 5500 kilometres accumulated through last week, 36 weeks of the year’s 40 to date have comprised three-figure returns which, if nothing else, speaks to a desirable consistency.
Having previously ‘trained’ almost exclusively solo until the past 12 months with little structure to sessions other than heading out and seeing where it goes, I’ve been fortunate to gain invaluable insight since midyear from Dion Finocchiaro, victor of several marathons and ultras in addition to representing Australia at the 100 kilometres world championships.
As well as realising how much more enjoyable a 35 kilometres run is with company, learning how to improve the all-round approach and efficiency has bred noticeable improvements. Having somebody who appreciates your potential goes a long way towards acting on the desire to achieve more.
From a 122-kilometre threshold until February, initially 150 kilometres were breached, and in more recent months, 200 kilometres on multiple occasions – with a best of 212 kilometres, and a month comprising 880 kilometres. It’s been a watershed year, thus it’s reasonable that I’ll be demanding a lot of myself on Sunday.
The irony of the marathon is that the collective effort in reaching the start line isn’t always reciprocated by the outcome at the finish, and from extensive experience, it’d be naïve to assume that the target time is a certainty when so many variables often manifest over the duration.
While two hours and 30 minutes would be fantastic, going under two hours and 40 minutes is a realistic ambition, and though I’m prepared to be disappointed – to not would be inviting heartbreak – I can already be satisfied the knowledge that I’ve done everything I can to make it possible.
The ultimate takeaway is to run the best race you can and the rest will take care of itself. To all participants on the morning, good luck; everybody has their own goal and lining up alone is a huge achievement in itself. For some it could represent the start of an unforeseen journey.