Running Writing ©
No. 2    April 1997
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South Canberra Tuggeranong Athletics Club member Fiona Jorgensen and former member Blair Trewin are featured writers in the April issue. "Confessions" was published in the March '97 edition of Tuggie Athlete - SCTAC's paper magazine. "World Mountain Running" was published in the November '96 edition.

Confessions of a First-time Marathoner

by Blair Trewin

 I'd been intending to run a marathon for a long time.
The distance had always seemed well-suited to my one-pace style of running, and my record in those few orienteering events in the two-hour-plus range was pretty good. One thing had always stood in the way: scheduling. Orienteering is my first priority, and the major domestic competitions are at Easter, September and early October. The former had always ruled out Canberra, and the international season in July and August had also ruled out Melbourne while it was being run in June. In 1996 it moved back to its traditional October date, two weeks after the Australian Orienteering Championships, in which I performed dismally (ninth). This was just about perfect; I expected to be a bit down on sharpness at the end of a long season (which hampered me in the aforementioned Australian Championships, along with a minor knee injury suffered in the act of celebrating an Essendon goal at the AFL preliminary final), but in a marathon that doesn't matter too much.

Those who remember the old Frankson-Melbourne course would be in for a bit of a surprise; the event now ducks, weaves and winds around the inner southern suburbs of Melbourne. As is compulsory for any major event in Jeff Kennett's Melbourne, it incorporates a lap of the Grand Prix circuit and goes past the casino. You don't really feel as if you're going anywhere on the new course, but on the other hand the old course would have been very hard work on a day with a northerly wind, as it is very exposed. The new course is also on home ground for me, living as I do in Albert Park. This has its pluses, but a course which goes past one's front door twice, at 26 and 29k, has temptation waiting if things are not going well. You couldn't have asked for better conditions for the 7am start. High cloud, no wind and six degrees - as cold a morning as Melbourne's had that late in spring for years. The field was bigger than I had expected, around 1900, but the start was nowhere near as frantic as it would be at a comparably-sized fun run, mainly because most of the starters are experienced runners and the last thing they want is to start in a pack that is much too fast for them.

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Blair, Gordon, Geoff and Hugh
Blair (left) with Gordon Nightingale, Geoff Monro and Hugh Jorgensen. The winning team at the 1994 Brindabella Classic. [26k]

**** The SCTAC AGM on April 14 saw the election of the 1997/98 season committe. President - Peter Haren, Vice President (coaching) - Alan Bishop, Vice President (organisation) - Gordon Nightingale, Secretary - Ted Harrison, Treasurer - Tony Behm, Registrar - Lyn Button, Committee - Greg Gilbert, Ewen Thompson, Geoff Monro. ****


 Pacing was a leap into the unknown, as I had never run a road race beyond the half-marathon before, although I had a lot of experience in long orienteering races and long training runs, so the distance wasn't particularly intimidating. My 10k (34.10) and half-marathon (75.15) times suggested a time in the low 2.40's, although I hoped to do a little better. The Bureau of Meteorology had a team in, and there was someone else in it who was an experienced marathoner and only slightly slower than me over short distances, so that had the potential to be a guide, except that I lost him at the start and didn't see him again except at turnarounds. The first kilometre of a race is always a little nerve-wracking: has one got the pace right? Geoff Monro was out in front of me early, but I'm used to that. Many were confused to see a 1k marker about 30 seconds earlier than expected, but it was for the 7k fun run later in the day. At the real 1k mark the time was 3.45, exactly where I wanted to be. The next kilometre was 3.36, which seemed a bit fast, but the next marker confirmed that the 2k marker was probably in the wrong place, and through the first 6k around Albert Park things settled down nicely, with around fifty others in front of me.

A long stretch up St.Kilda Road followed and the race settled beautifully, in a pack of seven including the leading woman. The pace was edging up a little, to 3.43 and 3.42, remaining smooth. Just before entering the city at 11k most of the pack slowed somewhat and I decided it was time to strike out on my own, with the help of a small incline over a bridge. The next 10k were idyllic. I usually go out a little too hard in road races, but not in this one, and it was a wonderful stretch, gradually accelerating to sub 3.40 pace, gradually picking off runners. One stayed with me for a kilometre or so, but the rest were passed without a fight - and getting ready for the one hill of any substance on the course, past the Shrine of Remembrance at 18k. At this point good ground was being gained on a large secondary pack, which looked promising to run with, I wasn't tiring in the slightest, and 2.42 was starting to look a very conservative target.

With the exception of one runner, I went straight through the secondary pack at 20k, the twenty-first kilometre took 3.26, and anything seemed possible, maybe even a time in the lower 2.30's. The time at the half was 78.05, but every 5k split had been faster than the preceding one, and in the innocence of the inexperienced marathoner the idea of running a half-marathon PB to finish didn't seem totally outrageous. Reality returned with a stretch in the high 3.30s and 3.40s, but I was still picking off runners, albeit at a slower rate than before, and hit the top twenty just before reaching 26k. This Beaconsfield Parade stretch, a 12k double out-and-back, has the reputation for being psychologically tough. As mentioned before, the idea of passing home at 29k would have been a worry had it been a bad day, but it was most assuredly not a bad day. The relatives with whom I live waved before dashing back inside to ring up and convey the news of my (then) eighteenth position to my parents. By this time it was just starting to become a bit of a grind, perhaps because the field was thinning out and there was no longer the mental lift of passing someone every kilometre, but the pace was still a consistent 3.42 and I was on schedule for something around 2.36.

At 34k someone pulled up to my shoulder (as it turned out, the one person out of the pack at 20k who had tried to go with me) which was the first time in nearly 30k that anyone had caught me. We ran together for a while, still feeling reasonably good and wondering what all the fuss about marathons was about. On a very slight incline at 36k I found out what all the fuss was about as my quads decided they'd had enough for the day. The dreams of a sprint finish would have to wait another day; survival was the name of the game now, although it was encouraging that, despite feeling awful, I was still managing around 3.50 pace and my companion, after pulling ahead by twenty metres or so, was getting no further away. At 38k the course turns inland again, and it feels as if you're on your way home, with no more twists and turns to deal with. This is where Tony Shaw ran into a tree and knocked himself out in 1995, but I wasn't about to do that; the quads were still hurting, but they were in a stable state of uncomfortableness, and the pace wasn't changing much. Even better, by 40k the runner ahead's race had fallen apart more than mine had and I was through him again, along with someone else. I refused to look back, and with the field now mixed in with the tail end of the half-marathon it would have been impossible to tell who was in what in any case.

A time of 2.37 was now my goal. Hitting the '1k to go' sign in 2.33.11, it was going to be touch and go. the slight hill with 700 metres to go was a real effort for the quads, but after that it should have been smooth sailing. The final turn into the park is about 250 metres from the finish, and the time was still marginal. The finish chute beckoned: 2.36.50, 51, 52...I tried to raise a final sprint, felt my legs start to buckle, and eased off again; I didn't want to get so far and finish the race flat on my face ten metres short of the line. The clock went "00" just as I crossed the line. Stopping was a bit of a shock; I may have been able to run, but I could no longer walk, at least in any sort of a meaningful fashion. Negotiating a gutter was a near-impossibility, and the food for sale in the vicinity was exactly what a finishing marathoner doesn't need, greasy hot dogs and greasy chips. In a wildly optimistic mood I'd decided to cycle to the start. After the finish I couldn't even contemplate raising my legs over the saddle of a bicycle, let alone ride it, so it was a long shuffle home (the longest 3k I've walked in a while), the bike at least coming in useful as a mobile walking stick.

The Aftermath

The official timers obviously took pity on me: fourteenth place in 2.36.59. Our team won the government departments section comfortably, the other two running 2.44 and 2.58. The quads took a very uncomfortable five days to recover, which caught me by surprise a bit, because I've run several races in the bush of similar length time-wise which have left me a bit stiff for a day or two but otherwise fine. The stairs in our house were not a comfortable experience that week. somehow I managed to run each day, mainly to keep going a streak of continuous days' training that had lasted since June 1990 (but would be broken by an ankle injury two months later), but that probably aided my recovery more than anything. Chafing was also a major problem, which was a pity, because a nice, hot bath would have been an attractive proposition.

Four weeks later I ran a new PB for 10k, so it can't have done too much lasting harm. Another one? Maybe, if the timing is right....

World Mountain Running Trophy
by Fiona Jorgensen

    Austria 31st August 1996

 "It's easy to run downhill, but the view is from the top!"

'What on earth are we doing here? It seemed like a good idea two months ago'...It was twenty minutes before the start of the World Mountain Running Trophy and Belinda Soszyn (Australian Champion / team member) and I were contemplating the task before us. All around us about 78 participants were warming up for this event in the lovely village of Telfes in the Stubai Valley, Austria. Telfes is one of five villages in the valley and is a paradise for walkers, climbers and runners in summer and skiers in winter.

Ten minutes prior to start time we were called by officials to line up in our respective country blocks. It was a long ten minutes before the horn sounded to start the race. The course consisted of approximately 7.25km of mainly uphill terrain, although the first two kilometres were on undulating bitumen before it turned up into the hills and the real running started. The final five kilometres consisted of some fairly steep ascents, finishing at 1740m. Compared to the poor spectator attendance at mountain runs of this kind in Australia, people lined the entire course, ringing cow bells and chanting "Up, Up", and "Go Australia". Even the dairy cows with their clanging bells paused from their grazing to look at the two legged creatures disturbing their normally peaceful surrounds.
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Fiona Jorgensen
Fiona taking the baton from Ernie Warner at the '96 Woden Relays. [39k]

Canberra Grammar Cross Country
Fiona holds the course record for the Grammar 6km cross country race. [30k]

 I found to my surprise that the training I had been doing on Mt. Tennant in the lead up to this event was in my favour as I passed many competitors who had been ahead of me on the road. As I had arrived in Telfes two days prior to the event, I did not get an opportunity to run the entire course and while the finish looked tough on the map, it flattened out over the last 300 metres. At this point I managed to put in a surge and crossed the line with Belinda, achieving 28th position overall. Our third Australian team member, Louise Fairfax, finished an impressive 16th, which gave the team a 7th placing out of 23 countries. We were extremely pleased with this result!

Unfortunately the weather was cool and overcast so there was no view at the top, however the variety of food provided by the organisers made up for that. After gorging on these delights and some Swiss chocolate provided by our team manager, Greg Darcy (Belinda's husband), we slowly made our way back down to the village to prepare for the next day's walk over the senior men's 12km course, where our sole representative, David Osmond, placed a fantastic 29th.


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