|No. 25 August 1999|
Amazing Marathon Adventures
Susan Hobson, a debut winner of the Canberra Marathon in 2:32:57
Once upon a time there was a good runner called Alex (his 'rooly trooly' name) and he had a friend -- we'll call him "Bill". Now Bill, in his mid-30s, was a bit of a newcomer to running -- he didn't know that anybody could do it as a sport and thought it was just a way of getting somewhere quickly when he was late (as he often was, and still is).
For some years Bill had been a smoker; he eventually listened to his doctor and stopped, but then became, what his friends kindly called, "chubby". Bill wasn't rich and couldn't afford clothes to suit his new stature and knew he either had to lose weight so his clothes would fit or would have to go naked -- he thought it was better to lose weight as he wanted to keep living in Canberra and thought he might get frost-bite in winter. So he started to run, losing a lot of weight, but then became bored with just running -- he felt the need of a challenge to keep him motivated.
In 1988 Alex ran in his first Canberra Marathon -- now the weather for the event was a bit poor, but Bill didn't listen to his friend's tale of woe and extreme hardship (big mistake). He thought: "Aha a challenge; if Alex can do it, so can I" -- forgetting, of course, that Alex was a better runner (second big mistake). Bill ran a ½ marathon in 1988 and thought running a marathon would just be twice as long (third big mistake). Well, Bill psyched himself up and started training around in January 1989 for his inaugural Canberra marathon. He didn't really know what to do, but thought that building up his distance work might be good move and was running almost 100km/week just before the race.
Bill had heard about tapering, but on the Saturday morning the week before the race, in an effort to prove that he could do the distance, he went out running for about 3 hours, in very heavy rain and often on flooded bikepaths. When he got home he didn't have the strength to take off his running shoes and, as his family were interstate, it took him about 45 minutes to get inside the house. Bill didn't know much about stretching -- the next day he could hardly walk and on Monday still couldn't run (what a silly Billy). Tapering proved to be unnecessary as he remained stiff and sore during the week and ran very little.
By the weekend our erstwhile novice distance runner was mobile but, wisely, he used Saturday as a rest day. For Bill, this was a bizarre experience -- his body wanted to run, but his head kept saying "No" -- and he managed to deal with the problem by sitting around watching TV. The next morning he set off inspired, but very, very nervous. When the gun fired he established his now customary tactics of running much too fast over the first 15-20kms and then 'dying' in the 2nd half. Bill had heard about "THE WALL" -- and he now found out what it felt like!! In a reversal from the previous day his body was now crying out "STOP" (very loudly), while his head said "Keep running" (well, actually: "Keep trying to walk"!!) -- he was prepared to crawl on hands and knees across the finishing line just to get his medal. Bill completed the course in 3.46.12 and thought he was dying!!
Now, Bill is a bit of a slow learner and the following October saw him lined up with about five thousand runners in the Melbourne Marathon. When it was possible to start running he again took off too fast and, as a former Melbourne resident, forgot that the road from Frankston to Melbourne has a few hills. By 30km he was in deep strife, but persevered and after a less than pleasant stroll finished in 3.36.17.
While Bill may be a bit silly, he is also very stubborn and doesn't like all those people beating him, so in 1990 he again entered the Canberra Marathon. This time he finished in 3.27.49 and was starting to enjoy taking off about ten minutes each time he ran. However, he still ran like a Melbourne train -- express for the first half and then stopping all stations in the second. Fired up, he went back to Melbourne the following October but suffered a setback, running only 3.37.31. It was very humid day and Bill, still acclimatised to the Canberra winter/spring, received a salutary lesson on dehydration and needed medical attention after the race (Bill really is a clutz!!).
Bill then decided to take his running seriously and to set some goals. In 1991 he got through in 3.20.12 (12 seconds outside his goal) and in Melbourne six weeks later he chiselled off two minutes finishing at 3.18.13 -- not quite the 3.15 he had planned. However, he came to understand hypothermia -- there was a strong, cold headwind for virtually the entire course, it rained non-stop and he despaired of warming up after the race. Back in Canberra in 1992 a friend rode his bike near Bill for much of the last 15km, telling him he "looked good/strong" -- Bill is obviously a better actor than a runner -- he wanted to stop for a stroll, but was too embarrassed and finished in 3.03.38. Bill was pleased, as his goal was 3.10, but was soon deflated by his son commenting: "Couldn't you've run a bit faster, Dad, and broken the 3 hour mark?" Bill wondered what it would be like not to have a son, but was too exhausted to do anything. Back in Melbourne at the end of May Bill ran closer to his goal finishing in 3.08.11 -- however, there were still 506 runners in front of him and he didn't like that at all.
Finally, in 1992 -- THE JACKPOT -- Bill broke 3 hours, finishing in 2.56.23; his friend Alex was not amused as it was better than his PB. Elated with his success he went to Melbourne early in June and ran 2.55.17. Bill thought he had it made; he would never be a gun runner, but he was a SUB-3 runner and a hero in his own mind. However, he soon discovered "pride goeth before a fall" -- in Canberra in 1994 he ran 3.19.06 and, shortly after in Melbourne, was a little better at 3.03.46. His friends thought he was a little stupid when he ran the 'Pennington' the following weekend and did reasonably well (for Bill, anyway!!) -- he had some trouble running in the following weeks!!
In Canberra in 1995 he showed amazing skill to miss out on another sub-3 by running 3.00.18. While some runners thought he was unlucky, Bill knew he was just plain stupid -- if only he hadn't needed that toilet stop!! However, eating humble pie must be good for carbo loading and just six weeks later in Melbourne he ran 2.53.17. The Melbourne Marathon course is now around the city streets and, in 1995, the ½ and full marathons were started together -- this suited Bill's appalling marathon tactics and he happily galloped along with the ½ marathon runners. However, after the groups separated at 20km he had the good fortune(?) to get into a pack of similar shonky runners who provided some high(?) speed support. By 30km the pack had disintegrated (to his surprise, behind him) and the remaining distance for Bill consisted of some walking and much jogging (which he disputes, saying: "I'm a RUNNER -- it was very slow running"). In the last km, going up a sharp rise and badly wanting to stop, he heard a familiar voice call out: "Come on [Bill]" -- just what was Dave Cundy (Canberra Marathon Race Director) doing in Melbourne? However, it provided the push to keep Bill going and he had the pleasure, as he finished, of seeing his 70 year old mother jumping around like a child as she knew he had just damaged his PB.
Well, Bill would really like to break 2.50, but since then he has not had much luck -- some say he's too old and his times suggest this may be the case: his Canberra/Melbourne times for 1996 -- 1998 range from 3.15.34 to (his PW of) 3.50.13. He protests that he would have been faster in Canberra in 1997 if he had not rolled his ankle ten minutes before the race and ran in increasing agony, and in 1998 he had a bad cold. To the serious runner, these sound like excuses and the symptoms couldn't possibly have lasted until he ran in Melbourne six months later (the marathon is again held in October). However, he did mange to achieve his goal of being a ten year runner in both Canberra and Melbourne in 1998 and is now a 'Griffin' and 'Spartan', respectively.
Bill's 1999 resolution was for it to be 'the year of distance running'. He had some trouble with his training over Christmas because he refuses to accept that running the Brindabella Classic not long after the Melbourne Marathon can leave one a little exhausted. However, he had realistic goals and wanted to build up over the year to have a real go at his PB in Melbourne -- stepping on a rock midway through his Canberra Marathon training seemed to wreck that plan. A heavy fall and a badly sprained right ankle resulted in Bill sulking at home on marathon day. But he bounced back -- "Not to worry. I'll get me a good coach and prepare for Melbourne by doing the Traralgon Marathon in July". However, the coach has not been troubled -- the emergence of chronic foot problem and a current ban by his doctor on running for six weeks may mean that, for Bill, 1999 could be re-dedicated -- 'the year of little or no running'.
Ah well, as most runners say (at some time), there's always next year
( from Tuggie Athlete Number 49 )
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