Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Adelaide 6 hour race report

According to the weather bureau, Saturday was to be the coldest day across the eastern part of Australia in 5 years. I was under trained, under prepared and had no plan going into the Adelaide 6 hour race. Hmmm... shit weather, shit training and no plan... sounds like a great idea!
At 6 am on Saturday 11th July 2015 a group of endurance runners from all over Australia set off on a introspective adventure into the limits of their own mental and physical endurance. Some were going to be running laps of Adelaide's uni loop for 12 hours and later in the morning a group of super humans would be testing themselves for 24 hours straight. Being relatively under prepared, I was participating in the comparatively measly 6 hour race. Well, maybe not measly, but definitely different and difficult in its own way. 24 hour and 12 hour races seem monstrous and terrifying to me but the 6 hour race is a whole different beast.
Setting off in the freezing dark morning I settled into a faster than planned pace but i felt comfortable. The first few laps of the 2.2km circuit cruised by in a happy but chilly haze of chatter and jostling for position. I watched the likes of Howard Norton (eventual 6 hour winner and record breaker) and David Turnbull (eventual 12 hour winner) power off into the cool dark morning on my first lap and found myself in about 20th place fairly quickly. I chatted with a few other runners and almost immediately struck up a friendship with a super gentleman named Kieran. Kieran and I locked into a solid rythm together at about 5 minutes 20 seconds per km and ran together for several hours.
After 30 minutes the heavens opened and unleashed freezing rain and hail upon us poor hapless runners. Cold and somewhat annoying but not a major annoyance. The worst part though was having wet shoes. I hate having wet shoes. It sucks. It makes your feet all pruny and sensitive. Running on wet feet can become painful as hell. Luckily, I had a spare pair of dry shoes and socks in my bag. I decided to wait to see if the weather would dry out a bit though before changing. Meanwhile, my feet were already soaked and hurting. Other than that I felt great.
The laps started to tick by, adding 2.2kms with each revolution, and the city of Adelaide began to come alive to a cold and bleak day. Other dedicated recreational runners arrived at the uni loop for their Saturday morning jogs, many wondering what the hell we we were doing. 'You're running for how long?!' Saturday morning football players arrived and started warming up and the Gibbons at the nearby Adelaide zoo awoke and started to make a raucous cacophony of noise. Clearly they thought we were crazy too.
As I approached the 33km (just after 3 hours) mark my soggy feet were becoming unbearably sore and it looked like the sun was actually  coming out so I decided to stop and change into my lovely dry shoes. Putting on my dry shoes and socks was like wrapping myself in a warm, cosy blanket. Immediately my feet felt better and I felt more comfortable running. Happy days.
Things were looking good, weatherwise, for approximately 6 minutes 45 seconds after I changed my shoes. Unfortunately, about half a lap after I changed my shoes and socks the sky opened up yet again and unleashed more hail and rain than earlier in the morning. So, my shoes and socks were wet. Again. Shit.
Despite my soggy painful feet I ran on. Lap after lap after lap. The supportive crowd in 'tent city' were awesome. After each lap they cheered each and every runner, be they fast or slow. The crew of excellent people supporting Howard Norton became my unofficial crew after I asked if I could drop my gear in their marquee in order to keep it dry. Without needing to be asked they did everything to keep me moving. Getting me food and drink, offering me loads of moral support and going so far as to offer me the shirt off their back when I was soaked through and freezing. I feel terrible but as I sit here writing this I cannot remember their names. Hopefully I will learn their names soon. I'll say this though, if you need any evidence of the kindness and generosity of the Adelaide running community it is abundant with this small but excellent crew, something that is not uncommon at every Yumigo event. I am forever grateful to them and will go out of my way to repay the favour next time I see them.

I moved through the 4 hour mark and hit the marathon distance of 42km. This was one goal I wanted to achieve and it was at this point I started to feel really tired and sore. My lack of preparation was beginning to show its ugly face. Negative thoughts began to invade my mind. I started the all too familiar 'bargaining ' that I do when I am tired. It goes like this. 'Well, I HAVE run a marathon, who cares if I only go another couple of laps. If I hit fifty kms I'll be happy ' .
Resigned to knocking out 8 more kilometres over the next hour and a half I started taking walk breaks. 50 kilometres. 'That'll do pig, that'll do,' I thought. For the next 30 minutes or so I struggled around the loop like an invalid on valium. Hobbling, limping, bent over, whinging. I happily told people that I was exhausted  and couldn't be bothered to run much more especially in this shitty weather. Then I started to do some maths. I figured out that it was very possible that I could still get close to 60 kilometres if I picked up the pace again. Very close. So I crammed a few gels, some potato chips and some Gatorade down my throat and resolved to run my butt off.
I believe they call it a second wind (in this case a third or fourth wind seems more appropriate) and it propelled me around the track. I decided I was not going to walk, chat or eat for the last hour of this race. I was suddenly desperate for 60kms. My posture improved and I pretended like my soggy feet were not my own. After each lap the numerous supporters were cheering and telling me I was looking better than ever. So I  pushed harder.
53 kms - 34 minutes left. 55.5kms - 22 minutes left... so close yet so far. The final time I passed through the start finish area the exceptional race director and all round top bloke, Ben Hocking, handed me a small bean bag with my name and bib number on it. I was to drop it exactly where I was standing the moment the finish siren sounded. I had about 7 and a half minutes to run 2.5 kms in order to crack 60km. On a good day where I hadn't already ran 57+kms I may have had a chance. But not today. The siren sounded and I happily dropped my bean bag and let out a Woot! 59kms (according to my GPS. I'm still waiting on my official distance)! I was over the moon with my run and couldn't have been happier.
It was such an exhilarating feeling running an event like this and I am grateful for the support that I received along the way from other runners, my unofficial support crew, my friends that came to cheer me on and my wonderful wife and two little girls who arrived to cheer me on my second last lap (perfect timing).
I recommend this race to anyone who wants to test themselves physically and mentally if you want to have fun. Well done to Ben from Yumigo on putting together a spectacular event. I will definitely be there next year.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Yurrebilla Ultra Marathon (56km) - Ultras are tough.

So it has been forever since I last posted anything. I blame a combination of laziness and busyness. Bit of an oxymoron!
In the last six months I've had; a week in hospital, months of recovery from my broken jaw, swine flu, lots of work and my wife and I have an energetic 2 year old! So my preparation for the Yurrebilla Ultra Marathon hasn't been ideal, but to be honest most runners feel the same. Life.
Nevertheless I have managed to maintain a fairly high level of fitness through the year. I've tallied some pretty big training mileage too. I've run beyond 40kms on several training runs and despite the setbacks was feeling strong as I stood at the start.
As 8:30 am (start time) approached, the butterflies of fear and excitement fluttered in my belly. The weather forecast for the day was stupid. 29 degrees C and winds of 100km plus... I swear the bureau of metrology is mocking us ultra runners sometimes. Jerks! Not really looking forward to the hot windy day ahead I tried to remain positive as we set off into the Belair National Park. I had a plan too. Despite there being a drink station every 5-6kms on the course I opted to carry my 2lt camelbak. Some delicious food and salt tablets. Having the extra water on board was going to be vital. Could even save my life, (but let's not get dramatic).
Within the first 400 metres the leaders were well out of sight. Those guys took off at about 3:30m/km and were more than capable of maintaining that pace for the majority of the race. Eventual winner, Stu Gibson smashed the course in record time 4hours 31mins. With 2000metres of vertical incline and some pretty tricky terrain, that's not just fast, it's ludicrous! Freak!
So anyway, I was already way back in the pack running a more civilised 5:30m/km but nevertheless feeling hot already and trying unsuccessfully to find my groove. About 2kms in the single bush trail goes through Echo tunnel. It's a 100m (maybe 200m) tunnel that goes through a steep hill and under a train line. It gets very dark and the roof is very low so most runners have to slow to a fast walk and duck so as to avoid any unseen obstacles. Inside the tunnel it is cool and moist. Very refreshing. As I exited the tunnel into the warm air I felt a little pang of anxiety knowing that I wouldn't feel cool again for another 54km. Sad face.
As I struggled on in search of my rhythm I tried to distract myself by chatting to some other runners. I'd met a few others on the training runs organised prior to the race. One of the best things about ultra running events is the sense of community and friendship. You might be racing one another but the course and the clock are the real competition. Having allies out there on the course with you experiencing the same pain, discomfort and exhaustion helps you run better and push further and dig deeper than you ever could alone. This is one of perhaps only a handful of reasons why I run. One of the other reasons is learning about my own physical and mental limits. Despite the early encouragement from some other runners today was going to be a tough day inside my head and outside my body.
No significant hills in the first 5kms so when I approached the first drink stop and was feeling shit, I must say I was pretty disappointed. I had a little drink  and pushed on. The heat was already oppressive and the eucalyptus trees above swayed violently in the wind. Shit day for an ultra.
From about 6kms there is a beautiful down hill section leading onto Brownhill creek road. It goes about 4kms and is a perfect time to get into a relaxed rhythm. Running down the first part of this beautiful downhill section is so much fun because  there are about 34 switchbacks in quick succession. You get a little dizzy but it's interesting and well... Did I mention it was downhill?
Running out of the switchbacks onto Brownhill creek road I decided to turn the screws a little and increase the pace just to try and shake the heaviness out of my legs. Bad idea. As I approached the end of this beautiful down hill section. I caught a mental glimpse of the course elevation profile that I had studied so much. Another bad idea methinks. I knew that most of the next 20kms was uphill. Balls.
Pushing up the first significant hill to the 10km aid station for I started to push some of the little negative thoughts out of my head. As I left the aid station I pulled out some baby food that I was carrying. Mashed pear and banana I think. Delicious. And good idea. Within minutes the delicious energy from the baby food was taking effect and suddenly I was good... Well goodish. (End of part 1. Part 2 coming soon... Tomorrow in fact)

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Uphill running: The most epic race of my life!

Lately things in my life have been pretty hard, kind of like I've been running uphill. Having a broken jaw is not fun. In fact it really sucks. I have these wires on my teeth (I look like 'Jaws' from the old James Bond movies) and my diet is 100% liquid for probably another month. I miss being able to chew on delicious bacon, bite into a big juicy hamburger and gorge myself on crunchy snacks. To be perfectly honest, I have been struggling quite a lot with the trauma of my accident and my new face. When I look in the mirror I see a different face. I know I am still the same person but it is amazing how one's changed appearance impacts the psyche. But I am determined to not let the negativity drag me down. So as I recover I have decided to try and focus on some positives and talk about something I'm pretty good at. And that is running uphill.
Casting my mind back over some of the amazing memories of my running life, one memory in particular jumps out and puts a smile, albeit a very crooked smile on my face.
Back when I was in year 7 (my first year of high school) I was a pretty good little cross country runner. I'd been running with my local athletics club for about a year and frequently came in the top 10 in my age category of local fun runs. I was much shorter than many of the boys I was running against. Also, I arrived pretty late to the puberty party so I was one of the last boys to get hair on my legs and various other places.
After finishing 2nd at my school cross country I was super excited that I would get the opportunity to represent my school at the Zone carnival which was to be held at a local farm, 'Willandra', that had been converted into a rather scenic but gruelling course. It was a 4 km loop that ran over numerous undulating grassy hills with rarely a flat moment on the course. At about the halfway point the course would disappear from the view of spectators behind a massive hill. The 'back hill' was dreaded by many runners. Around 300 metres up a very steep incline that saw most runners break into a walk or even a vomit. At the summit of the hill the runners would reappear on an exposed grassy area  that was visible to the spectators once again. as the course then continued down a very steep decline that would often see 'jelly-legged' runners fall over. Over the years I would run on this course countless times recording some great performances but on the day of the Zone carnival back when I was in year 7 I had one of the greatest moments of my running life.
So the race started like all races between high school boys. Too fast and with everyone trying to prove themselves in the first 200 metres. Everyone wanted to be in1st place at the first sharp right turn where the course narrows down to a goat track of sorts. With about 50 boys in the race I didn't want to finish last. I knew that I had to finish in the top 8 if I wanted to qualify for the Regional cross country. I knew that I was a chance to finish in the top 10 and maybe, just maybe get in the top 8 if I ran well.
About 500 metres into the race I was sitting way back in about 20th place and was already feeling the burn of the of fast start. I've never been a sprinter and have always loathed fast starts.
At around the 1.5km mark I caught a glimpse of the lead group of about 6 or 7 guys. They'd already put about 50 metres on me. I didn't like my chances. But then we hit the 'back hill'.
Almost immediately a few runners near me started walking. Good. I passed them and felt a nice surge of adrenaline in the process. I suddenly felt relaxed yet focused. My heart slowed My breathing slowed. Each breath felt deliberate and powerful. I leaned into the hill and kicked like a mule. I passed two more runners then I could see the leaders less than 25 metres in front of me. I felt light and fast. I cruised past 8th place. Then 7th. 6th. 5th and 4th. The top three were still moving well. But with about 50 metres left in the hill I moved past them and into 1st place. I couldn't believe it... I was winning! I kept going.

As I crested the summit of the 'back hill' in clear first place, I glanced over towards the finish line which was about 500 metres away in a straight line (there was still about 1.7-1.8kms left in the race though). I could hear a dull roar coming from the spectators but there was one spectator who I could hear more clearly than anyone else. My dad. I could hear him screaming in disbelief and excitement. His son was winning! I was excited and scared. Could I hold my lead?
As I came to the steep downhill I glanced over my shoulder and saw a lanky blonde kid loping up behind me at great speed. I ran down the hill as fast as possible but my little legs couldn't do what my brain was asking. Blondie flew past me and moved ahead about 15 metres. I looked over my shoulder and saw two more runners about 30 metres back and gaining fast. Was my moment in the sun over already? I dug deep and decided to stay with Blondie for as long as possible. About 400 metres later we came to a short but very steep incline. I saw my blonde friend look over his shoulder and suddenly start walking. He was pushing his knees down with his hands and had a panicked look on his face. Another adrenaline surge hit me and I flew up the hill and back into the lead. At this point we were much closer to the finish area and the spectators were considerably louder. It was also at this point that I learned Blondie's name. Both of our names were being said over the P.A system and it turned out that we were both called Daniel.
With less than one kilometre to go I was just a few metres back from Blondie. With every flat or downhill he would catch me but the uphills belonged to me. The remainder of the course stretched out before me and there were two more hills. I had to destroy Blondie on the next 2 hills.
The second last hill was again short and sharp. Again Blondie walked and again I moved into the lead. I was tired. I wanted this race to be over. Blondie was crying as I past him yet again and I was pretty sure he wanted this to over as much as me. But sure enough he passed me again on the down hill. As we hit the bottom of the final hill the crowd was at fever pitch. For a brief moment I was worried my father may have a heart attack right there and then because he was going crazy cheering me.
The last hill was not as steep as the others but yet again Blondie walked much of it and I ran all of it. I reached the top of the hill and turned onto the finishing straight about 5 metres ahead of Blondie. It was about 80 metres to the finish and it was a fast downhill finish. I lifted my knees and swung my arms and kicked down the straight with everything I had. I could hear Blondie rasping for air just a couple of steps behind me. My arms and legs felt like they were made of lead and my lungs burned. I'm pretty sure Blondie felt the same if not worse. But I held him. 50 metres to go. 40 metres. 30 metres. My stomach protested at this surge and was preparing to unleash its contents but I didn't listen. Blondie pulled up next to me, his head thrown back sucking in as much oxygen as he could, he looked me in the eye. Tears streamed down his face and he looked beaten. He moved half a step ahead of me. My legs were done. I gritted my teeth and pushed but had nothing left. With only about 10 metres left Blondie moved a few steps ahead and crossed the finish line in first then collapsed into a pile of his own vomit and tears. A moment later I crossed the line. I had finished second and felt like I had won. I sat down to regain my composure and was greeted by lots of pats on the back and hand shakes. My dad raced to greet me and was an emotional wreck. He gave me a huge hug and said that he couldn't believe how well I ran and how proud he was of me. It was probably the greatest father/son moment of my life. Blondie later came and congratulated me on a great race and said that he'd never been pushed so hard. Over the following years Blondie and I would bump into each other numerous times and we always talked fondly about that race.

So there it is. My most epic race. I've run longer and faster races since then but that was the race that taught me how to dig deep inside myself. I still get chills when I think about that moment I took the lead for the first time. Ever since then I've always been seen as a strong hill runner. I draw strength from running uphill.
My next post will include tips and advice on how to run uphill and not to dread the uphills.
Hope you enjoyed my self-indulgent trip down memory lane.
Happy running
Runner Dan

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

I broke my pretty face!

So I have been out of action for a few weeks and as many of you may already know, I severely broke my jaw. I want to give you some insight into what I've been through because it has been pretty traumatic but I don't want to lose focus. This is a blog about one of the most joyful activities humans can do - running!
Two weeks ago I was letting my dog outside at around midnight. I had been asleep so when I stood up quickly I felt a little dizzy. I walked to the back door in a bit of a haze and as I opened the door everything went black. I woke up with my face on the cold concrete and in lots of pain and confusion with my two front teeth broken off and lodged in the concrete, a huge gash on the underside of my chin (the source of oh so much blood) and my jawbone broken in three places. I am not going to lie, it was the most scared I have ever been in my 34 years on this planet. My daughter (not quite 2 years old) was asleep in her cot and my wife was working late at the hospital so it was up to me to pull myself together and make a call for help.
The human brain does some funny things when it is in shock. I eventually got through to my wife who came home as soon as she humanly could but it was going to take a while. After getting hold of my sister in law, who in turn called an ambulance for me, I deemed it necessary to crawl (it was all I could do at this point) up our long hallway and turn the front light on because I was certain that the Ambulance wouldn't be able to find me. In the process, I left a trail of blood all through the house. I then crawled back to the living room, laid myself in the 'recovery position' (in case I lost consciousness again) and then watched the minute hand on our living room clock meander through 60 slow, painful, impossible minutes of waiting and trying to stay awake.
Just after 1 am the ambulance arrived and 5 minutes later my wife and sister-in-law arrived too. Relief. I knew at this point I was going to be okay.
After being filled with morphine I was whisked away to hospital in the back of an ambulance and spent the next 5 days and nights having scans of my heart and brain (to figure out why I fainted), being operated on (twice in 24hours) and feeling miserable. Hospital is a pretty depressing place to be so I was so excited to be sent home on the 6th day. The nursing staff and surgical team were amazing and so encouraging while I was under their care but nothing and nobody can care for me like the two most amazing people I know. My wife and my mother. My step-father and mother jumped on a plane from Sydney and were here within days to help take care of me and my wife has been my emotional support/live in nurse/friend and more. I am truly blessed to have these people in my life and I could not have got through the past two weeks without them.
To put it bluntly, 'shit happens'. Just grateful that are people to help me get through the shit.
So that's it. The next post will be about running, I assure you. I am not running yet (too painful) and I really miss the freedom but hopefully soon I will be back to my best.
Peace, love and happy running
Runner Dan

Friday, 21 March 2014

Running for the first time? Do this!

So many people I know who are NOT runners frequently say things like 'I can't run', 'I'm too old/busy to run', 'my knees hurt when I run', 'running just seems like such hard work, why bother?', 'I would run but but but but...' The excuse are seemingly endless.
Well here's the thing. ANYONE CAN RUN! Old people, young people, women, men, fat, thin, beautiful, ugly people, new mothers, people with an aversion to exercise and super athletes.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. You only need five things if you want to start running; 1. A left foot, 2. A right foot, 3. A heart beat, 4. The desire/determination to have a real go at it and 5. A plan.

Its Saturday morning and I have just returned from my local Parkrun event. Parkrun is a free weekly professionally timed 5km event that is in most cities and a great community of runners/joggers/walkers/pram pushers and friendly people. It is one of many ways a person can start running. Having other runners around you is a great motivator.
But lets say you don't feel confident that you can make it that far. You're worried that you might collapse 100 metres in and require a) oxygen b) an ambulance c) CPR d) a priest to read the last rites or e) all of the above. Truth is, it is probably very unlikely you will drop dead the first time you go running but you will hopefully raise a sweat and get a little puffed.
So, how do you start?
First, turn off the TV and put down the remote control.
Now, put on some comfortable clothing (worrying about having the perfect running gear often becomes a point of procrastination, so don't worry about it, you look great!) and shoes (any will do at the moment but preferably some kind of comfortable running shoe. No high heels or those damn vibram barefoot things - you aren't Kenyan! or maybe you are Kenyan in which case you won't need them). If you have a stopwatch, egg timer, sundial or some other kind of timing device thingy-ma-bob that might be handy though not entirely essential. You don't want to get hung up on the little things. You just want to get yourself moving with as little distraction as possible.
Now walk out the front door. The key with your first time out as 'a runner' is to just try. You only fail if you don't get out that front door. The next step is to start walking, not running, walking at a relatively brisk pace (you don't need to wiggle your bum like a race walker, that's just silly). After about five minutes your heart rate will likely be slightly elevated, your lungs will be drawing in more oxygen and you may even be sweating. Don't panic, this is normal.
Now comes the part where you run. It is important you don't try and sprint here (there will be no gold medals awarded at this time) and burn yourself up, just jog slowly for 1 minute. That's it. After 1 minute walk again. If you feel like your heart is going to burst out of your chest and splatter all over the footpath after 30 seconds then it is ok to walk, but walk as briskly as you are able. No stopping (I'm watching!!) You want to keep that heart pumping. Alternatively, if you feel like you could run for 2 minutes, DON'T! Just keep it to 1 minute for now followed by a another 5 minutes of brisk walking.
The key to success here is to feel like you can do more. By setting small achievable goals you are more likely to keep going. So many people think you need to feel like shit when you run in order to improve yourself. Well you don't. If you do too much too soon you are likely to a) injure yourself b) not enjoy it thus not want to do it again or, c) need mouth to mouth from a stranger passing on the street.
The 5 minute walk/1 minute run cycle should be repeated three times on this, your first run. So that is a grand total of 15 minutes walking and 3 minutes running. Don't do anymore. I want you to be 'hungry like the wolf' to do more tomorrow. The feeling of success is so very important. It is also important to feel like you've got more in the tank. If you do this, you can now call yourself a runner.
Do this 3 times in your first week. Exactly the same. Next week, change the cycle to 4 minutes walk/2 minutes run. As each week goes by shorten your walk break by a minute (or even just 30 seconds) and before you know it you will be able to run continuously for 15-18 minutes.
Give it a go and I promise you will not regret it.
Feel free to ask me any questions in the comment section below or on Facebook or Twitter
Happy Running
Runner Dan

Sunday, 16 March 2014

What does it take to be a marathoner?

I thought it might be useful to include some practical advice for anyone else who thinks running long distances is a good idea. I will include actual training plans in the future but for now I just wanted to give an outline of what myself, and many other marathon runners do on a weekly basis. Its not just endless, mind-numbing miles of bitumen pounding, there is a method to the madness of a marathon runner. And if you think you can't run, just do this quick inventory to see if are qualified/equipped to run.
1. A left foot
2. A right foot
3. A heart beat
4. Determination/desire
5. A plan

Now I assure you, people have completed marathons with less than these 5 things. You really only need the last 3 things to run. Check out the amazing Chris Moon. A double amputee after an accident defusing landmines in Cambodia, this guy runs some of the most hard-core ultras on the planet and he only has 1 arm and 1 leg. Have a look at his website. He's a motivational speaker now (obviously!)

Here are the bare bones of a marathoner's (i.e. me) week. Keep in mind, it is the basic outline. I will spend more time pulling apart training plans etc. Its a starting point
You need to have 3 different types of runs in your week. I will talk at length about the types later.
1. Long run - Do this once a week. I start my long runs about 16 weeks out from a marathon at about 20kms and build up by 10% a week. Do these runs slow. Experiment with race day outfits, shoes, socks, undies, gels, etc. It is a dress rehearsal. It builds mental toughness, patience and gets you used to being on your legs for a long time. Find ways to enjoy these runs. Loads of people hate the long because it takes so long, but that is what I love about them. Loose yourself, let your mind wander, de-stress, explore trails/roads that you've never been on.
2. Tempo runs - You'll need to do a couple of these runs a week. They are at or near your desired marathon pace/race pace and should vary between 10 kms and 15 kms.
3. Speed work - Once or twice a week is more than enough. Speed work takes numerous forms: fartleks (excuse me!), intervals, kilometre repeats.... so many different types. I used to think speed work was a waste of time but it turns out it very valuable, even to the runners that just want to finish. Speed sessions improve many aspects of your fitness!
Some people like to do a 4th type of run, the recover run. That is, a slow easy short run (5 - 7kms). There is some merit in these types of runs but I am a bigger believer in simply resting... and resting hard! Get loads of rest! Eat well on your days off and put your feet up.

So that is pretty much it, as I said before I will go into more detail about each type of run later. Until then
Happy Running
Runner Dan

Losing my marathon virginity - Part 1

After running competitively since the age of 9, I finally lost my marathon virginity on September 16 2012. I was 33. This is the story of how I did it, why I did it and, like all good virginity stories, how it felt (spoiler alert: It hurt but it was a good hurt!). Enjoy.
The genesis of my marathon adventure goes back to when I was a just a young kid running cross country races with my local athletics club (Nowra Athletics Club). I would see great runners like Steve Moneghetti and Robert De Castella doing there thing on T.V and I always thought it would be cool to do something 'BIG' like that. But I was young and 42kms was about 32kms further than I dreamed physically possible and after being told by numerous adults that running that far was 'dangerous' and would 'probably kill me' I put the idea out of my mind entirely... well almost.

Fast forward to the age of 19 and on a whim (and basically no training) I entered the Sydney Morning herald half marathon (21.1kms). I was more ass than class and thought I was invincible (like most 19 year olds). So on a frosty morning I set out on the biggest run of my life... completely unprepared.

When the gun went off I bolted. I foolishly took off way too fast. I blame my inexperience, lack of training and the collective adrenaline rush of the thousands of runners around me. I ran the first 10kms in the blistering time (blistering for me anyway) of 41 minutes! I had no idea that the second 10-11kms in a half marathon can hurt you in the same way a school bully beats you up, steals your lunch money and destroys your confidence. And that is what happened to me. At kilometre 15 I rounded a corner and approached a small hill and had my lunch money stolen. Getting my ass handed to me came in the form of total exhaustion, a chafed and bleeding crotch, cramped legs, mental exhaustion and the realisation that I was NOT the world's most gifted, amazing runner. I was a human that had to train for things like everybody else. I proceeded to stumble, walk, jog and hang my head in disappointment for the last 6kms. I finished in a somewhat respectable time of 1 hour 42 minutes. I was bummed though. Having been such a competitive runner for so many years I expected to do so much better. Running a FULL Marathon seemed so much more unlikely now. So again, I put the very idea of running a marathon out of my mind again... for a while.

What did I learn from my first half - marathon?
- Do some actual running training you idiot! Even if you are fit in other areas you need to run if you want to get good at running
- A half marathon is not an 800 metre race so slow down at the start. 21kms is pretty damn far, pace yourself fool!
- Get some decent running gear if you don't want to get blisters/crotch chafe etc.
- Get used to having your ass handed to you, just get over it and keep going! Distance running is hard so get used to it.

Part 2 of 'Losing my marathon virginity' is coming very soon

Happy running