Medibank Melbourne Marathon 2016
The time: 2:57 and counting...
One can never tell. The marathon-induced state of altered consciousness: a little tipsy from the fatigue, dashed with endorphin induced euphoria, infused with the joy of ending this self inflicted misery....let's just say this man cannot be trusted with life decisions at this very point....
Yet, with leaded legs, heaving breath, fluttering heart shooting off to zone 6....this altered state of mind couldn't be more timely. Instead, I felt as light as a feather. As strong as a bull. As composed as a resting eagle. As calm as a sleeping babe.
Of course, the fact that there was no conceivable way that I could make sub 3 had something to do with it. Time, in just that window of a few minutes, had distilled the complexity of the race into such clarity and simplicity.
* * * * * * * * * *
It has been my desire to finish the year with a bang. With that, the elusive sub 3 may have been coveted more obsessively than it ought to be. Despite best laid plans, yet in reality, with no more than a meager 60+km week, the gap between the achievable and wishful thinking widens as the date of the marathon approached. Nonetheless, I have no lament nor regret. It was still a worthwhile dream to embrace. What is in a man if there is no dream?
Melbourne was a culmination of many plans. The Medibank Melbourne Marathon, loosely fitted, if at all justifiable, was one of the reasons. Call it a marathoner's excuse. But really? It's just an irrepressible compulsion. We all know that. But have it as you may, it was a trip with many birds to kill. And since I was on a killing spree, it might as well be a suicide attempt at sub 3. Who knows? I may even surprise myself. If I do make it back alive.....
* * * * * * * * * *
The morning of race day was comfortably cool. With temperature of 18 degrees Celsius, one couldn't really ask for more. But true to Melbourne's notoriety, well known for its 4 seasons in a day, we were in for a bit of surprise. It was another element which I had not anticipated: the wind! And bugs!
This combo was pretty much a nuisance all the way from the start. But with much to keep me busy, honestly I can't say it mattered much in the end. Except for a few occasions where I actually swallowed some wayward bugs. One should really be prepared for anything. After all, marathon isn't a 'fair weather' game. You either shut up and run or you could whine. I suppose the latter never did anyone any good. So why bother?
7:00 am, the start from Batman Avenue was ceremoniously flagged off after the Australian National Anthem and introduction of the elite runners. True to my suicide mission, I spotted a few accomplices bearing the 3 hours balloons and decided to pace myself after them. The thing about pacing after a pacer group is that the herd would tend to 'force' you to make moves to keep up. It is ok if you have much reserve to spare, but if you were like me, a struggling sub 3-wannabe, then Houston, there's a problem.
A picture (in which case a table) speaks a thousand words. So, I will let the break down do the talking.
LOCATION SPLIT TOTAL POS DIV GEN
5k 00:20:37 00:20:37 276 25 251
10k 00:21:19 00:41:57 305 28 281
15k 00:21:04 01:03:02 286 24 264
20k 00:21:08 01:24:10 273 24 255
21k 00:04:32 01:28:42 276 24 259
25k 00:16:38 01:45:20 287 27 269
30k 00:23:17 02:08:37 307 27 287
35k 00:24:17 02:32:55 318 28 294
40k 00:24:13 02:57:08 301 26 277
42.2k 00:10:16 03:07:24 300 24 277
The first half of the race was a breeze. It was literally very breezy but it was comfortable keeping pace with the bright yellow pacers. In our group, which consisted of mainly ozzies, I was surprised to spot quite a number of veterans. (Hard to miss that ozzy accent as they chatted away while cruising at a 3 hour pace!) Boy, these ozzie vets are tough! And upon review of the results later that day, there were quite a number of the same blokes crossing the line with good sub 3 results! Seeing them run had given me a surge of fuzzy warmth. There may still be some hope for me after all....
All went smoothly as planned until some point beyond 25 km where I realized that my effort was becoming out of sync with the group's pace. "Either they were speeding off or I was slowing down." Okay. However, if I were to take it up a notch, there may be a risk of crashing out earlier before I could even reach 35 km. And I knew that at my current form, to demand this would be very unrealistic. Its like playing Russian Roulette. Dilemma. A decision had to be made.
So, I relented. Maintaining the same effort, this inadvertently brought about the slowing of pace. As evident from the splits, it was a compromise. But numbers don't tell the whole story. That point between 30-38+ km was perhaps the toughest part of the race. Dumped by the group, I was now overtaken by some who were merely maintaining the same 3 hour pace. That was not a very good feeling. Accentuated by fatigue, the sense of utter loneliness crept in; this was perhaps the worst moment to be self conscious. Along with it, frustration, fear and doubt leeched on relentlessly. Sucking away any semblance of the much needed resistance. Suddenly I felt drained. Restless. All seemed pointless.
The wind grew gustier, the cold more piercing and the streets, silent enough to hear a pin drop. I might as well be running all alone. What the heck am I doing here?
I reminded myself that I was ready to run my own race anyway. With or without the pacers. I was going to run my best race anyway, regardless of my state of fitness. So what's the fuss? So what if I have slowed down? So what if I don't make sub 3? It was never going to be an issue anyway unless I quit now and fail to put up a good fight.
These thoughts simplified the race for me. It bulldozed all the nonsense from the mind. And there was clarity and calmness once again. The minutes may seem to stretch when you are racing against time. But that didn't matter as much any more. They stood still as though timeless in the final moments of battle to the finish. That was when I looked up the stopwatch and saw my time of 2:57....
And there was two more km to go. It is fine. I know it is over for sub 3. But the race is far from over until I cross that finish line in MCG. A euphoric smile burst forth across the well worn face of mine, almost cracking the lips in the process. That odd moment of altered state of consciousness had led to such manifestation. Not pretty but if I could insist, it was quite a sight to behold....
Still giving the chase, it was now a matter of how well I finish. Is that not the very reason to race?To finish strong? In all effort, I picked up my pace. More than a matter of not wasting all the previous hard earned miles, it was all about making the most of all that is left. My moments of lapse had cost me much. At that point, it was a moment of redemption. I had decided that it was not going to end like this.
Finish, yes. But only if I finish strong.
Crossing the final arch at 3:07:24 was more than a relief. It was proof that the fighting spirit had not left me. And as long as that spirit is still alive, there is always hope for the day when sub 3 becomes a reality. Until that day comes, I will continue to fight on.