The Melbourne Marathon: An Unexpected PB

Yesterday was the 36th running of the Melbourne Marathon. Newcastle and the Region of runners (RoR) was well represented, with quite a number of Novocastrians making the journey down to Melbourne for the event.

This was my 10th marathon for 2013, so I did not want to have unrealistic expectations. I was feeling like I was ready to take a break from running. I had been to physio 3 times in the last 2 weeks for a troublesome right calf and left knee. My PB this year was 3:28:02 in Canberra. I ran 3:36:11 at the Gold Coast this year, and 3:36:46 at Melbourne last year. I thought that if I could run under 3:36:00 then it would beat my time from last year, and be a P2ndB for 2013, so that was my goal… 3:36:00 or faster.

I set a 4am alarm for Saturday morning, so that I could catch a 6am flight down to Melbourne with Pip Cave. As I was about to walk out of my unit, I said to Pip, “I’m about to walk out without my water belt” Gasp! This is a big deal for me. I usually rely heavily on the belt, and the couple of races that I tried to run without it this year didn’t go to well.  But I don’t want to take it to Boston next year, so I wanted to practice running a fast marathon without it.

Upon arriving in Melbourne, I met up with a bunch of other night striders, and the eating tour of the city began. First stop was breakfast, where Helen and I shared fruit loaf and poached eggs on sourdough (neither of us could decide, so we split both).

Marathon eating tour of Melbourne: Helen, Kirby, Vlad and Cheryl.
Marathon eating tour of Melbourne: Helen, Kirby, Vlad and Cheryl.

Then we made a quick visit to the Lululemon factory outlet, before stopping at a spud bar on Chapple St for lunch (yum! Someone please open one in Newcastle) Then it was time for afternoon tea – apple  pie was my choice… Rice pudding, carrot cake and baklava also made it to our table. For dinner, I tagged along with the runlab crew to Wagamama. Teriyaki Salmon was the popular choice here. I settled for soba noodles and chicken.

I was in bed by 9.30pm, and set another 4am alarm for race day.

Race day began like any other…. Belvitas, bananas and a powerbar. I dressed and threw my race day gear in a bag, and headed to the MCG. It was dark and I wasn’t quite sure of the way… But there were fences set up from federation square towards the MCG, so I followed them, expecting they would lead me there. I met Pip at the bag check, took my gels, water bottle and phone out of my bag, and checked it in. I wandered upstairs to the MCG concourse, and found Helen, Kellie, and a couple of other night striders. I left my stuff on the ground with them, and headed inside for a last-minute toilet stop. The line wasn’t long, I was back quickly. But the others had headed in to check their bags. Sarah Walters was still waiting outside, and my stuff was still on the ground. I grabbed it, and rushed off towards the start line to try to find Helen, Pip, Cheryl, anyone!

I headed down towards the start line, walking outside the chute. The start of the race was about 15 minutes away. I made it to the 3:30 start zone, and stopped. It was then I realized that I didn’t have my gels! I had left them (5 of them!) back on the ground at the MCG. I wouldn’t have enough time to go back and get them (if they were still there) and be back for the start of the race. Even if I did, I would have no chance of finding the other girls I was hoping to run with. I didn’t have Sarah’s number, and Helen doesn’t run with her phone. I was freaking out, alone and gel-less  on the start line. Somehow I found Pip, and told her about losing my gels. She generously pulled out one of hers and gave it to me. i was about to start asking strangers in the crowd. If I could scab one or 2 more, I might just make it through this race.

Then my phone rang. It was Cheryl. “We have your stuff!” Oh, thank god! But Im still standing in a very crowded location. I try to explain where I am. Minutes pass, and they still haven’t arrived. I’m stressing out. Pip and I are going to have to start this race on our own. And with 8000 other runners out on the course, I doubt I will find them out there either.

The national anthem starts to play. This race is about to start, and I’m still standing outside the start chute. Then, I see 4 pink visors making their way through the crowd. THANK GOD! Helen, Kellie, Pip, Cheryl, Sarah and I all stumble clumsily over the barrier and into the start chute as the crowd sings Advance Australia Fair, much to the dismay of the people already in the chute around us. Jessica Stabler shows up in the crowd out of nowhere, so there were 7 newcastle girls all standing in the start chute together.

Night striders on the start line.
Night striders on the start line.

I barely had time to stuff my gels into my pockets and return the borrowed gel from Pip before the gun started, and the crowd began to surge forward. This is Australia’s biggest marathon, and it was hectic! We all ran down Batman avenue, trying to find a clear path. As we approached the turn down Swanston St at Flinders St station, we realised we had somehow ended up on the wrong side of the barriers! We had to stop and jump over the barriers to get back on course. This was starting to feel like a hurdling event.

I settled into running with Helen And Jess. Maybe it was going to be OK after all. I had my gels, I had a good little running group, Time to get settled into the race. Relax. Then, something felt a little wrong. I looked down to the ground. Fucking shoelace! I exclaimed. In 13 marathons, this had not happened before. This was not meant to be my day, was it?

I told the others I was going to sprint ahead. i jumped up on to the grassy median strip, and sprinted up to the next corner. By the time I arrived, my other shoelace had managed to untie itself too!  I tied them as quickly as I could. by the time I got back on course, Andrew Dodd (Doddy) had spotted me, and wondered what on earth I was doing. I rejoined the masses just as Pip, Cheryl, Kellie and Sarah were running by, all together. I wished them good luck, then charged off through the crowd, trying to catch up to the 2 pink visors up ahead. I had no idea how much time I had to make up.

i was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t take me too long to catch them. They must have slowed for me. We ran around Albert park, and passed Matthew Roberts about 10km in. Somewhere in the park we lost Jess. I thought she was just behind us, but she could have ended up in front of us…. Who knows what happens when you run through the packs.

We made the first hairpin turn of the race, and headed back past other runners behind us. i kept an eye out for other striders. It was great to see Kellie and Sarah, then Pip and Cheryl, then Darlene and Kath. The striders were all running in pairs!

At around the 12km mark, I started to get a sharp pain in my right knee. ‘Race over,’ I thought. there was no way I could continue the pace we were going with that pain. I tried to stretch it out by making bigger strides, but it got worse. So I shortened my stride. This relieved it a little.  Within a kilometre, it was gone altogether.

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We turned onto Fitzroy St. “it’s a nice day”, I said to Helen. “Let’s go and check out the beach”. And we did. We made it to Beaconsfield Parade, where we caught sight of the lead female running past. We also saw Adam Clarke and Mr Darlene Reis running, and they called out to us. We made the turn at Bay St, and headed back towards St Kilda. We passed all the other Night Striders, still travelling in pairs. We passed the halfway mark in good time. “That was fun”, I said to Helen. “Let’s do it again.” My strategy for the race had been to make it to halfway with Helen, and then reassess how I was feeling. Last time I raced that strategy (Gold Coast) I crashed and burned in the back half. Today I was feeling good. I knew Helen was shooting for a PB (sub 3:30) and we were in front of the 3:30 pacer. Even if I slowed down in the second half of the race, I had still given myself a good buffer to finish in under 3:36:00.

As I wasn’t wearing my water belt, I opted to carry a 250ml poptop bottle of water. I accidentally dropped it going through a water station. Now I would have to take water from all of the remaining water stations. I was carrying a drinking straw to make drinking out of the plastic cups a little easier, but I managed to drop that somewhere too.

At around 9.15am, it began to rain. It was just a little sprinkle. There was also a breeze, but I didn’t feel like it was affecting our race.

As we passed the 30km mark, I told Helen we were now in my happy place. only 12km to go. (I’m not sure why it’s my happy place, it is usually where it starts to hurt!) We were now running up St Kilda Road, and the half marathoners had entered the course. It was good to pass Mel Roberts, but other than that, running with the half marathoners was REALLY FRUSTRATING!  They were all over the course. We passed the 2:30 half marathon pacer. They were moving much slower than us. And we were shooting for a PB! The course was really congested, the slower runners were not keeping left, and a lot of them were wearing headphones, so our shouts to ‘please keep left’, or ‘passing on your right’ were not heard. I felt a little rude at times, but PB’s can’t always be polite I guess.

With about 10km to go, I started to get a sharp pain in my left calf. not the normal, dull achy cramps I often get. this was a sharp stabby cramp that threatened to take over my entire muscle with every step I took. Altering my stride didn’t help it. I told Helen. she told me to man up. At least I could feel my calves. Other people in this world don’t even have that luxury. I should be grateful to be able to feel anything at all. It was just the wake-up call I needed. Suck it up, Kirby. The end is within reach now.

Out of nowhere, Jess and Doddy came through the crowd. RoR reunion at the 34km mark. Runners around us exclaimed that we were all too talkative for that point in the marathon.

The last 8km were hard. I felt like I was fading, but then looked down at my watch as it beeped to signal a 4:45 kilometre. Well, I feel bad, but I’m not actually doing too bad. Doddy was running just in front of me, and Helen and Jess were right behind me. With 5 km to go, we all noted that there was just one parkrun left. Ah, parkrun, a run that we have all done so many times before. So do-able. i grabbed another cup of water at the next station, and made sure Helen and Jess were still right behind me again. With 2km to go, Helen mentioned that she might for the first time be experiencing what it is like to hit the wall. Good, I told her. We are leaving all that we’ve got on the course today. No getting to the finigh line and thinking, ” I probably could have gone harder”.

Kirby, Helen and Jess.
Kirby, Helen and Jess.

I was running on the median strip. i had to jump the gutter and get back onto the road. i did it gingerly, worried that my legs might give out underneath me. My head was a little fuzzy, spinning. “Hold on a few more minutes,” I thought. I glanced over my shoulder again. Helen and Jess were not right behind me anymore. I had great visions of us all crossing th finish line together, hand in hand. But there was less than one km to go, and by my garmin, I was within one minute of doing a PB.  I didn’t want to slow. i just wanted to get this race over with. so I ran on, as fast as my fatigued legs would carry me, into the MCG, where the roar from the crowd was awesome. as I completed the final lap, I could see a bright streak of pink in the grandstand, cheering for me.

Finishing it off.
Finishing it off.

Night Striders, you are awesome. Your support on the course and at the finish line was amazing, and it’s what makes events like ths great. I crossed the finish line in 3:26:56, a very unexpected PB, and also a negative split. Helen and Jess were right behind me, also in PB time!

Feet up at the Finish Line! Jess, Kirby and Helen.
Feet up at the Finish Line! Jess, Kirby and Helen.
RoR reunion on the finsh line - Nick, Kirby, Helen, Doddy and Jess.
RoR reunion on the finsh line – Nick, Kirby, Helen, Doddy and Jess. Note Doddy’s night strider-compliant shoelaces.

After the race, we headed into the grandstand to find the other striders. by this time it was pouring rain and blowing a gale, and my phone had gone flat. Once reunited, we decided it was too cold and miserable to hang around and enjoy the finish line atmosphere any longer. Time to get these wet, sore and sorry night striders home. Cheryl’s hands felt like ice blocks.

It was cold at the finish line!
It was cold at the finish line!

It was a mixed bag of emotions. Some striders elated with their results, some who couldn’t help but feel disappointed. Everyone was ‘totes emotes’, as Darls would say. If I have learned anything this year, it’s that sometmes you just can’t pick whether marathon day is going to be your day or not. In the race I planned on peaking in, I crashed and burned at the halfway point. And in the one I planned on doing comfortably, I pulled a PB out of nowhere. You could have a perfect preparation, but you still need the weather gods to come to the party on the day. And you need to feel good on the day. Running is a great metaphor for life, there are ups and downs, highs and lows, and if you push through the lows, you will come out the other side, stronger for it.

I was so proud to be a part of the running community yesterday. Marathons really are such a great showing of the human spirit. Nobody demonstrated that better than Cheryl Hayward, who completed a race that 99% of people would not even dare to begin, having battled 2 broken feet and a knee injury in the lead-up to the event. Most people would have quit before getting to the start line.

Male Winner: Dominic Ondoro – 2:10:47

Female Winner: Lisa Weightman – 2:26:05

Race Day Stats:

Time – 3:26:56

Fastest Km – 4:40 (kilometre 4)

Slowest Km – 5:17 (kilometre 1)

Average Pace – 4:53

Fuel – 3 Gu (7km, 16km, 27km) Caffeine tablet (22km) 2 Shot Blocks (5km and 20km) and 1 litre water

Outfit of Choice – Asics Gel Skyspeed 3 Shoes, Bonds sport socks, Pink Zensah Calf sleeves, Lululemon Dart n Dash shorts, Asics Element pink singlet, pink Night Strider Visor, Garmin Forerunner 210 watch. No fuel Belt!

Surface – 100% Road

Weather – 12 degrees C, overcast, scattered showers.

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RoR RESULTS: 

MARATHON:

Scott Westcott- 2:14:21

Adam Clarke- 2:49:05 (PB)

Simon Redhead – 2:53:41

Mick Reis – 3:11:36

Nick Marriage – 3:18:13

Chris Hayes – 3:18:13 (PB)

Andrew Dodd – 3:27:00

Kirby Clarke 3:26:56 (PB and negative split)

Helen Cornwell – 3:27:29 (PB and negative split)

Jessica Stabler – 3:27:11 (Debut Marathon and negative split)

Kellie Smith – 3:38:32 (PB)

Sarah Walters – 3:46:39

Matty Roberts – 3:50:53

Darlene Reis – 3:56:35 (PB and negative split)

Kath Finlay- 3:55:52 (Debut Marathon)

Cheryl Hayward – 4:05:50 (Debut Marathon)

Pip Cave – 4:05:50 (Backed up from PB in Sydney Marathon 3 weeks prior)

MARATHON TEAM RESULTS: Night Striders 3rd Female Team.

HALF MARATHON:

Vlad Shatrov – 1:08:57 (5th place)

Nic Elliott – 1:37:07 (PB)

Ala Cook – 1:55:13 (PB)

Holly Wyndham – 2:00:37

Melinda Roberts – 2:17:38

Natasha McRae – 2:18:59

Melaine Connolly – 2:21:42

10km:

Michelle McCallum – 1:04:14

A complete list of results can be found here:

http://www.multisportaustralia.com.au/Home/QuickResults?clientId=1&raceId=931&raceName=Melbourne%20Marathon

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8 thoughts on “The Melbourne Marathon: An Unexpected PB

  1. Ahh Kirby !
    Once again you have managed to capture the day perfectly!
    Congratulations on achieving your goal of 10 marathons this year – it’s truly inspiring !!
    Love it !!!
    Thank you !

    1. Thankyou Kellie…. I have no doubt that there is NO WAY I would have even come close to achieving this goal if it was not for the Night Striders, so thanks for being a part of that! Also congratulations on your PB, you absolutely smashed it! (6 minutes??) Knew you could do it!

  2. Unreal blog Kirby…love it. Inspirational…only been doing this for a bit, but feel like i could even do a half if i keep on keeping on!!

  3. You had every right to shout at them if they’re not keeping to the left. Common courtesy pretty much. It’s an unspoken rule. Congrats on your PB BTW. Your narrative is entertaining and hilarious. ^_^

    1. Hi Darren! a negative split is when you run the second half of the race faster than the first half. It is really hard to do because mose people go out hard and/or fade to the finish.

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