This year, the Canberra Marathon was held on the 10th April.
I had been talking about doing it for a couple of months, but only finally got around to registering for it the week before. I had volunteered to pace Maddy Herbert to a Boston-Qualifying goal time of 3:30, but in the end she decided not to run, so I headed down to Canberra the day before the race with Kara Welbourne, Neil Adams, and Matt Browning. We were quite the odd bunch. I was the only one doing the marathon. The others had signed up for the half.
We drove to Canberra, had some gelato, dinner, wine and more gelato. It was a recipe for a great night’s sleep. I reluctantly woke the next morning, and pulled on my new shoes, fresh out of the box. Now I think I’ve broken all the running rules.
Matt offered to drive me to the start line, as it was still dark, and the marathon started well over an hour before the half did. He dropped me off, then returned to the motel to keep getting ready with the others. They would walk down later.
I saw the 3hr 30 pacer at the starting corral in front of Old Parliament House, and decided to run with him. This way, I would (hopefully) be able to run the time that I wanted, without having to pay any attention to my watch, and just enjoy it. I would also like to be a 3:30 pacer in the future, so it would be good to know if I can run that time consistently and comfortably, with an even pace.
The first 15km went by pretty quickly. The pacer was the best pacer I had ever seen, cheering and encouraging all the runners. He even had a set of speakers attached to his belt, and had co-ordinated an entire playlist for the whole duration of the marathon. Being the pacer, he was able to work out at what time he would be at certain places on the course, and had chosen the music accordingly. “Stick with me until the end”, he said, “The final song will be worth it”.
Around the halfway point of the marathon there are a few sneaky hills, that caught me off guard last year. This time I was expecting them. I’m not sure if it made them any easier though. I was still cruising along with the pace group, but the numbers had started to dwindle. Our pacer ran ahead, and asked the crowd to cheer for one of the runners who was struggling to keep up with our group by name.
At the 36km mark, we were running along as ‘Eye of the Tiger’ belted out of our pacer’s speakers, perfectly timed to boost our spirits as we climbed one of the final pinches in the course.
As we entered the final couple of kilometres, most of the group had dissipated. Anybody with any energy left had surged ahead of the group, making one final mad dash towards the finish line and their goal time. This is reality when you run as a pacer. You try to carry as many people as far as you can, but as soon as the finish line is in sight, anybody still with you is likely to ditch you if they have any energy left at all, and while you run most of the race with a lot of company (and at times you are the only person doing ALL of the talking), you end up crossing alone.
So most of the people who had stayed the distance ditched the pacer in the final kilometre, and did not get to hear his final song. On this day, I was not after a fast time, or a PB, or a place, I was content to run along and have a good time, so I stayed with the pacer to the end.
I crossed in a time of 3:29:26, not too far off the goal time of 3:30.
After finding the others it was time for time for bacon and eggs, and a long drive back to Newcastle.
Oh, and the final song?
Chariots of Fire.