Confessions of an Undertrained Athlete - Perth City to Surf Marathon 2019

Updated: Jan 1

We’ve all done it. We’re all guilty of the same crime. Some of us are one-time offenders and others (like me) are serial offenders, lurking in the shadows of a good training plan but never committing to it ... and it never starts out that way. No way, we’re not THAT type of person. We sign up to an event with the best of intentions. We sign up with weeks and weeks of good quality training time at our disposal ... time that we’re going to make the most of. We are going to be so fit and fast, the biggest problem is going to be that our new PB is going to make the existing one look shameful.


MY 'TRAINING PLAN'

Something happened. Not so much a big thing, more like a lot of little things. Lots and lots of little things that seemed so important at the time. Those dishes weren’t going to load themselves into the dishwasher. The lawn needed mowing because people were coming over and I wanted them to be able to see more than just the roof line of the house. Work needed my 24-hour attention and my volunteer roles needed a few hours work.


I gave myself several justifications for reassurance prior to the event:

  • I have plenty of time.

  • I've ran this marathon before.

  • I’ve fitted a 10km run in this week, so I’ve made a start.

  • I’m a time management master. I should write a book about it … I’ve always wanted to write a book now that I think about it. Perhaps I’ll put some time into that tonight and then go for a run if I have time afterwards.

Before I knew it I only had a week left. Then I panicked. OMG, how did this happen? I have to run a marathon in a week and my longest run has been about 12km, with running that has been so irregular that I couldn’t call it a training plan by any stretch of the imagination. That’s okay, I think, don’t panic ... I haven’t got time for that. I’ll devise a quick, aggressive plan and hope that the injury monster doesn’t pay a visit.

So mid-week, I popped out a fatigued half marathon after a full day of work. Afterwards, my legs felt like they needed a bone transplant. Instead of following it up with a 30–35km run later in the week I rested the legs and made deals with God that I had 42.2kms in them by Sunday.


EVENT DAY

Sunday came along as fast and unsuspecting as I knew it would. I’m on my way to the event surrounded by highly trained athletes who look like coiled springs ready to be released ... and they can sense my fear. They can smell it on me and see it written on my face. The smug looks on their faces tell me that they’ve never been in this predicament. They’d never be so irresponsible with their time that they’d rock up to an event undertrained. OMG, I’m so bad at time management. Perhaps that should be the first chapter in my book. I might start that tomorrow before my recovery run. I can skip the run if I don’t have time. Dammit.


I’m at the start line and I'm wondering if the bricks that I’m shitting are going to weigh me down at all. I’m looking around basking in the sea of overconfidence that is pouring out of my fellow runners and for a second I let it wash over me and I think that it might be okay. Then the 10 second countdown begins. HOLY SHIT. What am I doing here? I don’t belong here. Look at the guy next to me. He looks like a marathon runner. What do I look like? A guy who shouldn’t be here, that’s what. Escape. I need an escape. Oh God, we’re off.

Clearly I needed more sleep as well as some more training

My legs take over and start propelling me along with the crowd. My breath is still somewhere at the start line. The legs are in control now. I think that they know what to do. I better keep an eye on the pace because they seem to want to start overtaking people. Okay. New plan. I’ll keep a comfortable pace and let's just see what happens.

"I’m at the start line and I'm wondering if the bricks that I’m shitting are going to weigh me down at all".

At about 1.5km sweat starts pouring out of me ... 10 minutes before, I was shivering. I long for the Garmin to report that I’ve done 2.3km so then I have less than 40km to go. Then I start to soak in the scene. I'd forgotten how much I love this course. This moment is why I signed up for this so many weeks ago, it is beautiful. The sun is coming up and we’re running alongside the Swan River. I remember this scene from last year. Euphoria. I wonder if I’m in the back of an ambulance and this feeling is just the drugs taking effect.

I notice a lady next to me and we start chatting. She reminds me of a really nice lady in my local running club and I feel really comfortable talking to her. I just realised that we’re at around 8km ... that's only 7 parkruns to go ... dammit!

"I was going to check the course map before the event ... but the cat needed feeding."

So far, I haven’t even really felt it. We drink in the changing scenery and exchange notes on where we think the course will take us based on memory from last year. I was going to check the course map before the event ... but the cat needed feeding.

I lose her at this point and am glad I still have consciousness as I didn’t expect to. I hope I see her again later. At about 15km I'm still feeling great. I chat to a new group of runners and get into a nice pace. The 4.5 hour pacers are behind us so we’re making really great time.

After a while I leave this group as they are starting to slow a little and spend a bit of time on my own. I’ve caught up with a couple of dudes and they seem to be having a great time. I make a few jokes and pretty soon we’re running together and having a laugh. It’s their first marathon and they’ve only run 21km before. I feel a tinge of hypocrisy as I silently judge them with a smug look.

"I send a progress message to my family in case they need a funny story for my upcoming eulogy."

30km comes and goes and surprisingly we’re still having a great time. I send a progress message to my family in case they need a funny story for my upcoming eulogy. 35km and my legs are starting to really feel it. My calf muscles hint at what I can expect to feel the next day after all those hills through Kings Park, but it was well worth it for the views.

I leave the two dudes at around 38km as they want to walk and I thank them for their company and congratulate them. The finish line is so close. I suspect there is a discrepancy of around a km between my Garmin and where I suspect the finish line is. I was right. The last km was painful but I stepped up the pace to let the legs do what they wanted to do.


I SURVIVED!!

I finished the marathon to the usual sight and sound of other runners and their families cheering me along. Man, I love this community. I go through the finishers tunnel and have a medal put around my neck. OMG, it’s awesome. Bowls and bowls of fruit are offered and I wonder if I’ve expired somewhere along the way and this is heaven. If that’s the case, I’ll definitely train next time.


I collect my Marathon Finishers t-shirt, say goodbye to my friends, meet up with a few more along the way out and head home to my family. Triumphant. Sore, but triumphant.

I made it!!!

My finishing time was just shy of 5 hours so it wasn’t a fast one, but it was never going to be. I’m just happy to have been able to finish with pretty much no training at all. Which begs the question, what am I capable of with the advantage of a full training program? City to Surf 2020 I’m coming for you.

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