Post Marathon Blues?
So for ten days I haven’t even put on my running shoes, not even glanced at them let alone taken them around the park or into the hills. I am not sure if it has been relief of completing the marathon or the body recovering but the shoes haven’t moved. I think I have PMB (post marathon blues).
You see I’ve been posting weekly ‘selfies’ of my training, but just today someone said to me “hey you never posted a full run down of the marathon, I’ve enjoyed following your journey, tell us what happened”.
My baptism of fire began with no running to around 100 km per week. Just 7 weeks training finished with the weekend before last running the Motatapu Marathon 42.2 km. My second marathon of my life only. You see I am not a runner really, more a bike rider. My first marathon was a dare and it was New York 2001. I wanted my only marathon to be one to remember and with ground zero still smouldering the experience was something I will never forget. Maybe I can’t resist a dare but Motatapu run was similar.
Have I eaten enough, have I trained enough, how will I go?
So how did it actually go? Race day came sooner than I was hoping with doubts in the last week of being under done and will my battle worn feet cope with the distance. Pre marathon night nerves with pouring rain outside and a hope that the fine forecast was going to be bang on. Breakfast at 4:20am, bus pickup at 5:00 am and a pitch black drive to Wanaka in the marathon bus. Have I eaten enough, have I trained enough, how will I go? The small talk on the bus finished with us pulling into the turning bay just less than a km to the start line. Seriously are we walking to the start line I thought? Yup… a 10 minute stroll in the dark to the start line, lining up & number pinning begins trying to work out the weather for the morning and what the right clothes will be for the day. I squeeze the compulsory gear in my small runners vest and look to see how some of the other competitors have packed. There are some huge packs bulging with gear and I wonder what chaffing will occur during the 35,000 steps or so from here to Arrowtown. I hear some previous entrants mutter about the course starting with a narrow grass track and congestion so I figure I should line up with the faster guys in the 3:00-3:30 wave ( at least an hour faster than I anticipate). I am not keen to be held up at the start… I need all the help I can get. An anxious wait for other runners to make their walk from the bus turn around in the arriving first light and I wonder how an event of this size can casually start 30 minutes late. Last minute safety briefings and what stream to drink from and what not and the sound of 3/2/1 brings us all back to reality.
The marathon has begun. I charge off with the fast runners, the damp grass track underfoot. The race pace is so unfamiliar for me in running. Settle settle, get into your rhythm I hear myself say. The tracks twists and climbs in an odd direction and I realise we are heading back towards Wanaka (not ideal) and after some 13 minutes of running we have done a loop back towards the start line (soul destroying for a first timer- clearly the race measurer needed to make up some distance to get to 42.195 km). The gravel road greets us proper and for the next hour it’s short bursts of up hill and some down. I seem to have found a nice group of four guys who have a quick pace going. Mostly from Christchurch and mostly first timers. Better runners than me and we clock 10.5 km in a firm 50 minutes which puts us on target for a 3:30 marathon (alarm bells should have been ringing for me as all of them had only run 26 km as a maximum training distance and this pace on this terrain is far too quick for me). I look ahead and can still see the front of the race winding its way along the road, I spot ‘Helium Girl’ (who I nicknamed after a training run in the Port Hills because she ran like she had helium in her legs- I won’t see her again I thought).
Feed station 1 approaches (10 km mark) and I pause to fill my 500 ml flasks. These other guys have larger drinking packs which don’t need filling but it does mean they are carrying more weight the entire way and I am happy with my choice albeit slower at the fill up. I put some speed on to catch them and do some damage in the process, pushing my self just that little bit…settle settle as I am back in with the boys. It’s too late though and the damage is done, the next uphill and boom I am gone! The rubber band has snapped. Straight out the back door! The next hour is a blur as I battled on my own, uncomfortable at any pace, being passed by runner after runner. I sink into a bad space of huge self doubt and can’t imagine finishing this wretched race. The thoughts of catching a lift with the tail end charlie don’t excite me either and I hear myself saying I have trained way longer distances, I have been way more comfortable- what is going wrong?
The rubber band has snapped. Straight out the back door! The next hour is a blur as I battled on my own, uncomfortable at any pace, being passed by runner after runner. I sink into a bad space of huge self doubt and can’t imagine finishing this wretched race.
The 20 km feed zone arrives and I fill, water and eat. I have consistently drunk and taken a gel every 20-30 minutes going by time not feeling. The clock never lies I tell myself as I pass this mark at just on the 2 hours. Not so bad after all, maybe a 4:15-30 marathon is now achievable. I search for the passing runners for a pace that feels right and finally draft in behind Megan from Christchurch who has all the right qualities. She’s done this 4 times before, is lean and wirey and runs by feel having done all four previous runs in 4:01-4:11. I announce she is now my official pace setter and keeps my mind occupied and settles me in. It would be so easy to let her slip by and drop off the pace a bit but I force myself to stick with her. “Don’t worry the race starts at 30 km” she says and the next hour flies by
watching her every step.
We pause quickly at the 30 km feed zone, fill up, gel up, empty my pure electrolyte into one of my flasks. The track heads ever so slightly down hill and the highest point is now behind us. We step it up and one by one start picking up runners, some are cramping, others are walking, some are shaking their heads wondering what went wrong. We spot the first of my fast group from the first hour and storm passed. Things are going well, we are chatting to pass some time, we know some common friends in Christchurch and the km markers are counting down 8 km to go, 6 km to go. We are flying and have scooped up the last of my fast boys with 4 km to go as well as ‘Helium Girl’ from earlier, I am stoked. She is cooked, totally overdone it. Megan tucks behind me and I am now the pace setter. ‘Headband Girl’ is up ahead and Megan is determined to catch her to move up in her female placings. We push harder and catch her. Perhaps too hard, we should have paused on the catch but we sailed right passed and both Megan and I quickly felt we had overdone it a bit. A few small rises and we grind to a halt, realising we are not bullet proof after all. 2 km to go and the deep river crossings approach, they are slow and everyone chops down to a walk- all except ‘Headband Girl’ (a local we find out later), she hops up onto the overhead water race pipe and skips a complete river crossing overtaking us in the process. A few more crossings and we can hear the MC reading out names of finishers. We are there, the Motatapu Marathon is done. We have a few laughs with the fast group from the first hour ( who all suffered in different ways), Becky (Headband Girl) comes over and we congratulate her on the pipeline shortcut. A few more stories are had in the Arrow River as it becomes a make shift ice bath for many.
What a journey and what a complex thing this marathon is. Just a run, but a run long enough to play out in so many different ways. I have huge respect for any one who gets to the start line of a Marathon now, the race is one part but the training is another. So 10 days is enough time for post marathon blues to pass, the running shoes are coming back out. The whole aiming for something has been great, it’s given the running a purpose and a focus. But what is next? 7 Marathons on 7 Continents? Yeh let’s think that through…. Who’s coming on that journey?
Post Marathon Blues was originally posted on Facebook and copied back to 7from7.com later.
- “Great write up Simon. Thanks for sharing the story.You should send that to The Press with some photos. Sure they’ll get it in the weekend section or somewhere..”
March 19, 2014 at 11:32am – Andrew Farrow
- “Awesome stuff Simon, Good read!”
March 19, 2014 at 2:08pm – Nick Brownlee
- “Wow an awesome overview Simon and a fantastic achievement.”
March 19, 2014 at 1:42pm – Michelle Robinson
- “Well done mate.”
March 19, 2014 at 2:18pm – Ashley Cassin
- “Impressive mate!”
March 19, 2014 at 3:29pm – Marty Ritchie
- “Will chuck you out of the car at Hilltop next weekend and you can run to Akaroa. Should make it for prize giving.”
March 19, 2014 at 3:50pm – Derrick Nelson
- “Wow, very inspiring. I have run 2 x 1/2 marathons and currently training for my 3rd, there is no way I could or would attempt a full so congratulations. Unless you run long distance you have no idea of the hard slog that goes into training. Thanks for a great summary.”
March 19, 2014 at 4:07pm – Virginia Peterson
- “Well done Simon, good training for next year. But you look tired. There’s a name for that condition ie post endurance event blues, but I can’t remember what its called.”
March 19, 2014 at 4:25pm – Pat Deavoll
March 19, 2014 at 7:25pm – Caroline Register
- “I just loved reading that!”
March 19, 2014 at 10:22pm – Kathie Roberts