2016 Medibank Melbourne Marathon Race Report – Matt Hutton
Race Date: October 16th Results: 2016
Having come it back from my achilles injury (last time I mention it, promise), I made it through a typically low mileage but pleasantly consistent prep and got to the start line of the marathon intending to run 2:35-2:37. Essentially running with the same target that saw me run 2:37 at Gold Coast in 2015. Half way through race week the weather forecast was already starting to look poor and by the night before we had the very real sense that it would be unpleasant indeed. I was a little bit spooked by the wind forecasts but (whether bravely or foolishly) decided to stick with my original plan. That was to run 3:40/km as long as, try to take advantage of the wind behind me whenever possible and probably fade in the second half but hopefully minimally.
As an entrant in the Australian Marathon Championships running for NSW I had been to the athlete briefing the day before the race and on race morning had access to the change facilities underneath the MCG. That turned out to be very good indeed, with secure bag and change facilities, pre and post race physios, somewhere to hang out early before the race and plenty of camaraderie.
I got off from the start with fellow Rejoov runner Robin and into a pack with a few guys and the 2nd and 3rd females. Grouped together fairly tight keen to protect ourselves, we went through 5k at about 3:36/km (a little quick for me) and stayed together for quite a while. In Albert Park I discovered that the personal drinks were in boxes, meaning you had to stop and look inside the box if you wanted your drink. That was a travesty and I didn’t get any of my drinks. After the first 5k the wind kicked in a bit more and we were running 3:40-3:44/km for each 5K split. Once we go to St. Kilda I quickly realised just how hard it was going to get, with steady, strong wind and gusts howling into our faces. Our pack had split a little as we struggled to stay together, but I was stll on target at 20km, which is about where I fell off the back of the pack for the last time. This is after working hard to reattach myself more than once. My pace slipped slightly but I went through half way just under 1:18, which was pretty much on target. I was, however, well aware that I was started to fade. Battling through the wind along St Kilda feeling the pace bleed from my run was pretty demoralising and I'd say this race was the hardest one I've done so far, both physically and mentally.
Working my way along St. Kilda I concentrated on form as much as possible, also trying to turn the legs over as much as I could. My biggest problem was that I had seized up from the hips down. I felt low on energy, strength and pace and the legs would not go as fast as I wanted them to. By 30km I was running well over 4min pace, my heart rate had actually dropped and I wasn’t fulfilling my aerobic capacity which was actually quite frustrating. By this time people were regularly overtaking me, a steady stream really. I continued to push on (it felt like plodding really) and saw elite runner Duer Yoa sat on the grass in the Tan having pulled out. That a least gave me a glimpse that even the best were finding it tough. Eventually, with a kilometre or two to go, Simon Redhead came striding past me bare chested like Tarzan of the concrete jungle and I was both impressed with how well he was holding up and pretty pissed off with how I was doing myself. In the end I dragged myself into the MCG to finish in 2:54:22 with a good for the conditions first half I think and an abysmal second.
It’s not too difficult to pinpoint what went wrong; the conditions were bad but they were 5-10 minutes bad for most people not 20. Clearly the gamble of sticking with my original race plan and attempting it rather than being more conservative didn't work and it may be as simple as I worked too hard too early and then went kaput. I'd like to think it's as simple as that anyway. It could be that I overestimated my form before I even got to the race and I’m less keen to buy into that but it’s certainly possible. I don’t think I’m quite as fast at the pacier end of things as I was before Gold Coast last year and it’s possible that the lack of pace reserve left me lacking.
In the end, while a performance like that was not the way I wanted to debut on a state team, the experience of being picked for and taking part in the champs was very good. Attending the athlete briefing and having access to the elite MCG facilities on the day made the logistics of the event much easier than usual and of course a weekend away with the wife minus children is always well worth it. Even the marathon itself, as poor as it was, has lessons to give which I am starting to pull out with more perspective. I’m certainly as hungry as ever to improve and intent on doing just that before I run marathon distance again.