The Year I became a Marathon Runner

Peter Hattam – 2016

I am not really sure when I decided that I wanted to run a marathon. I grew up not really being a runner, although I was involved in sport, running was just something that was incidental to the “main” activity. I suppose it stared about 12 years ago when I got myself in reasonable shape and instead of running being an incidental part of the exercise, it was the exercise. I ran the City-Bay for the first time and after I finished thought to myself how much further could I have run. I did that for a few years and then life got busy and put exercise & running on hold for a while. Fast forward to October 2015 and once again I had regained some fitness and had started running again. I had completed my first City-Bay for 10 years and was getting up every Saturday morning to take part in Torrens Parkrun. I was happy with my 5km runs and if I felt like challenging myself may go for a slightly longer run, around 8km. Once again that thought of “how far could I really run” popped into my head.

January 2016 I decided to join Running Domain with the thought “Was I really capable of running a half marathon, let alone a full?” I turned up to my first Saturday morning run, how would I cope with 10km, and extra 2km seemed like so much further than I had been running? Just over an hour 1 hour later we were back at Bundeys Road and I had survived. At this point I was committed to running a half marathon, yet still thinking that how would I ever be able to run 21km.

I looked at the calendar of events and decided that the Greenbelt would be the one. I followed the training program fairly religiously, gradually building up the distance in the long runs. The 1st May arrived, I caught the bus to Athelstone and stood at the start quietly confident that I would finish the distance, but not really sure how I would go. Had I done enough training, how could I go faster and further than my long runs; would the competitive side of me be happy with just finishing or would be able to beat my target time.

Surprisingly to me, the first 12km was soon behind me and I was feeling good and running at a good pace. At that point I told myself, it was less than the 10km to go so I should be able to manage that. Unsurprisingly the second half was more challenging that the first and I started to tire and was looking forward to finishing. I managed to finish, did not feel too bad and was happy with my time. The day must have gone okay as less than 24 hours later had entered my next event, the Barossa half.

Another half marathon success!

Training continued for a few weeks and next thing I know it is 4:00am on a Sunday morning and I am getting up to drive to Tanunda. Am I crazy, I hate getting up early in the morning? Being the veteran of one half-marathon I was a lot more relaxed at the start. Once again I must have done enough. I felt good throughout and was able (with the support of a fellow RD runner) to push a bit harder for the last 5km.

Two half marathons down, the next goal has to be a marathon. Was there enough time to build up the distance before Adelaide, after discussing it with Chris I decided the answer was no, so Melbourne it is.

Fortunately a couple of other 1/2 marathon runners who were looking to do a marathon around the same time as Melbourne and wanted to do a few extra kms on Saturday morning. We got up every Saturday morning, to do our long run. Mid-week texts were sent to agree on the start time and distance to be completed so that we could arrive back by 7:30am and run with rest of the Saturday morning RD group; the after run coffee was an important part of the training.

For a number of weeks I repeated the process. I was getting up earlier on Saturdays to run in the cold than I did to go to work Monday to Friday. The weeks went by and the distance increased, an extra 2km each week did not seem that bad. After finishing my first 30 km long run I still had doubts that I could run another 12 km, it just seemed so much longer to be running for.

My training must have been going okay. I entered the Adelaide ½ marathon and found that I was able to push myself to run harder and faster than I had thought I could. Despite how well I had gone I had no desire to turn around and do it all over again, 42.2km still seemed unachievable.

I think my attitude changed on the day I completed my first 34km long run, I finally had the confidence that I would be able run a marathon. It was only an extra 8km, surely that would not be too hard to do, which not long ago I considered a long run by itself.

There were a couple of hiccups after that; a couple of niggling injuries and a busy week where I missed my long run. The doubt started to creep back in, was I cut out for this? Finally I got into the tapering stage of the training. I appreciated the shorter distances, mainly because it meant that I was not having to get up so early.

After effectively 9 months of training the day had arrived and I was at the starting line. I was feeling confident yet apprehensive. I knew that I had done the training, surely that was the hard bit. I started off feeling good and broke up the event into a number of smaller distances and just concentrated getting to the next landmark or distance marker.

Along the way..

Fast forward four and a bit hours and I had completed my first marathon. It was a bloody long time to be running, yet it seemed to go quickly. People asked me what it was like to run into the MCG for the finish, I can’t really remember, at that stage I just wanted it to be over.

The best beer ever!

What did I learn this year?

  • As much as I am not an early morning person, I looked forward to my Saturday morning runs even when it is cold and wet,

  • The training plans are a guide, you do not need to follow them religiously, but the closer you follow them, the better the result,

  • There will be hiccups that will interrupt your training, accept that they will happen and move on,

  • There will be good runs and bad runs, some days it will be hard. Once again don’t stress about the bad ones, just look forward to the next good one.

  • It is possible to run 19km after drinking too much the night before, it might not be fun but it is possible, just remember to take water with you,

  • It doesn’t matter if I am running 10km or 42km, I am still glad when it is over;

  • A marathon may be twice the distance of a ½, but the amount of work you need to do to prepare for one is more double. Do not underestimate the significant time commitment to do the training;

  • Would I have achieved all this if I was not part of a group, probably not? There are plenty of training plans on the internet, but I’m not sure I had the mental strength to follow one by myself without the support of Chris and my fellow RD members who helped me along the way.

Twelve months ago if you had said to me before the years end I would have completed a marathon and three ½ marathons I would not have believed you. Running a marathon does not define you as a person, but if you choose to do one you might surprise yourself with what you can achieve, both mentally and physically.

Will I do another?
Of course I will – I’m already planning my assault on the Gold Coast in July.

Peter runs and trains with Running Domain

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