Traralgon Marathon - Race Report

A good time out from this race I had big goals. Not only was I looking for a PB, but I was aiming to absolutely smash it. Reality got in the way. Life, work, sleep (lack of) and plenty of other things collectively limited my training time. That isn't an excuse or complaint, but an acceptance of the way things are.

As a result I haven't devoted any time to updating this blog. The energy or interest in it hadn't been there. After all, I was struggling to get in the training I needed. Coming into the race I'd refined my goal to still having a crack at breaking my 2:58 PB. Some of training had gone quite well. I felt very comfortable at race pace, my nutrition was well tested and I had honed my sense of pace and efforts very well. What was missing was any extended sessions at race pace or any runs at all beyond 32km. That was a big deficit in the required endurance. Despite the last point I still planned on the sub-2:58 with an all or nothing race plan.

Race morning felt as relaxed as ever. An early breakfast. My personal bottles for the aids all prepped. At the start in good time. The morning was cold, but a good cold for the marathon. The constant rain over night looked like it had completely cleared for the race. Wind was almost non-existent. You couldn't ask for better conditions for a fast day.

The race horn was sounded and the marathoners and half-marathoners started as one. Ambitiously I took a front line position and set out easily. There wasn't any congestion. No one went out front in a sprint as is typical. Even the halfers appeared conservative.

The opening kilometres felt really good. It just felt so easy to run. I had to concentrate on keeping a limit on my speed. Drink stations were approximately every 5km and well manned for the numbers. Unfortunately the personal bottles didn't get out in time for the first two stations by the time the runners came through. At the first I had a WTF moment about it and doubled back to fill up on the race provided drink. This wasted only about 30 seconds and really was a tiny hiccup that didn't play a role in my race. This was more than made up for by the fact I was greeted at all the other drink stations with a volunteer handing me my personal bottle. That was pretty cool.

Essentially there were no hills in this race. It was nearly as flat as they come. That said there was the slightest overall elevation gain to the turn around of the out-and-back course. Along with just a couple of dips and bumps the outward journey was effectively a false flat. That has the ability to suck some speed out of your legs before you notice or have you working a little harder than intended. It also makes for the possibility of a negative split which is what I was hoping for.

Over the first 10km I kept feeling great. I was savouring this race. Mixing with the top ten of a marathon was just cool and a unique experience for me at this point. The half-marathoners turned and left us, and I was surprised at just how few were up with us. From this point the marathoners stretched out and the group disintegrated to pairs and individuals. 15km came and went with me being a little ahead of schedule.

I knew the race would become hard at some point. It is the marathon, that's what happens. I also expected that trouble to occur earlier than previous attempts due my lack on the endurance side, but I was still struck by just how easy it was feeling. The scenario of working my way through a ridiculously fast second half was entertained. Hey, why not dream big during the race itself.

The 18km marker came into view and this is where I first noticed my legs were hurting, hurting a lot. Way too much for this early in, but that probably should have been expected. I gave myself a pep talk which covered the topics of pain is just information, 'tis merely a flesh wound and personal awesomeness. Time to harness the power of positive thinking.

Unfortunately there are things more powerful than positive thinking. My left glutes and hamstrings seized up. Buns hard as rock, but not in a good way. I could feel a tightness pulling across from coccyx and over my hip, down my ITB and even through my knee. Each step seemed to tighten the knot. This was new to me. It was beyond just tired muscles and the tightness that goes with that. I've had cramps and torn muscles in races in the past and this well into that territory. Initially I tried just to run through this in the hope it was a moment that would come good.

No such luck. Trying to force the running made it worse. Plan B I reduced my stride length trying to run within a narrow range of motion and upped my cadence to compensate. This elevated the tearing sensation but didn't seem to lead to any other improvement. Into the halfway turnaround at 1:32. To my family here I appeared to be running with good form. They knew I wouldn't be happy coming through at slower than 3 hour pace. At this point they didn't realise I'd dropped over 3 minutes in time in less than 3km.

Still counting runners and estimating my position in field wasn't helping. It is quite demoralising being passed by lots of others. It took a while to stop counting. To find a way to salvage the race I checked over my dashboard.

  • Nutrition was spot on
  • Hydration seemed about right
  • Temperature was perfect
  • Fatigue levels overall were low
  • Legs not hurting as much, but the glute-hamstring cramping and tightness was getting worse.

It was that one issue and it was unravelling the race. I tried different tactics, some walking, stop and rest, change in technique, but everything I came up with either made it worse or slowed me down more. All this got me past 25km where I finally realised that even if all this magically resolved in the next step, I couldn't entertain a finish under 3:15. Time to make a proper decision.

No more clock watching. The plan was now to finish as comfortably as possible without causing a significant injury. So I ran within my stride. Within the constraints my posterior chain would allow. As it turned out the pace varied a lot. Sometimes I had to walk a little, sometimes at a shuffle of 7:00/km that every now and then was interspersed with sections up close to my initial intended race pace. The guide was to keep away from the extreme tightness or feeling of tearing. This I managed to achieve most of the time. The disappointment was huge, but I still was able to find some enjoyment in the remainder of the race. It was a little more social than I'm used. It's easier to talk when not trying to push your limits.

This was essentially the remainder of the race for me. I had more time to take in the country farm side scenery. Time to enjoy the near perfect weather. Plus ample opportunity to work through the reasons behind what was happening today. The lack of longer race pace work and overall endurance probably played a role, but there was definitely more to it. Time pressure on training had been an excuse for me to neglect a lot of the body maintenance that is required for distance running. To be honest, up until now I hadn't realised I had been neglecting this, but it when you look to push your boundaries that the weaknesses show. Overwhelmed with hindsight there is a lot to my approach that needs to change.

Past the 40km mark took me into the final residential streets leading to the finish. A car turned the corner up in front and I realised it was my Dad coming to check what had happened to me. Yes, I really was travelling this slow. I asked him "am I winning," and he was satisfied I was okay and turned around to meet me back at the finish. That finish line was crossed with 3:45 on the clock. My slowest marathon to date. A long way off that sub-2:58 I had been looking to achieve.

Except for my left glutes and hamstring the rest of me felt pretty good. Definitely nothing like I'm used after a marathon. My hamstring in particular was a source of amusement for others as it spent the next couple of hours visibly going into spasms. This continued off and on through the next day too. Something a couple of weeks on a Malaysian beach might fix.


  1. Thanks Jason. Real shame about the injury. I wonder what brought on the glute/hamstring tightness - sounds like it was completely unexpected - no sign of it at all in previous training? Anyway, hope you can get back to balanced running and training before too long.


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