Rest and recovery … the big day beckons

Route: Thornbury to Southbank, return
Distance: 32.1km (328.5km total)
Duration: 2 hours 55 minutes (30 hours 22 minutes total)

My bib for the Melbourne Marathon

Well that’s the hard work done. All I need to do now is run a marathon.

Looks silly when I write it like that, but getting over the hurdle of my longest training run was a significant psychological boost. I’ve put in the effort in training, and now I just need to give it everything on the big day. More on that in a moment.

On Saturday morning I traded in my usual sleep-in for an early-than-normal run — I was keen to get home before the AFL Preliminary Final began (carn the Cats!).

In my rush to get out the door I forgot to take my asthma spray and, predictably, the first 5km were punctuated by a frustrating shortness of breath, courtesy of the cold morning air.

As with my previous run I spent most of the time listening to podcasts courtesy of This American Life, with a few of ABC Radio National’s Background Briefings thrown in for good measure. Like last time, it helped pass the time far quicker and gave me something to focus on throughout the nearly-three-hour run.

For some reason I managed to run considerably faster on Saturday that I did the previous week and, being considerably cooler than the previous week, I didn’t need to take as many drink/rest stops.

For the most part, I felt quite strong. I followed the Merri Creek trail to the Capital City Trail which took me to the western edge of the CBD. I reached the Yarra River just past Etihad Stadium and, being the halfway point, turned around and started on my way back. When I ticked off my fifth half-marathon in as many weeks — this one in about the same time as the Adelaide half-marathon, excluding breaks — I was still feeling strong.

On my previous run it was at about the 25km mark that things started to get pretty difficult and by the time I’d covered 28km I was more than ready for a rest. On Saturday I powered through to the 28km mark with few problems but then fatigue and lactic acid decided to ambush me, leaving me 4km to survive.

I mentioned last week it was good in some way to come face-to-face with that final-kilometres-fatigue and discomfort. It gives you a real sense of what you’ll be up against on the day. Sitting here four days later, with my legs fully recovered I can look back fondly on the final kilometres of Saturday’s run but I know full well that it was quite  unpleasant.

“Unpleasant” became “painful” as I staggered into my 30th kilometre for the day, a sharp stabbing pain gripping my left knee. Every time I hit the ground then bent at the knee, a shooting pain would run right up and down my left leg, centered around my knee.

It certainly wasn’t a welcome feeling and I suspect part of me was worried I might have done some serious damage. Sitting here half a week later though, I’m not so concerned. It was probably just a bit of inflammation of one of the tendons, due to overuse.

But now, with my longest run out of the way, it’s all about rest, recovery and tapering before the big day. The pain in my knee has completely disappeared and the crippling tightness and cramps I had in my legs on Sunday (and Monday) are now gone too.

The half-way point: Yarra River, looking west

This weekend I’ll probably do a shorter run — maybe 10-15km — and I might head out for an even shorter run later this week and in the middle of next week. I feel as if I’ve done just about as much training as I can and that anything I do beyond this point will just be to keep my fitness up and my legs used to running.

And then, on Sunday week, I’ll line up at the start of the Melbourne Marathon. I won’t have Meghan or Sarah beside me — both of them having succumbed to the pain and frustrating of injuries — but I’m hoping to draw some strength from the fact they’ll be wishing me luck, as will those that have already said they’ll come along to show their support.

I’m confident of completing the marathon. In fact, based on the pace of Saturday’s run, I’m on pace for a sub-four-hour marathon. That would be a tremendous result to cap off five-months-worth of training and pain, but a more realistic time is probably somewhere between 4:00 and 4:15.

It’s going to hurt, that’s for sure, but I’m hoping the discomfort and fatigue I’ve spoken about doesn’t visit until after the 30km mark. Better still, if I can just get within 10km of the finish before hitting that wall, I’m confident I can use my mental toughness to drag me over the line.

Bring it on.

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About Matt de Neef
Assistant Section Editor at The Conversation

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