Race week: time to be grateful and tap-into trust

As race day approaches, I break down some thoughts on goals and consider all the people who have helped me to prepare for the Canberra Marathon.

Last week, I spoke about the importance of trust as I entered my taper week: the need to trust myself and my training, my coach, and my race plan for the marathon. This week, in addition to trust, I’ve been focusing on being grateful.

We’re very lucky in Australia to once again have mass participation races, and I’m incredibly grateful to the event organisers for all their work in making sure the Canberra Marathon festival can go ahead.

Racing, as we’ve learned throughout the pandemic, is a privilege. I’m grateful for the opportunity to run this week, and I’m determined to make the most of the opportunity. Coming into race day being cognisant of this gratitude is yet another way I can come in with positive mindset.

In addition to the organisers, I’m also grateful to everyone who has helped me prepare for this marathon. There’s a perception — by some — that running is an individual sport. Even I used to view it that way.

As I’ve gotten more serious about my running and training, however, I’ve learned that preparing for something as challenging and demanding as a marathon takes a team effort.

Yes, at the end of the day, I’m the one logging the miles; I’m the one putting in the time; and I’m the one out there on the course, running the race. But that’s only possible with the help of others.

A thank you to the support team

Apologies if this is a bit sappy, but I’m in a kind of contemplative, reflective mood. And if I’m being honest about my training, which is the goal with this Target 2:20 diary, it seems fitting that I acknowledge (some of) the people who have been instrumental in my marathon journey.

Regardless of what happens on race day, I will always be immensely grateful to my wife. She always believes in me, and has been incredibly supportive and generous in looking after our new daughter over the last 8 months, pulling extra babysitting shifts and fighting through sleep deprivation to allow me to train like a marathoner. She’s an absolute legend, and along with my daughter, she’s my whole world.

I’m grateful to my coach, Barry Keem, who I’ve now been working with for close to 2 years. In addition to being a friend, Barry has kept me level-headed, given my training real structure, and has always gone the extra mile to attend my races, even if that means driving several hours. I was a runner before working with Barry; under his guidance, I’ve become an athlete.

The squad and the people keeping me healthy

I’m grateful to our crew in Wollongong (and the honourary members elsewhere) who have played an absolutely huge role in this training block. Having a squad to train with at the track, and run with on those long Sundays, has been invaluable for motivation and accountability.

We’re a small but dedicated group, and we’re building a high-performance training culture in Wollongong. To see the collective improvement of all our athletes over the last calendar year has been awesome and inspiring, and I’m grateful for the friendship, camaraderie, and the opportunity to help shape that culture and work ethic.

I’m also grateful to the people who have been working hard to keep me healthy. If you’ve followed this marathon journey, you’ll be aware of the many aches, pains and niggles that have flared-up. My physiotherapists at BaiMed, Pat Weston and Pete Naseby, have been very generous with their time and wisdom, accommodating last-minute appointments, troubleshooting my often mysterious injuries, and pulling out all the stops to keep me running.

There are many more people I can — and should — thank. And hopefully, after the marathon, I’ll get the chance to do so in person. For now, let’s change gears and take a look at the last week of training.

Training week at a glance

  • Total KM: 107. A taper week, shedding about 30k from the weekly average.
  • Longest Run: 19 km. A nice run with some boys down in Bateman’s Bay. The last long run of the training block. We kept things pretty chilled-out pace wise, but still managed to get a few hills in.
  • Key sessions: On Tuesday, I ran a Deeks Quarters at the track. I wasn’t feeling very fast at my top speed in the efforts, but I was still happy with the overall time of 14:45. The goal, at the moment, isn’t to be in tip-top 5km shape; it’s to be feeling mighty comfortable at marathon pace. On Friday, I had a short sharp session: 2 x 3 km, off 1 km jog. For the efforts, I was meant to get progressively faster: 3:15s, 3:05s, 2:55s. I laced up in a new pair of New Balance RC Elites and was pretty close to nailing these splits. A solid effort for the last real session of the block.
  • Biggest confidence booster: At this stage, I’m not taking confidence away from sessions, so much as I am from mentality and how my body is recovering. I’m as fit and strong as I can be, and the confidence I’m tapping into is very much linked to how much I trust myself and my preparation.

Race day plan

Target 2:20 is pretty self-explanatory. Running a sub-2:20 marathon is an overarching goal I have set for myself — but it’s also just an arbitrary number. It’s pretty meaningless, really.

If I can run 2:20, that’s great. I’ll be thrilled — but I won’t be satisfied. I’ll continue training and trying to improve to get even faster. That’s just how I’m wired.

And if I don’t run 2:20 in Canberra, I won’t be shattered. I’m a realist, and I think it’s problematic when you set inflexible targets, or view a race as ‘all or nothing’.

Canberra isn’t a particularly fast course, nor does it typically have many runners going under 2:25. I’m going into the race with every expectation that I might be solo for the entire 42.2 km. It’s not exactly optimal for speed, and that’s okay.

Yes, I want to capitalise on the opportunity and run well in Canberra, but I’m also happy for this race to be a stepping-stone and a learning experience. Running 2:20 is in the back of my mind, but it’s not my A goal or my priority. Not at this race.

This race is about improving on the last one; lowering my personal best, and continuing to get better at the distance so I can attack 2:20 later this year in Melbourne. I still have a lot to learn, and that in itself is exciting.

If you’ve been following this journey, thanks for your continued support. I’ll be back next week with a full race recap. You can follow me on Strava. Or message me if you have any questions or tips at myles@runcreature.com. And you can help us grow RunCreature by reading and sharing our great content.

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I’m Myles Gough. I’m a distance runner, writer and teacher. I started RunCreature to tell stories about athletes, runners, and the issues that matter to our community. 

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