The countdown to the Canberra Marathon has started

With less than 30 days until race day, I gear-up for my biggest long run workout of the marathon block.

The countdown has officially started: there are now fewer than 30 days until the Canberra Marathon.

I’ve got a major long-run workout coming up on Sunday (which I’ll recap next week) and then it’ll almost be time to begin my taper.

I know it’s still a few weeks away, but I’m starting to get excited. I made my 42.2 km debut at the Canberra Marathon way back in April 2019, and it will be fun to tackle the course for a second time, with more training in my legs and (hopefully) more mental toughness to draw upon.

My marathon history

Before that first marathon attempt, I didn’t have a coach, and in the 8 weeks leading up to the race, I probably only ran an average of 80 km per week. I did some, non-specific training, effectively ran on my natural endurance, and I still managed to run 2:39-high and finish in the top 10.

It was a solid effort for someone without the slightest clue what they were getting themselves into. I decided then, I could probably get better if I learned a thing or two. Later that year, I signed up with my coach, Barry Keem, and began training like an athlete.

I finished 10th at the City2sSurf in August, and ran 1:08:45 at the Sydney Half Marathon in September. Then, in October 2019, I bettered my marathon time by 13 minutes in Melbourne. I ran 2:26:47 and finished 16th. It was a run that left me hungry to work harder, and go even faster.

A racing year interrupted

Before the Coronavirus outbreak, I had big marathon goals for 2020: I was planning to run Gold Coast, and then envisioned a trip back to North America to race in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October, in front of my family and friends.

But the world as we knew it flipped. Travel became impossible. Races got canned. My wife and I had a daughter. And now, it’s 2021.

It’s been nearly 18 months since I’ve run a marathon; and more than 15 months since I’ve run any road race (a 10km hit out in Shellharbour). There have been some track PBs and cross country races, but they’re a different beast; they have a different energy, and atmosphere.

There’s a lot not to love about road racing: the night-before nervousness, the way-too-early mornings, the pre-race port-a-loo stress, etc. And yet, I do love racing on the roads. And I’ve missed it.

The pandemic might have interrupted my race plans, but it didn’t hinder my 2020 training. I’ve got more than a year of solid work in the legs. I’ve become a stronger, smarter, tougher runner.

Yes, there are some aches and niggles to manage between now and April 11, but it’s par for the marathon-training course. When race day hits, I’m confident I’ll be ready to roll.

Training week at a glance

  • Total KM: 141. Another big week. This was with an off-day on Saturday to rest my foot, which is in the wars with some plantar fasciitis pain. Hopped on the bike and rower instead.
  • Longest Run: 36 km. Ran with my mate Pete who is also running the Canberra Marathon. Kept this one nice and steady through 30km with Pete, at around 4:35/km, then kicked down slightly when we parted ways,
  • Toughest run: 12km tempo run at marathon pace. I woke up on Friday morning feeling like crap. My left foot was sore, my right soleus muscle was acting up, and I was just generally tired. I messaged my coach and said I might ditch the workout, and integrate it into my Sunday long run. But then, in the evening, I mustered up some energy and got out the door. I dressed for a workout (split shorts, zoom flys, carried a gel) but had an ‘out’ in my mind. “I’ll warm up, run one km at pace, and see how I feel. If it’s shit, I’ll pull the plug,” I told myself. I eventually got going, and to my surprise, it wasn’t awful. I ran very controlled at 3:20s, and smashed the workout. I even ran an extra km at pace for good measure.
  • Biggest confidence booster: The above run was good for my confidence coming into the Canberra Marathon, and a reminder that, when-push-comes-to-shove, you can generally (temporarily) overcome aches, pains and fatigue to run hard.

Key sessions

I’ve already outlined the Friday tempo workout. The only other session from this training week was on Tuesday: I had 3 x 2km (off a lap jog) at the track, plus 5 x 400 metres (off 45s rest). The workout is here.

This was a solid hit-out. The target was 3:10/km average for the 2km efforts. I hit that bang on for effort one, and then sped-up, running 3:05-3:07 for the remainder of the workout. I then hopped-in with some of the boys where were doing 400s, and ran five laps at an average pace of 68 seconds.

I felt really good during the workout. The foot pain I’ve been experience (luckily) doesn’t bother me when I run at speed. It’s concentrated in my heel, and when I’m up on my toes, I can almost forget about it.

But afterwards… it was really in the wars. All of Tuesday afternoon I was in pain, and for the rest of the week it was pretty bad. I’ve been icing it and really trying to target the affected area with a trigger ball, which helps from a management point-of-view, but it’s not a fix.

I’ve basically come to grips with the very likely possibility I’ll be carrying this niggle into the Canberra Marathon. It’s not ideal, but I’ve run enough hard kms with it, that I’m confident I’ll be okay. The following few days will inevitably suck, but for three hours, I’ll endure.

The week ahead

This post is coming in a bit later than usual because I’ve been doing some casual teaching. It’s nice being back in schools, and having some work that takes me away from by freelancer’s desk, but it makes the schedule a bit more hectic.

With training in particular, I’ve had to be flexible. Double days suffered. I was instead knocking-out one long run, conscious that I needed to be available to help with the care of our daughter. I’ve also been feeling pretty knackered, which I think is normal for this stage of the marathon block.

The next 14 days will still have a fair bit of work involved (training-wise) but we’re nearly at that taper, where I’m hoping the body will start to feel somewhat rejuvenated.

The biggest training milestone will come this Sunday: 4 x 5km at marathon pace (so around 3:20-23/km) in a 38km long run. The efforts will be off 1km floats at 4:00/km pace, and the 7km warm-up and cool downs will be roughly the same.

Greg (who is doing 5 x 5km) and I will be trying our best to simulate race day. We’ll be setting-up a table with drinks and gels, and running a 5 km loop. It’s the biggest workout of the training block, and should be a solid indicator of where we’re at fitness-wise as we near the taper.

I’ll recap that workout next week. For now, 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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