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Canberra Marathon and 50Km
By Sean Greenhill11 April 1999
I entered the Canberra Marathon and 50K with more than my usual trepidation. Sure, I'd finished the Six Foot Track Run five weeks before, but in the ensuing time I'd really babied my knee ligaments and only run 5 times- two of those 10K races. I'd cycled almost every day, however, and I knew I was fit, but "running fit" was another question.
The afternoon before the big race, there was held a 5K and 10K at the back of Telopea Park School, the race headquarters and start. After collecting my race number, I wandered down to watch the fun runs, and spotted Kevin Tiller on the roadside, minding his children. I greeted him and he told me Dawn was running the 10K. For the next hour, we watched Dawn tear around the local streets in 38 minutes, as Kevin and I talked (and I seemed to spend a lot of time minding his kids!). He called Guy Griffin over for a few minutes and introduced us. Guy's first reaction was to point at my shoes and remark "those really ARE size 15 feet!"
The next morning seemed to be damn cold when I got up at 5.30, but I had a quick shower and that seemd to warm me up. I jogged down to the start, met Kevin again, and just before 7am about 300 runners assembled at the start. Kevin and I were wearing red ribbons affixed to our race numbers to indicate we intended to do the extra 7.8K of the Ultra.
I'd put 4.30 on my predicted marathon time but was hoping for 4.15. Kevin took off ahead as we started, turning left and running parallel to Telopea Park in the cool crisp sunshine of morning in the National Capital. Another left turn and we were heading towards Old Parliament House to do the first of three loops that comprises the marathon course (the 50K runners did a fourth). I noticed that I was running K's in about 5.40 but feeling better than I expected. We ran past Old Parliament House, around the bunker that is New Parliament house, and back towards the start. I found myself ahead of the group that was I was in, and slowed up to get back in- I had no desire to go out fast and suffer later.
We headed back to the start/ finish at the school, passed through and back past Telopea Park again but turned right towards the suburb of Kingston. Running along Mundaring Drive, next to Lake Burley Griffin, this was the start of the second lap. I saw Kevin coming back towards me. We exchanged encouragement and kept on. We reached the turnaroud in front of the Consumer Affairs office, and, feeling strong (this was about the 15K mark) I picked up my pace and left my group behind. I ran alone past the National Art Gallery, High Court and National Science Centre.
After passing under Commonwealth Avenue, which runs north/ south through the city, the course turns along Alexandrina Drive for the next two loops, running around the edges of several bays and the only noticeable hills of the course. I fell in with an enthusiastic fellow named Rick, making his marathon debut. We reached the half marathon in two hours flat, and Rick was complaining about how cold it was in between cheering every runner coming back the other way. I was quite enjoying the morning, although Rick remarked on how heavily I was sweating. This is normal for me, and I was taking three drinks from every station to make up for it.
Kevin came back past us again, and I told Rick that he had once run 110 miles, which left him shaking his head. We turned around at Weston Park at about 23K, and I hit my first bad patch, my legs stiffening up heavily. A number of bouncing strides to loosen them didn't seem to work, so I drifted back and let Rick go until I got my act together. Approaching the hills again, a big man from the group I was with in the first few Ks drew up. It turned out his name was Malcolm and he worked for race sponsors New Balance. We crested the hills together and I felt a bit better. Malcolm was recording the split of every K with his watch and the last one was 6.10. The next one was better, 5.42. I struck out and left Malcolm to run alone again. Back past the High Court and out onto Mundaring Drive again at the 31K mark. At the turnaround, one of the women at the aid station told me I had sexy legs and I picked up the speed again- whether it was just a good patch, or her encouragement, I'm not sure! It was my best part of the race and I felt strong. I reeled Rick in again and we ran for a while before he took off.
The second time this loop is run, it turns around considerably earlier. I saw Kevin again and he was frowning. "How are you feeling, Kevin?" I called. "Just going to coast in from here", he replied. At the turnaround, I realised I wasn't that far behind him now, although I wasn't going very fast. Back past the Gallery etc again, through Bowen Park, watching the kilometre markers slowly reel past. A right turn along Telopea Park, the 41K marker, then another right turn towards the marathon finish. I glanced at the clock and it read 4.10. Kevin was standing on the sidelines, I saw, clapping and shouting "Keep going Sean, keep going!" I passed the finish in 4.11 and was directed through a gate, ran around the back of the school and out past Telopea Park again for the 50K loop. Right away I felt bad and shuffled along very slowly. I was directed to a bike path along the shore of Lake Burley Griffin, for another out and back of 7.8K.
Hearing footsteps, I saw a runner pass me. "Are you racing mate?" "No, I'm just out for a jog!" he replied. He ran with me and we started to talk. His name was Jim, and he worked for the Defence Department. I asked him if he'd run with me for a few K's- I was in a bad state of mind. "No WAY am I going to walk this race, Jim!" I declared.
These seemed to be the slowest 8Ks I had ever run, and Jim and I talked constantly about anything but running to keep my mind off it. Family, work, career, we got to know each other very well. We reached the end of the bike path and were directed back along Telopea Park again, past the 49K sign, and Jim noted this was the fastest we'd gone together, though it certainly wasn;t very fast per se. Along the final drive, he stepped off the road and waved me goodbye, and I ran to the finish alone in 5.05 for the 50 kilometres.
I was stoked, I'd covered the 50K for the first official time, and set a road marathon PB (sure it was only my second road marathon) whilst running the whole thing. The weather was perfect for a fast run. Kevin and Dawn walked over with Jazmin and Chelsea, and we talked for a while before I headed for the showers- walking very slowly and stiffly. It turned out Kevin had finished the 'thon only 6 or 7 minutes ahead of me. "At that last turnaround, I saw you were coming!" he declared. "The closest I'll ever come to beating you," I laughed.
Kudos for Dave Cundy and his team of race officials. A fast scenic course with enough aid stations that you can do the 50K without your own supplies, it sets a high standard for next year's Olympic Marathon, which he will be Directing instead. I'll be back in 2001.
Sean has also written the following articles that are published on CoolRunning Australia :
Canberra Marathon and 50km Official Web Page + results