Exactly one year ago, on October 18, 2014, I ran the Amsterdam Marathon, which ended in slight disappointment, as I did not reach my goal of finishing within three-and-a-half hours. After settling down in Australia, I picked up running regularly again, and apart from getting into better shape, I also felt it was time for another race. As preparing for a marathon requires a lot of time, I decided to stick to the Half Marathon this time.
I used the treadmill for my first few runs in Melbourne. After six months of traveling non-stop, eating semi-unhealthy, and not running at all, I had to start at what felt step 0. My pace was quite slow, and I would be exhausted after only a few kilometers.
But, with time came progress, and in a few weeks time I felt strong enough to go outside and start running longer. Most of my runs took place around the slightly hilly Tan Track, located in the Melbourne Botanical Gardens, and around Albert Park Lake. The latter became my favorite, as it is quiet, easier to get to, and quite exposed to the elements making it challenging.
After a few runs in August I noticed pushing myself harder and harder. Last year, during Marathon training, I almost never broke the 4′30″ per kilometer pace, while now I averaged 4′15″, even on longer runs. I started to think about running a sub-90 minute Half Marathon.
But, approaching summer, temperatures in Melbourne went up, and even though I would run my long runs in the early morning, I sometimes struggled to keep the pace. Approaching race day, all I could hope for was cool and cloudy weather.
Melbourne delivered. After two weekends of record-breaking heat, Race Day morning was cool and cloudy, with little wind. Ideal conditions, and I had no excuses. Looking back at a year earlier, when I blew myself up during the Amsterdam Marathon, I was determined to do a better job this time.
I decided to try and run negative splits: start slow and end strong. I planned to run the first seven kilometers at 4′25″ each. I started a little behind the 95-minute pacer to ensure I would actually start slow. After a slow first kilometer (4′37″), I tried to get into my rhythm, which was tough as space was limited due to the amount of runners around me. After a few kilometers I noticed I was going a little too fast, but I felt good, so I decided to see how far I could ride it out. After five kilometers, I clocked 21′28″, about 30 seconds ahead of schedule.
According to my plan, after seven kilometers I would have to speed up a little. However, as I was already ahead of schedule, I figured to just keep the same pace for another seven kilometers to avoid blowing myself up.
This part of the race consisted of the loop around Albert Park Lake, where it was a little windy. I tried to take cover behind fellow runners, which worked out quite well. My next 5k split turned out to be exactly the same as the first five: 21′28″. Needless to say, I was happy with my consistency, and on top the 42′56″ 10k split was a 10k PR for me.
The last seven kilometers consist of making way from Albert Park Lake back to Melbourne. At this point, I had the 90-minute pacer in sight, but he kept about 200m ahead of me. I was getting tired, but somehow pushed myself to keep the pace. Soon, I felt great, and I noticed I was closing the gap with the pacer.
When running on the bridge over the Yarra River, about two kilometers from the finish, I overtook the pacer and never saw him back. I was able to speed up, and I knew I would make my goal. As I entered the Melbourne Cricket Ground stadium, with about 200m to go, I knew I would reach my goal, and gave it one last sprint to finish in 1h28′59″.
Thanks to pushing myself during training and the great weather, I was able to make my goal! The last 11k I ran 4′09″ per kilometer on average, even though that was supposed to be the hardest stretch. Needless to say, it felt great to take revenge on what happened a year earlier.
What’s next? I am thinking of training for another full Marathon, as I feel I can definitely break 3h30′. But first, I will try and run a sub-20 minute 5k, which I will attempt in the next few weeks.
We, Mark & Herta, are currently backpacking through Europe, and eventually planning to settle in London. Beyond that? The possibilities are endless.Read Mark & Herta’s full story.