Melbourne Marathon – Carnage on the Course!

I haven’t got around to typing about my first DNF until now. I’ve had some mixed emotions about the whole thing.

As planned, I ate as healthy as I could in the lead up to the marathon, went vegan for the couple of days beforehand and of course drank plenty of water. The day before the marathon I went to the chemist to buy some Gastrolyte in preparation for the hot weather on the day.

On the day I woke up early. Decided I didn’t need any Gastrolyte since I’d already run an ultra without electrolytes, so why would I need them today? Wore my Asics DS Racers knowing that they would mean I recover quicker. Because I got in for free courtesy of Samsung, I wore the required Team Samsung singlet, which may have become my new favourite singlet.

The race started off well. It was warm but overcast. As we ran over the start line, the speakers played Angry Anderson’s Bound For Glory. Very appropriate. Even though I knew I was probably only in 4hr 30 condition, I felt good and headed off ahead of the 4 hour bus. It was amazing seeing the fast and fit leading HMers pass us by. A girl and a guy started talking to me and we ran for about a km together. The girl was aiming for sub 4hr and the guy was in the same boat as me, hoping for sub 4 but actually injured and knew just finishing was a more realistic goal. We lost each other at a drink station.

I was conscious of drinking plenty of water early on to avoid cramps. But because it was quite hot, I was naturally more thirsty so drank much more water than I usually would. My stomach was so full from all the water but I was still so thirsty. I felt like I was running with a water balloon for a tummy. I couldn’t keep going and had to take my first walk break at around 17k. This wasn’t so bad, as I did notice people as early as 12k taking walk breaks. I kept drinking water at each drink station but I just felt that my body wasn’t absorbing it and I was just pointlessly filling my tummy with more water. Why didn’t I take that gastrolyte in the morning again?

From about the 20k point onwards, I noticed bodies strewn along the side of the road. People lying on the ground with cramps, people on stretchers, people not looking happy. The clouds had cleared and the temperature was heating up to 30 degrees. There was no shade. Just a long hot road, with the beach to one side. Oh how I wanted to just skip the run and go into the water!

The support was great on the course. Kids were handing out jelly beans and snakes, one guy was offering 100 metre piggy backs for $10, all sorts of people had come out to watch people run by.
I was taking many walk breaks and finding it difficult to run. I had no energy, and when I thought I did, I struggled to run due to my bloated tummy. Both the 4hr and 4:15 buses overtook me and I knew it would be a long hard day.

Shortly after the turnaround Duckgirl from the Tan Ultra caught up to me. J, her friend, felt nauseous and pulled out at just 15k! This was so tough. I ran with Michelle for about a km but couldn’t keep up. She told me not to drink any more water, gatorade only. She knew the signs of hypnotremia and said I should ask the St John’s Ambulance people if they had any Gastrolyte. After I let her pass I half walked and half did the “Fuck This Shuffle” for what seemed like hours. I named it the Fuck This Shuffle because I was so over it and by shuffling and making up the Fuck This Shuffle Song in my head I was able to keep moving forward while attempting to lift my spirits. I walked up to a St John’s and asked for some Gastrolyte but they didn’t have any so I kept going.

I was watching the time tick by. My lower back got quite sore and every now and then I stopped to stretch. I was mostly walking by now and decided to call it a day at the next St John’s. Well, they had their hands full with a guy lying on the ground screaming. I kept going. The kms were ticking over so slowly it was unbearable. I was at the back of the pack with many other stragglers in the same boat. Bodies lay on the side of the road, those that were walking generally had their head facing down while they focused on their own private hell. Spartans, who had run a minimum of 10 Melbourne Marathons, were mostly walking or shuffling. Some of these people were getting on in years and some had even done every single Melbourne Marathon, this being their 31st.

I was starting to get waves of dizziness. The headwind was strong and the dust caused me to cough which made me feel sick. Finally at 33k I got to the next St John’s and said I was just dehydrated and needed some salts. They had none. They gave me some oxygen, which did nothing, and some glucose which did lift my spirits a bit. They said there was a bus coming in about 10 mins or so.

I sat in the gutter with two other guys. They both had cramps in their legs. As we waited for the bus, I watched the sorry souls with their heads down pressing onwards. I was in awe of their ability to keep going in such hot conditions and in such a slow time. I just didn’t want to walk all the way to the finish in the heat with no shade while feeling terrible. Was I a wimp for dropping out? Further up the road I heard a scream and saw someone collapse. Fortunately, nearby runners caught her fall. The St John’s near us raced up to help. I heard it was “the old lady”. Shirley Young. Nearly 80, she is the only woman to have done every single Melbourne Marathon. But she was to DNF with cramps this year. Amazing.

I got on the Sag Bus. They had apples and bananas on offer, but I didn’t have any, although I knew I should have. They said that there were 4 buses driving up and down the course picking up bodies. As we drove along, we stopped at every St John’s point to see if anyone needed collecting. At one point the bus even pulled over to a limping runner to see if they were ok. We didn’t pick up any other stragglers, although I heard the driver on the radio conferring with other drivers, volunteers and St Johns’ talking about how many other people were to be picked up on the course.

We got dropped off near the MCG. As I walked closer, I could hear ACDC’s Highway To Hell being played on the speakers. Very appropriate. At this point I was feeling much better and even thinking that I could’ve kept walking, like so many others I saw on the course. But I had already made my decision. I collected my things and heard from the volunteers that they had seen people collapsing and people being taken away on stretchers as soon as they’d finished. It really was a tough one.

I called A and he was already in town. He picked me up and we went to the market. I had some hot chips with salt. Just what I needed.

My splits are:
10k 57:25
21k 1:11:34

Obviously a big slow down even that early on.

I was feeling pretty shit about the whole event but I did learn a few things. I know that I should just bloody well take the electrolytes even if I don’t think I need them. I know I am tough and strong but there is a limit. I think ultras are easier because there is no pressure to go faster. I was reminded again how great and supportive runners are. They really are good people.

To get an idea of the marathon, here are some pictures.

And now for something positive…

Yesterday I ran a Sri Chinmoy 4k with E + M. I did it in 19:07 and came 3rd in my age group and got a medal! If only there was money involved like in eistedfodds. But then I guess there would be no slow people like me getting placings 🙂
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