Return of the Mike

Pre race view
Pre race view

I recently ran my third marathon at Gold Coast after doing Auckland in 2011 and Sydney in 2013. So this is my third in a trilogy of marathon race reports, although like Star Wars I may keep adding! I am actually very grateful that Mike encouraged me to write race reports after the last two as they have been useful resource that I have looked back over when preparing for this one.

Over this summer I was doing plenty of exercise, but long runs were placed by a ride on Sunday and I entered mainly triathlons. From around the end of March I had my eye on Gold Coast as the main goal and with tri season finished I was all running all the time.

I have never followed a program for a marathon and didn’t this time either, but I was probably slightly more organised in that I kept an eye on the number of the weeks to the race and tried to think ahead about my key runs. During this time I entered a few races – a half marathon in Canberra in April, where I was surprised and happy to beat my PB from last year’s Auckland half and get home feeling good in 1.16.58. Given that I had not done too many long runs at this point it was a good sign. I then ran a very rugged 45km trail race in Blue Mountains a couple of weeks later which I think was good for my strength and endurance.

Moving towards the marathon I tried to be more specific so unfortunately did less trail running and a few more flat long runs in preparation for the flat GC course. I tried to mix in some hard long runs with fast efforts in them with some standard time on feet runs. I also joined a training squad which does intervals in Centennial Park and tried to get along most Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I think this was a good move as I don’t have the motivation to run interval or hill repeats by myself, so I think this topped me off nicely and I even enjoyed it most of the time.

The main thing with the buildup was that I was really enjoying running, so it was never a chore and I was excited about GC. I had pretty consistent mileage of around 80-90km a week although I did do one 115km week towards the end of the build and then a careful taper which was hard mentally.

Going into the race I was pretty confident I was in better shape than last year when I an 2.54 at Sydney, and Gold Coast is a flatter course so that would help as well. I kicked around a lot of pacing ideas and even hit up guru Mike for advice. Eventually I decided to keep the pace under 4.00 min kms but not faster than 3.55 min kms for the first 32km and then run by feel from there. My thoughts were that with a slight slowdown I’d give myself a buffer to get under 2.50 which was my main goal.

Accidntal photo of my leg
Accidental photo of my leg

I lined up at the start for the race and didn’t bother doing any warming up. This wasn’t a conscious policy, but I just felt like sitting on the kerb instead and I figured the start would be chilled out enough that I could warm into the race itself. I was little bit tight in my shins once we got going, but did eventually warm up. It was hard holding back at the start as a lot of people passed me but I kept my eye on the garmin and kept the pace under control. It was a nice cool morning and I felt reasonably easy and was stoked to see Annabelle outside our holiday apartment at 5k and then Mike H surprisingly down in Burleigh just before and after the 15k turn around. Even after 15km I was starting to move through the pack, although I was careful not to get too excited. I went past the halfway at just 1.23. I cruised back through Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise and drew some encouragement from a guy trying to stick with me who was breathing very hard while I felt comfortable. I also saw Annabelle again and my Dad on a hilarious electric scooter which made me laugh. I was looking forward to 32km and the chance to stop looking at my watch, and was gently increasing my pace but I was also mindful that there was still a lot of distance left and plenty that could go wrong.

On the way out - feeling good feeling fine
On the way out – feeling good feeling fine
On the way back, feeling fine feeling good
On the way back, feeling fine feeling good

At 30 – 32k you pass over a bridge and back into Southport and past the start/finish line. There was a small uphill and then on the downhill I let off the handbrake and sped up. I was really pushing along now, but still felt in control and like I had a teensy bit in reserve. It felt a bit weird not to be suffering at this point in the race. I was running 3.40 min kms and passing people like they were standing still, but was almost a bit miffed that I felt like I was on a training run. I got to the 37km turn around and then it was just a 5k home and I thought of how many 5ks I have done. I felt really strong so kept pushing and saw my friend Kieran at 40km which gave me a lift. The last two kms were the only ones where I felt like I really had to put in effort to keep my pace up and I slowed slightly, but the crowd was amazing and I was pretty excited. Down the finish chute I saw my Dad and then pushed for the line. I was stoked to cross it before it ticked over to 2.43 and still couldn’t believe that I had managed to avoid the marathon wall and run the whole race feeling strong. I’m still smiling about it now.


I really enjoyed the weekend in Gold Coast and had great weather. In terms of what went well for the race I think I was as fit as I’ve ever been with volume, quality and consistency of training –and the good thing was that I enjoyed it all. Running is pretty awesome sport in that generally if you train more you run faster. I also carb loaded pretty intensively, which felt disgusting at the time as I shovelled in chips, bread rolls, Gatorade, juice, lollies, fruit, pizza and pasta, and normally I am a carb fiend. I also learned from the marathon last year and got my gel in a bit earlier at 10, 20 and 30k and I think I was able to absorb them better because my body was still feeling good and wasn’t under stress. Finally, I think because it was such a flat course there was no danger of my legs cramping because there weren’t any real downhills to thrash. In retrospect I think blitzing the downhill in Sydney last year probably caused me to seize up. Like last year I don’t think I’ve quite reached the end of my marathon improvement curve – but one marathon a year is enough, so will have to plan for 2015.


6 thoughts on “Return of the Mike

  1. Sublime effort Mike. Well done.
    A couple of Qs:
    How did you know what pace to run the first 32? It looks like you hit the nail on the head with your strategy, so I would love to know your method.
    Also how many runs over 2hrs/3hrs in your buildup?

  2. Thanks dudes! Mike, counting back through strava I did 9 x 2hour+ runs and then two more runs over three hours (one was Mt Solitary Ultra and the other was a training run on Mt Sol)

    Mostly I picked my pace because it seemed like if I could keep it up I’d lop a good chunk off my PB, but I hoped I wasn’t being too aggressive because I was well behind what the McMillan calculator predicted off my shorter times .

    Given how much I was able to pick it up I wonder if I was a little conservative, but I think ultimately it was a good strategy in terms of minimising risk of blowing up but also setting myself up for a fast finish if I was having a good day.

  3. Thanks Mike. Ok, so you based your target pace on a conservative interpretation of McMillan calculator. What were your ‘shorter times’ in the few months or so before the race? Your 1:16 half aside, Im interested in what they were and what McMillan predicted. One of the reasons I’m so impressed with your run is that you shot the moon in terms of 1) consistent pacing (with a neg split of <5min), 2) feeling good during a race 3) feeling good while setting a massive PB. I reckon that part of the success was in a very well set target time, which is something we all need to learn to do. Good on ya!

  4. Yeah I guess my method was to basically chuck a whole heap of information in a pot, stir it up, then pull out a number. Things I took into consideration were:
    – Last years result of 2.54 and my knowledge of the training I had done for that and how fit I felt then versus the training for this one (longer build-up, more consistency, plus year on year improvement)
    – Expectation that GC is a naturally faster course than Sydney
    – HM result of 1.16:58 in Canberra and my feeling that even if Canberra was an exceptional race I was at least in 1.18 shape (which i ran in Auckland in 2013 – although i threw out a pretty disastorous 1.26 that I ran in May as I had issues in that race).
    – I ran 16.52 for 5k on the hilly St Peters Parkrun course 2 weeks out from the race and had run 16.50 on the flat melbourne course
    – 36 minute 10k the week after Mt Solitary Ultra
    – Really good final long run where i ran 36k at 4.10 pace with the last 8k being a push where I was running around 3.50s
    – Looking at results of other people I have run against
    – McMillan predicted 2.41 based on my half time, and 2.43 based on my 5k times and last years half time. McMillan calculator is really good resource, but I figure its best treating it carefully as I think there can be a lag in performance depending on how you’re trained. Turns out it was pretty on the mark – but i always saw those calculations as potential rather than a sensible goal, so set a time slower, but that i’d still be stoked with (anything under 2.50).
    – 4.00 pace being a nice round number – originally i was thinking i’d try to stick to 4.00 pace exactly, but i was feeling so good that a few weeks before i changed to thinking i’d try to keep the pace just under 4.00 without getting carried away. My gut feeling was that I could run around 4.00 min ks without pushing past aerobic, but once it got much faster i get really close to the edge.

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