Can you prepare for a Marathon in 14 weeks? Our Director, Matt, is going to find out! (Part One)

In late 2020, I set myself a goal to run the second Marathon of my life in 2021. A group of friends and I decided to run the Melbourne Marathon to raise funds for the Monash Children’s Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. We wanted to support another close friend of ours who lost a niece born prematurely and spent time at the hospital. We gave ourselves plenty of time to prepare and train – just under 12 months. For those who aren’t runners, the full Marathon distance is 42.2km and can take anywhere up to 4 or 5 hours to complete, depending on fitness levels. For trivia’s sake, the world record for the distance is an astonishing 1:59:40 by Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge completed in 2019.

My first and only other Marathon was in 2016 and was as close to a complete disaster as possible. I had been playing football that year and had grossly overestimated my fitness levels. I was playing football that year and my weekends consisted of a game on a Saturday afternoon, then complete my “long” runs on a Sunday. The only other running I would do during the week was at trainings twice a week I managed to build up my long Sunday runs to the 34km mark but was always working on borrowed time. From the end of the season to race day in 2016, I had 7 weeks to prepare and knew it was always going to be a stretch.

Marathon day came, and half way into the race, I felt on top of the world. I was on track for my 4-hour time goal and felt unstoppable. My pace was on target, my lungs were feeling full and legs felt fresh.

Then the wind changed.

Little did I realise that I had been running with a tail-breeze and I was about to be confronted with the same head-wind that was going to ruin my day. It got harder immediately as I was faced with the wind, then I started cramping at the 29km mark, still with a gruelling 13km to go. My pace dropped right off and I couldn’t sustain running, or even a slow jog. I walked/limpedjogged my way home and eventually crossed the line at 4 hours and 27 minutes, almost half an hour behind my target time. While proud of the achievement of completing the distance, I was disappointed in myself that I hadn’t put in the time or hours to achieve the goal I’d set out. At the time I said I’d never run another Marathon again, but deep down I knew that I had unfinished business.

Fast forward to 2020 and our Melbourne lockdown. Like so many others, my usual exercise routine of attending a group fitness class had to change. Likewise, my only “social” outlet was exercising with one other person, and it was easier to socialise on a run as opposed to a walk because it offered some freedom from a mask.

And this was where my training began.

We were allowed out for an hour to exercise and I utilised every minute of that hour. I built my way up to a slow 10km, then closer to 12km inside my 60 minutes. I managed to keep this distance and speed fairly consistent and began feeling comfortable at that range. It was shortly after the lockdown ended that my friends and I decided to set our sights on the Melbourne Marathon 2021.

My training schedule was fairly similar to during the lockdown. I would run 3-4 x per week at varying speeds and distances but gradually increasing my long runs. In comparison to 2016, I would be smart this time. I would be planned and calculated. I would complete the necessary mobility and stretching exercises, plus seek regular physio treatment to resolve minor niggles along the way before they became significant.

Cue hiccup number one: a right-sided Achilles tendinopathy. Tendon pain is not uncommon in runners and finally I could truly empathise with my clients’ injuries that I’ve been treating for years! Unlike my last preparation, I quickly sought the attention of our Podiatrist here at Instinct Health and managed to temporarily reduce my running load, increase my strength and quickly get it to settle.

Hiccup number two: booking the wrong event in the leadup.

As I briefly touched on earlier, I would gradually build up my longer runs and I had planned to complete the Gold Coast half Marathon in July as part of my slow, gradual, calculated build up. Little did I know that in 2021, the Gold Coast running series events would changes and this year, the half Marathon would be completed on the Saturday, rather than the Sunday as it had previously been run in all other years. This wouldn’t have been a problem if I had read the fine print, and not booked flights for the Saturday, meaning I would miss the half Marathon event entirely.

So now I have the choice – change my flights and accommodation to include and extra night, or change my race booking and attempt the full Marathon in July, 14 weeks earlier than originally planned.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, I’ll be giving the full Marathon a go, and ramp up my running over the next 14 weeks. It going to be a steep build in training loads but I’ll take the learnings from my previous mistakes and see how close I can get. Hopefully at the end of this we can answer the question of how feasible it is to run a Marathon with only 14 weeks to prepare!

Oh, don’t worry, we will still be completing the Melbourne Marathon in October 2021 in support of the Monash Children’s NICU! Stay tuned for part 2 of this series where I will show you exactly what my training schedule is, and an update on my progress.

Working as an AFLW physio – what it’s really like!

Can you prepare for a Marathon in 14 weeks (part two)

Can you prepare for a Marathon in 14 weeks? Our Director, Matt, is going to find out! (Part One)