The Melbourne Marathon Experience (Part 1 of 3)
As many of you know earlier this year I completed the 2009 Melbourne Marathon. This was a great experience for me and I would like to share the experience with you in the hope that maybe you can find a hobby that improves your health and quality of life for you. Why not start today and try walking or running for yourself. I certainly welcome you to join us for this year’s Rock-N-River race in Reno, NV (check back for more info on this as the date gets closer). So without further delay, here is my personal experience running the 2009 Melbourne Marathon.
The race started easily enough. Both the crowd and race announcer seemed to be very low-key compared to my experiences at races in the USA. There were about 4,000 runners in all, and I worked my up to near the front. When I saw the 3:40 pacer I hoped to latch on to him to keep my pace goal. He was a squat man, probably in his late forties. El Conejo, I’d call my pacer. I’ll need to stick with him and not let him scurry too far past me. The weather was cool, but very tolerable. I discarded my thermal race blanket and had wisely chosen to leave my gloves and cold-weather gear behind. I pressed play on my iPod and tapped my toes as The Fray played warmly in my earphones.
I was never a runner until nearly age 40. What I now experienced while running as reverent and calming, back then I’d found monotonous and unsettling. Career changes, a divorce, raising two kids, and perhaps the benefit of some years digesting the horrors of 110-hr-a-week surgical residency left me at forty both contemplative and restless, each quality now strangely satisfied with long distance running. But was I really a marathon runner? I’d been shy to tell people I was running races, embarrassed I might be discovered as a pretender. It was only the kids that allowed me to publicize my running, the overweight ones I work with in my practice and with the KidsFirst! Obesity Prevention Foundation.
At the start I felt fresh and energetic, buoyed by the crowd and the energy of the runners around me and the bright moon overhead. Despite traveling for the past three days, I had little sense of jet lag. I’d flown Wednesday from my home in Reno, Nevada to Chicago to speak at a conference on outpatient weight-loss surgery. I’d been able to sneak in one last training run, an easy paced seven miles along the cool Lake Michigan shore. I believe I mentioned my last minute training day in an earlier blog post. Online, the weather in Melbourne looked only marginally better, with a chance of rain. Then Thursday and Friday were spent in the air and at connecting terminals en route to Melbourne, Australia. Additionaly, due to the peculiar phenomenon that is modern time zone travel, an entire day evaporated somewhere. So, after a restless single night of sleep, I found myself awakening at five AM to journey to the starting line.
After the horn sounded, the pace scurrying along Batman Avenue seemed fast, but I had left my Garmin GPS device at home so I did not know how fast. I’ve been having some trouble with my Garmin Forerunner 405 failing to charge when I leave it on the charger overnight, plus, my fear of experiencing trouble with the satellite resets in the southern hemisphere that others have experienced led me to leave it behind. Unfortunately, what I did not know was that in Melbourne, although the race route was magnificently marked and laid out, there were no clocks or timing displays anywhere on the course! This meant that my only source of information was the pace runners, whose flags were not especially visible until you came very close. And El Conejo was particularly hard to spot until you were right on his heels.
I found the athletes around me very inspiring. Many were running for causes, like I am to raise awareness of childhood obesity and fight to prevent it. Many were overcoming disabilities and courageously competing. And many were running well despite stocky builds and wheezing lungs. I thought of all these kids back home with already-huge weight problems. Could they ever overcome the disadvantages of lousy family nutrition education, fast food as school lunch, irresistible TV shows and computer games, predatory food advertising, and simple inertia and ever get out here one day? I looked around me and thought what a long road back to heath it will be for most of those kids. For many, the challenge is already sadly insurmountable.
At 8K I passed the Irishman, a man in his sixties wearing a Shamrock shirt and huffing like the 3 pack a day smoker he used to be. By the look on his face, he was already doing battle with the monster, that grizzly beast of whole-body pain, air-hunger, and muscle fatigue that makes you question why you have chosen to spend a Sunday morning doing anything this life-threatening. So far so good for me, no monster yet and I was hoping it would stay that way.