I ran the marathon distance for the first time in 2006 at the Melbourne Marathon. It then took me over 4 years before completing my next marathon. Then in the 3 years following my second marathon I completed road races covering the marathon distance or longer on 23 occasions. But it took me 8 years to run the Melbourne Marathon for a second time.
Back in 2006 the Melbourne Marathon followed a point-to-point route, starting 42 km south-east of Melbourne and following a fairly straight line into the city to finish just south of the city centre. Since then the route has changed to start in the sports district of Melbourne and to finish at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). The race has previously finished with a lap of the hallowed turf, but unfortunately this year would finish in the parkland just outside the ground.
I arrived at the start line in 2014 having not run further than 26 km since my previous race at the end of August, but I lined up alongside the 3-hour pace bus. When I found out that they intended to run a positive split by crossing halfway in 88:30 I decided that I would set off behind them, but expected to finish ahead.
In the early kilometres I struggled to settle into a rhythm, frequently checking my watch as I seemed to be running either too fast or too slow. It was only after looping around a section of the Melbourne Grand Prix track, and starting the descent towards the beach that I felt settled with my pace. I tend to find that I have a pretty good idea of how a marathon will unfold at around 17-18 km in, and it was at that point that I noted I was running ahead of 3-hour pace and felt comfortable that I would cross the line prior to that barrier with some time to spare. From that point on I rarely looked at my watch, and about 19 kilometres into the race I passed the 3-hour pace bus.
I enjoyed some great running under perfect blue skies with a temperature that had started cool but was gradually warming up. There was barely a breeze to note and the course was perfectly flat as it followed the coast through to the 30-km mark. I climbed away from the beach, running past a spot where in 2006 a friend of mine who had been working at a cafe there had come sprinting out (wearing work attire including apron, and temporarily ditching paying customers) in order to cheer me on.
The route gradually climbed towards the city centre before turning back away a final time in order to add a few kilometres, plus one final climb. While not a hugely challenging climb, the most notable ascent of the marathon takes runners past the 37-km marker. I started noticing how many runners I was passing as I made my way up the hill, and after cresting I decided that I would slightly pick up the pace for the final few kilometres.
I headed back towards the city centre, turned at the iconic Flinders Street Station and ran back out of the city as I crossed the finish line while facing directly towards the northern stand of the MCG. I had crossed the line three minutes ahead of the three-hour mark.