Couch to marathon: mission completed

Gold Coast Marathon medal, 2012

A little while ago I wrote a post called Couch to marathon; or better living through gadgetry. It told the story of my purchase of a fitness gadget called the Fitbit, and, while out exercising one day, of an impetuous decision to enter a marathon upon seeing an advertisement for said marathon. To make sure I went through with it, I told everybody about it.

The Fitbit purchase was in late January, and the impetuous decision was in mid-February. The good news is, on July 1, I finished the Gold Coast Marathon, and beat the cutoff time. They were my goals for the event. With more training and a higher initial fitness level the goals would have been loftier, but I was mindful of the possible dangers of pushing myself too hard. This was driven home on race day, seeing entrants being treated by ambulances and first aid staff. I’d done triathlons in the late 1980s, the City to Surf intermittently from the late 70s to late 80s, and the first Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon in 1992. But since all that, study, work, injury and atrophy had taken hold. So, I was sensible about my current limitations.

As it turns out, aerobically I was in good shape. What let me down on the race day was what let me down on my 30 kilometre training days – my feet. Even with a pair of $40 Thorlo socks, and a pair of high-end, properly-fitted ASICS running shoes, by the time I hit the 30 kilometre mark my feet felt like they’d been avenged and tenderised by Thor himself. The race was a little over a month ago, and my feet are only now returning to normal. Indeed, for the first two weeks post-race I had the movement ability of an 80-year-old man. When/if I do another marathon, I’ll be looking to have them professionally strapped.

Enough about me and my athletic self-abuse. Let’s talk gadgets. Along for the ride in my pocket, was of course my Fitbit. This little piece of plastic and I completed over 53,000 steps on July 1. Indeed, since late January, the Fitbit and I have taken more than 2.3 million steps together. The only disappointing aspect of the Fitbit was that I found out that it caps its reward of an achievement badge at 40,000 steps on any one day. Small thing, but hell, if you’re going to drive people to goal-oriented behaviour, don’t neglect big achievements!

On my wrist, was the Nike+ SportWatch GPS Powered by TomTom. There’ll be a review to follow on this gadget, but I was pretty happy with its performance. Not exactly stylish, but then I didn’t have it for reasons of fashion. Its accuracy was spot-on, and it was fun to synch the watch to my computer and see the route and stats displayed post-race . My only issue with the Nike+ SportWatch was its capriciousness in its initial acquisition of a GPS signal.

Observations of the day…

  • The leading runners run the race fast! By the time we passed each other at Broadbeach they had run a little over half the distance, and they were damn near sprinting.
  • People running a marathon dressed in animal suits and the like. I’m torn between big respect, and the thought that perhaps they should be certified with madness of some description.
  • The crowd lining the route were brilliant. Whether you were up the front or back where I was, they were incredibly encouraging, and respected the commitment shown by the runners. Particularly the little kids. It’s no lie at all that the encouragement from the side helped me make the finish.
  • If you complete such an event, be prepared to be overwhelmed with emotion as you approach the finish. Particularly if you have family there. Just sayin’…

Scott running the Gold Coast Marathon, 2012Will I do another marathon? In the days after the event, I would have said no. More than that, I would have said HELL NO! With a few swear words thrown in. I mean it took me three goes after the race to walk up and over a 10-centimetre high median strip. But then a couple of weeks after the race I opened up my race kit, and looked at dates for future marathons. So we’ll see. But then this was always more about the training for the event rather than the event itself. I dropped 9 kilograms. I’m fitting into pants that I’ve not been about to wear since my uni days in the mid- to late-90s. Of course I can’t wear them out anywhere, unless there some sort of fancy dress party with a grunge or skater boy theme.

Marathon ticked off, and I’m about to start some sprint training, to change things up, workout more intensely, and give my feet a break. Other options are entering a long distance cycling event, or turning back the years and swim training again.

One thing is for certain. The couch and I? We’re seeing other people.