My marathon story by Mandy Oliver

There was a point in my marathon, around 30km, where I declared to my running buddy Sally that ‘I don’t think I ever want to run again!’ ‘Ever?’ she grins, ‘Ever!’ I declared.

There was another point that I stated that I shouldn’t do a race re-cap, too embarrassing.  In fact I feel like a fraud calling myself a marathoner, I didn’t run the whole way….

After my first half in July I had decided I just wanted to enjoy running for a while, without having to ‘train’ for anything.  Then, as happens when you are in a group of motivated people, Lynda planted the seed about the Logan Running Festival. A marathon with a 9 hour cut off. Would this be the way to tick marathon off my bucket list? Surely I could make it if I walked bits, I can walk for ever, right?

I worked on the Galloway method (run/walk) as I knew I did not have time to train properly to run the whole way. A week out I was off to the physio with all sorts of issues in my legs and back, but there wasn’t time to work on what he referred to ‘all that stuff going on with your feet’….

A comment from Jackie resonated; ‘at worst you DNF, the world doesn’t end’. I knew I would not DNF.  I KNEW I could at least walk it, even if I couldn’t run the whole way.

A group of RMA’s registered, with many doing it for our first time, and a few running to help us newbie runners out. Sally would run with me (and promised to push me over the line if we were coming last), Lynda with Tarn, Justine with Suzie, and Tam with Claire and Des. We were also joined by Kellie, Hayley, Joanna and ‘CB’. We knew there would also be a lot of RMA’s doing the half and 10km, and a lot of our sisters from Hummingbird.

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Race day I was up at 3am, had a road trip with Sally and Joanna, and arrived at Berrinba. After a chat to the other RMA’s we went to grab our race bibs, and discovered that they had run out of shirts already… disappointment, this was my first marathon, I want the damn shirt!  Oh well, I’ll get the medal, and they will mail me the shirt…

RMA photo, lots of chatter, toilet queue, then line up to start. Most of us went towards the back… We took off, following others as we made our first lap of the 9 lap course. On our second lap people had spread out, and the nature of the course is that you can’t see others unless they are just in front of you.  Lots of trees, thankfully providing shade in the Queensland weather. We got to a few forks in the path, and the signage (or lack of) was not particularly helpful. At one point we discovered that we had taken one path that everyone else hadn’t… By the third loop there were more volunteers to act as marshals, thankfully, as it took us about 5 loops to remember where we were going. By the third loop they had run out of cups at the water stations (thankfully I was wearing my Camelbak), and also the wrist bands that we were meant to collect each loop. As the inaugural event, there was bound to be things to change for next year, and we weren’t there to win or anything. All cool.

We continued on with the run/walk method, adjusting the time ratio according to the hills that we knew would feel like mountains by the end. For the first 20kms we were going ok. I had absolutely no time goals, but going on previous attempts estimated 6.30 – 7’ish pace depending on when the walk came into the km. Those RMA’s and their families that had finished their runs were cheering us every loop – you ladies are wonderful! The Go RMA on the path near the tent was affectionately being called GORMA.

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We lost count of laps, but really didn’t want to focus on time.  At 21km I noted that we had done the half in 2.27. Not near my PB, but only ½ way through a marathon that I hadn’t trained for properly. We slowed a little, but continued ok until around 25km. By this time I was feeling really tight in the chest, and of course was starting to hurt all over. I stopped and used my asthma inhaler.  It actually felt like my bras were too tight and I couldn’t breathe. My feet and fingers were swelling as well. Not long after, I said ‘please don’t be alarmed, but I just felt pain up my arm…’ needless to say we walked a lot more from then on. I felt like I was going to vomit, and started avoiding my gels and Endura as everything was gurgling in my stomach and my mouth felt like I had eaten a bag of lollies. They had cups again at the drink stations and I started just having water.

Those hills were starting to turn into mountains, and we started wondering when the other RMA’s might overtake us.  

By 30km we started a game of ‘what part of my feet and legs AREN’T hurting?’ Throughout Sally was absolutely brilliant! She had promised to stick with me, and I know there were a lot of times she would have run when I walked. She kept me sane.

The laps all start to merge in my head now. Every time we tried to jog a little my toes were cramped up and it felt like I was kicking them into a brick with each step. This was shooting pains all up my legs. Down hills, even walking, hurt. I later realised that one of my toenails was ingrown and became infected and a few others were coming off… add this to the pain in my hamstring tendons that I started the run with, and I really wasn’t in a good way. Sally, who had also been to the physio during the week, was feeling her own sorts of pain.

At some point Tam, Des and Claire passed us, looking a million dollars. About a km before our last lap we realised we had already done 38km, and the course was 4.75km loops. Whilst my head didn’t want to do maths, I knew this would mean that we would do more than a full marathon. We came up to one of the staff and he suggested that we do the 3.75km inner loop for our last lap and that would make it about right. I felt relieved, as I knew the inner loop didn’t have those same darn hills! When we got past the parkrun 4km mark we became concerned that we would be short on our marathon. It’s one thing to be a fraud walking parts of the marathon, but another to not go the whole distance! So we actually turned around and walked back to that 4km parkrun mark, trying to calculate whether this would get us to 42.2km at the end. We must have looked delirious, but hey, we are honest!

So when we got to near the end, and all of the RMA’s cheered us and Lynda said ‘come on you have to run the last bit’, a) I wasn’t sure I actually could run, and b) we wanted to make sure that we made the full distance. We had agreed that if we finished and it wasn’t the full distance that we would continue walking. We hobbled that last little bit to the finish line, then everyone else was trying to hug us and give us our medals, we both just wanted to walk that extra 100 or so metres, so we did! Now I really regret not giving Sally a huge hug, crossing the line with our arms in the air etc. We must have looked really ungrateful to the other RMA’s – I sincerely apologise if we did.

5.45 (official time 5.42). Not pretty, not proud, but it’s done.

We made our way back to the RMA tent, and Suzie, who is one of the loveliest people in the world, gave me a gift, a marathon singlet. Here she was running her own first marathon, and she gave me a gift!  As for Suzie’s Dad, who brought his Winnebago for us to have an extra toilet, and took photos of RMA’s every loop for the whole 6’ish hours; I just wanted to hug him! I can’t express how grateful I am to Sally, Lynda and Tam.  

Des, Claire, Tarn, Suzie, Joanna, we can call ourselves marathoners!

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I’ve had a few short runs since, but now I’m not allowed to run until the infection clears up. Two weeks later it still hurts to put shoes on. Will I do another marathon? I have a feeling this will be a bit like child birth, on the day you swear you don’t ever want to do that again, but hey, I have two kids…

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