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Racing injured

Two Peoples Bay, near where I stayed when I ran the
Albany Marathon in 1981
My right Achilles tendon and arch were both quite sore this morning, but that was to be expected after a long run, so I wasn't too worried.  In late morning I headed out in the warmth and sunshine for a 5km walk round Copa, taking care not to force the stiff and sore Achilles.  I felt quite flat after the rigours of yesterday's run and a late night (Terrigal Trotters Annual General Meeting).  My chest was still congested and I was glad a run wasn't scheduled for today.

I still intend to run the regular Six at Six tomorrow night and the 25km Woodford to Glenbrook trail race on Sunday, but it's hard to believe I'm going to run well in either.  I'm in the "stick to the plan and it will all work out" mode, which has generally served me well in the past, but not always.

Near the half-way point of the Albany Marathon course
Running injured is never much fun.  Non-runners often do not appreciate how frequently injuries afflict runners or how hard it can be to produce your best.  Back in 1981, I received an invitation to run in the Albany Marathon in Western Australia, with all expenses paid.  It was shortly after running second in the 1981 Big M Melbourne Marathon in 2:19:29, and I'm sure the organisers thought I would back up a month later with another sub-2:20, and a new course record in Albany.  Unknown to them, I had been carrying a serious Achilles tendon injury for some time and was already booked in for surgery four days after their race.  However, with the help of anti-inflammatories, I was still running, and was reluctant to pass up the chance of a free trip to the West.  I told them I couldn't guarantee anything faster than about 2:25 in a small race on an unknown course, and neglected to mention the upcoming surgery.

They organized the tickets and I travelled to Albany two days before the race, staying in a lovely guest house on a bay to the east of town.  My Achilles was very sore and I hadn't run further than 16km in three weeks.  Then, to my consternation, I developed a blister on a short training run, and through changing my gait, ended up with a painful locked muscle on the outside of my left shin.  I was having trouble walking, let alone running, but didn't feel I could, or should, say anything about my problems to the organisers.  I just hoped that I could win the event with a minimum of fuss, even if my time was slower than predicted.

My Race Certificate for the Albany Marathon
The day of the race was cool, overcast and blustery, and I was taken aback to find Dave Eltringham, a well-performed marathoner I knew from Melbourne, in the line-up.  He was a native of nearby Esperance and was home on vacation and to run the marathon.  I was starting to feel a lot of pressure.  When the gun fired, I quickly went to the lead at a solid clip, hoping any contenders (i.e., Dave) would give up early.  I was soon on my own, and after about 10km, relaxed the pace a little.  My Achilles hurt, my locked muscle was painful, I was having trouble running smoothly, and I just wanted it to all be over.

I reached the half-way point in exactly 1:12:30, and glanced over my shoulder, hoping nobody would be in sight.  Dave was a good runner, but with a best of just under 2:30, I hoped he would not be in contention at that pace in a minor marathon.  Alarmingly, he was less than 100 metres behind, obviously having a great run, and with me squarely in his sights.  I was not going to be able to coast the last half and tried to lift my tempo a little.  It was very hard work, made harder by some violent cold rain squalls and fierce winds in the last 10km.  The finish finally came into sight and I collapsed across the line in exactly 2:25:05, drenched, absolutely exhausted and in a lot of pain from my injuries.  Dave followed a minute or so later in a new Personal Best time.

The organizer commented that my time matched my pre-trip prediction almost exactly and that my two halves were perfectly even.  I could tell he thought it was just a "milk run" for me, where I had taken it as easily as I could whilst meeting my commitment.  In reality, it was one of the hardest races I ever ran, and one of those of which I am most proud.