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1981 Melbourne Marathon

The lead bunch in the 1981 Melbourne Marathon at
about 5km.  I'm on the left and eventual winner, Andrew
Lloyd, is in the centre wearing the hat.
I ran a very gentle 5km this morning, telling myself that I was feeling fresh and in good form for Sunday's Melbourne Marathon.  It was very slow, but none of my chronic injuries were very painful, so that was a good sign.  Later I travelled into the city to pick up my race pack from the Runner's Expo and chatted with some friends I met there, before lunching with the son of a friend who will be running his debut marathon on Sunday.  All of these little events and meetings help build the anticipation for Sunday's run and are part of the marathon experience.  We're all wondering how things will turn out on the day, and just want to get running.

In yesterday's blog I wrote about how much the Melbourne Marathon was a part of my earlier running life and about my experience in the first Melbourne Marathon in 1978.

The leading bunch at around 5km of the
1981 Melbourne Marathon with me in
the foreground
By the time I ran the 1981 Melbourne "Big M" Marathon, I was recognised as an experienced marathon runner and a podium prospect in the races I ran.  I had also dealt with some career-threatening injuries, particularly a serious lower back problem, and was never sure I would make it to the start line of any particular event.  Another injury, to my left Achilles tendon, was serious enough to warrant anti-inflammatories and I was scheduled for surgery a month after the race.

My success in the 1978 "Big M", and subsequent personal best of 2:19 in the 1979 Victorian Marathon Championship, had also attracted a minor level of sponsorship with Brooks Shoes.  There was no money involved, but they supplied me with shoes and running clothing and I agreed to wear their running attire at certain events.  This was the case for the 1981 "Big M", and they had supplied me with their latest and greatest marathon running shoe a month before the event.  I wore them in lead-up long runs, including the week before the marathon on forestry roads from our weekend shack in the mountains about an hour east of Melbourne.  When I returned from that last long training run, while still wearing my running gear, I decided to cut up a fallen tree on our property before showering.  A log slipped as I was cutting and knocked the chainsaw down to my left foot where it neatly sliced through the top of one of my new shoes, but incredibly didn't draw any blood.  This is one of several occasions in my life where, but for some good fortune, serious injury or worse would have been incurred.  I had to sheepishly call the Brooks rep, explain my mishap, and request a replacement pair of shoes, which he supplied.

Around the 15km mark of the 1981 Melbourne Marathon,
Andrew Lloyd and I began to get away from the field
The race itself had a good field, including two-time winner, Andy Lloyd from Sydney, known throughout Australia as the "Fun Run King".  Andy later won the City to Surf Fun Run four times and represented Australia on the track, winning a Gold Medal in the 5000m at the 1990 Commonwealth Games (worth watching on Youtube).  He was a superbly talented and versatile runner who was probably wasting his time on the marathon at this early stage of his career.  Anyway, the pace was solid and steady from the start at about 16:00 per 5km, and a large bunch gradually thinned out until around half way, it was down to just Andy Lloyd and me.  After I had shadowed him for a while, he tired of my presence and began to throw in some surges, running faster for a few hundred metres and then backing off.  After a few of these, it had the desired effect and I dropped off as well.  With about 6km to go, his lead had stretched to about two and a half minutes, even though I was still running reasonably well.  At this point there was a slow climb on the course (Fitzroy Street) before a seemingly endless long finishing straight along the broad and tree-lined St Kilda Road.  The climb must have taken its toll on Andy because when I turned into St Kilda Road, I could see him and the lead car ahead and began making some ground on him.

Nearing the finish of the 1981 Melbourne Marathon
(2nd, 2:19:30)
My club, Kew-Camberwell, traditionally manned the 40km feeding station for the "Big M" Marathons, and one of the thrills of my life remains running through a tunnel of my screaming club-mates as I closed in on the tiring Andy.  Alas, I left my run too late and finished 27 seconds behind him in 2:19:30.

The postscript to this story is that Andy turned down the winner's prize of an all expenses paid trip to run in the 1982 Boston Marathon, and it was passed to me.  He had been the two previous years and apparently didn't feel the need to go again.  It was very generous of him to let me have the trip, and I took extra pleasure in watching his accomplishments in subsequent years.