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A year on

Still moving well at the 12km mark.

This time a year ago, I ran the Macleay River Marathon after just two weeks training following three weeks of hiking.  I was pleased and surprised to finish in 3:24, a good kick-off in my campaign to run a sub-3 hour marathon four months later.  What a difference a year makes.

On Sunday, with not a lot of confidence, I fronted up for my second Macleay River Marathon.  This time, a sub-3 hour marathon was not on the horizon.  It was more about proving to myself that life had returned to normal after the DVT, Pulmonary Embolism and Atrial Flutter episodes of six months ago.  I was confident I had done enough training to complete a marathon, but wasn't sure how fast.  In the back of my mind was a faint hope that I would run faster than last year, but a bruised and painful heel, probably associated with my chronic right Achilles tendon injury, sobered my expectations.  I kept telling myself that finishing with some kind of dignity would be sufficient.

Not quite so smooth at 25km.

I try to resist last-minute changes to pre-race preparations, but a couple of days before the marathon I decided that my heel was bothering me sufficiently to warrant wearing more cushioned shoes - my Hokas - that I hadn't raced in before.  Not ideal, but I told myself I would regret it if my heel became very painful early in the race.  In retrospect, it's hard to know whether this was the right decision.  The race went more or less according to plan until half-way, although I never felt I was running smoothly.  I didn't watch the clock and I didn't start too fast.  Instead, I was near the back early and then gradually worked my way through the field as I warmed up.  By half-way I had caught all of the runners who I felt should finish behind me.  Competitive arrogance can be hard to restrain.

Happy to finish.

However, during the third 10km of the race, as I started to get tired, I had trouble maintaining a good rhythm.  It seemed the cushioned shoes were not sufficiently stable as my muscle fatigue grew, and worryingly, I even found it hard to maintain a straight line.  My heel was also becoming very painful.  Around 30km, I realised I needed to slow down if I was to still be running at the finish.

I plodded along, probably more than a minute per kilometre slower than I had been running, wondering how many people would catch me before the end.  I was particularly worried about Ray, a fellow 60+ runner and tough competitor, and clubmates Jacqui and Greg.  I had passed all three in the second 10km of the race.

Ray came past with nine kilometres to go, running strongly, and gave me a pat on the back, but despite my fears and my slow pace, Jacqui and Greg didn't catch me and I was pleasantly surprised to cross the line in 3:39.  Not as fast as I had hoped, but not as bad as I feared during those laborious and painful last ten kilometres.

Since the race, my heel has been very sore, and I lay in bed last night, kept awake by the pain, contemplating surgery.  I'll leave it another couple of months, but I think something will need to be done.