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Monday 07 July 2003
Not the results from Gold Coast Marathon

Results from the Gold Coast Marathon are not yet published so we thought the following extract from "Dr. Sheehan on Running" might be of interest in the meantime.

If you don't know the name, the late George Sheehan was a GP in the States who decided to run at about the time many of us have that mid-life identity crisis. He'd been a runner at college but after graduating, work, family and life in general took over. As a runner he set a US and world age record in the mile and two mile events and ran competively right up to the marathon distance where his favourite was Boston. But importantly for runners everywhere, he also started writing about his experiences as a runner in a regular column in "Runner's World" and other publications.

He also wrote books including the one above, and the following extract struck a chord after the GCM yesterday. No one could complain about the weather, conditions, humidity, crowd or organisation at the Gold Coast; as always they were superb. But we wonder, as George did, whether the course itself is the main hazard here as well. Read on...

"Why would anyone run more than one [marathon]? It's a good question, especially if the marathon is in Atlantic City. In weather, crowds, course and coverage, the Atlantic City/Road Runners Club marathon is strictly Class D compared to Boston. At Atlantic City, the competitors outnumber the crowd. The temperature is usually out of good running range and the humidity excessive. But the course is the main hazard.

"To the first-timer at Atlantic City, it appears to be the place to run your personal best marathon. I doubt if there is a grade of more than one foot [30cms] on the entire route. You go out and back three times - which gives you three chances to stop right where the sweatsuits and blankets and hot showers are. On an out-and-back course, when you hit the turn at a little over 13 miles [21.1klms] you feel at least relieved that you're heading home. And at Boston every step is taking you closer to the finish. But leaving friends and warmth and comfort at the 17 mile [27.35klms] and starting out again is often more than a non-masochist can stand.

"Atlantic City may look easy, but it never is. Those who came to break three hours, or 3 1/2, or four all find that levelling the course is no panacea. The pain and agony are built into the 26 miles [42.2klms], not the terrain.

"This pain and agony is sometimes expected and accepted. Ron Hill says, "The fear of running a long race can come from the fact that you know it's going to be physically painful. And unless you are a masochist, nobody likes pain. And if you dwell on this, it can make you nervous." According to Hill, he can talk about where the pain is going to come and how distressing it's going to be without actually "thinking that it's the guy who's speaking who will be in that position."

"But it also is a pain that is sometimes forgotten, like the pains of childbirth. So a runner moving surely and confidently in those final miles reaches the 21 mile [33.8klms] and suddenly the pain is there. And for the first time he remembers how terrible it was the last time, and how terrible it's going to be now and in the forever that is the race.

"Sooner or later, he will think about running the marathon again. Not, perhaps, slumped in the locker room, or on his hands and knees taking a shower, or even on the long painful ride home, but sooner or later. The perfect marathon is like the perfect wave, and every marathoner keeps looking for it. On that day, he will run his best pace all the way, and when he comes to the 21 mile [33.8klms] mark he will feel as if he just started and what he has gone through was just a warmup. Then he will float through those last six miles [9.6klms], strong and full of running. And even when he finishes he will feel like running and running and running."
"Dr Sheehan on Running" by George Sheehan, M.D., Bantam Book/World Publications 1975

Here's hoping for that "perfect wave" on the Gold Coast next year. Cheers!


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