Canberra Marathon – 2nd place, sub-230 club PB (2:29:15)

Canberra Marathon – 2nd place, sub-230 club PB (2:29:15)

Canberra Marathon – 2nd place, sub-230 club PB (2:29:15)

Unlike say Melbourne, it’s not easy to peak in April for Canberra. And yet, the reality is my 2016 campaign is downhill from now.

2016-04-10 11.04.14

Lead-up has been 6/10 and like always self-belief is the issue:

  • Mileage: peak 140km pw, regular Sunday LRs and very hit and miss speed work.
  • Taper: 10 days, no rest days with a few strides and 400s.

The thinking is to treat this as a B race.

  • Pacing: no goal time. Piggy back to 10km, trust the legs 10-42.2k.
  • Nutrition: weak stomach so no breakfast, no gels. I’d rather bonk than take a 60s pit-stop.

Hotel in Manuka to start is 2km, my planned warm-up. Call it poor navigation skills in pitch black but 4km later I emerge just in time for the 6:25am gun. Shown below from Sydney, there is myself, Robin, Nick and Ray.


I’m looking for a pacing ally. Someone to draft off…. Striders’ friend Robin Vonk at 3:41s? Not for me. Nick Roberts with his 2:37 PB? Maybe. In-form Brendan Davies confident in a low 2:30s PB? Wishful thinking.

Before I decide, we’re off and the lead car (with clock) sets out followed by what is a 4-man-train: Davies, Moyle, myself and an older bloke (Walker). Never heard of this guy. Test #1 is a climb to Parliament Hill where Davies is the alpha male. I sheepishly follow because the 3:35 split feels OK. It’s then a sub-3:30s type descent and before I know it, we pass 5km. The thin crowds are either backing Davies or Walker. I’m the Asian guy who thinks it’s a 10km race.

6km is near Telopia Park where I ignore early seeds of self-doubt. As Davies pulls us through 10km in 35:05, it’s a 3-man pack because Moyle is spotted squatting in a bush with toilet paper in the right hand.

Now we head north across the bridge onto fantastic water views. The flats offer little relief as the pace sits at low 3:30s. There’s an out-and-back at 12km where I feed off cheers from Nick and Robin, some 60s back. Next 6km is all about piggy backing two better races. There’s a series of energy sapping surges. Quite clear they don’t like my tactics.

Climb #2 at 18km is a 400m stretch. The race is thrown open when Walker surges, I follow and Davies stays put.  The lungs protest at the top and I lose 10s to Walker as he motors downhill after the hairpin. Gap starts to widen and I’m hoping that Davies is also wounded.

Half-way split 74:35. Charlie from work has warned me the back half is a field of misery.

Next up is a descent into Black Mountain Park with the Walker-Ho gap at 25s. This bit hurts as I crawl uphill after a roundabout turn. I have 15s on Davies, who to my glee looks fairly knackered. Reality check, 16km of hills to go and with that, lots of hurt. Silly idea committing to a suicidal 3:32 min/km ave pace so far.

Another few Ks and I’m holding the gap to #1 through a shady park near Canberra Zoo (31km). Now comes 6km of relentless undulations. It’s impossible to lower the heart rate without any flats. A snail split (3:43) hides a big investment in the initial 700m climb. I’ve convinced myself that 30s ahead, Walker is one hill away from breaking. Thus, every incline I attack as if it’s the last. By now things are getting ugly (wayward form, hunched shoulders, head tilted back).

We exchange stares at a 36km turn and he looks way too composed. Note – I like feeding off third party misery. First place (and $2k prize money) is a write-off.

Turf flattens allowing me to recollect the thoughts. Watch is still jammed at 3:32s which means I may be on for a PB (Gold Coast 3:33s). Lead car + orange singlet (#1) lures me around a few final bends back to Parliament. I hit 41km with 1.2km to go inside 5 minutes. Before long, I’m 400m out with Anna Fitzgerald giving me a verbal kick to finish. It’s here where I realise my form is back, cadence is high and the wheels are on. Walker breaks the tape as I attempt (and fail) to sprint down the banner-lined 300m stretch.


2:29:15. 2nd place. 3:32 min/k ave pace. 60s PB and I rejoice joining the sub 2:30 club. 1H 2H split (74:35, 74:40) is perhaps a slight negative split in disguise because 2H is nasty. Despite my hatred of the hills, this sort of course suits me. Official splits below.

ARF 2016 Split

Onto the others. I reckon Walker barely broke a sweat for his high 2:28s (he says otherwise). Per Google, he has a 2:18 PB and 3 prior Canberra titles. Davies takes out #3 after the champ was overtaken at 30km. He then fought back for a sub 2:33 PB.

In the shot below, I’m the tallest. This is a rare situation.

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Never discount the benefit of a massive HuRTS and Striders contingent. Mixed performances but great support all round. In the full, Ray (2:42) is ahead of a fading Roberts (2:43), whilst Vonk holds off a strong finishing Eoin (2:48). Taffy surprises all with 3:10 on an injured foot. Surprise of the day in my view.

The half has CT on the podium in mid 73 min and two very happy room mates in Jeet (79 and Birchy (89). Jeet’s 15s PB cost him 15 years in life expectancy. I’ve never seen such rapid aging.


Truscott is always a safe bet for a 73-type half marathon.


Glad seeing Timmy’s show form (84).


Muzza, Timmy, myself and Eoin.


Later in the day, we discovered Canberra boasts an 8.5/10 B&E roll. Wedged inside freshly baked buns is fried egg with 8 layers of bacon. Yes I count 8. The structural integrity is as compromised our calorie quota for the day.


So where to from here?

The priority is more breakfast adventures. Running wise, I’m keen for the SMH half, a few 10Ks and a ‘fun’ marathon in 2H. Maybe Melbourne.

Strava summery below. Official race results here.

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10 thoughts on “Canberra Marathon – 2nd place, sub-230 club PB (2:29:15)

  1. Richard Grundy

    Fabulous race Mike. Well done!
    I’m amazed that you had the visual and mental capacity to take in all that was going on around you. Your race report is a good read.

  2. Luke Peel

    Great report Mike and really impressive run. You looked in such control. Good to meet you after the race. I am jealous of the E&B roll, although my pot, beef burger and beer battered chips were sufficient – burger incl 2 layers of bacon 🙂

  3. Paul Bruning

    Congratulations Michael. Ro Walker is from Melbourne. Has won plenty of Marathons over the years. If you go to Melbourne he will be there so you might get pay back on him.
    Didn’t see you guys as I was crawling around in the 50k behind you.

    1. Mike Ho Post author

      Many thanks Paul. Yes I did feel better about myself when I learnt of RW’s credentials. Well done on the 50k. See you at the next big event I suppose.

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