Nick Earl – Race Report – Lake Biwa Marathon
Start (target 2:15:59 – World Champ Qualifier)
Standing behind the pacemakers on the start line next to the Big Moose (Julian Spence) with around 200 other saturating blokes on the Otsu running track thinking ‘I probably should’ve done a long run and practiced drinks in training, 42.2km is a long way’. Then I thought ‘Just don’t go off too fast and you’ll be fine’. Just before the gun, Moose says ‘This is about to get hectic’.
Gun-5km – 15:20 – 52nd place
The gun goes off and a panicky Japanese bloke gives me an almighty shove in the back and I find myself in the top 5. I thought just hang here until we’ve done the 1.5 laps of the track and then relax once we’re on the road. I felt amazing and just rolled with the front pack and went through the first k in 3:04. I just sat in the massive (70 odd people) pack and at 2.5km marathon legend Yuki Kawauchi is on my shoulder. I thought ‘Calm down Nick, what the hell are you doing?’ so I sat up and let a few guys past. I still felt amazing and just sat on the back of the huge pack and was still there at 5km. I was also thinking of everyone at home looking at the 5km split and freaking out haha!
5km – 10km – 15:43 (31:03) – 56th place
Just before the 6km mark I decided to let the pack go because I was so far ahead of my target pace of 3:12-3:13s. I turned around and there was a sizable gap to the next group, so I dropped off with a couple of Japanese runners. The first drink stop was at 6.1km, just water for me as a practise for my proper drinks later on. There were 10 personal drink tables based on the last number on your race bib. My number 137 so I’m table 7. I completely missed my drink, I didn’t even see it – good lesson! The blokes I was with were already blowing up and I found myself dropping them at around 7km. At around 8km another Japanese runner called Takuji Morimoto (62:38 HM PB) came up behind me running around 3:05 pace, which was a touch quick, but ‘Let’s go!’.
10km – 15km – 15:28 (46:31) – 54th place
Takuji was really pushing the pace and I was hanging on a bit, but I figured hanging on and running with someone at 3:05s was better than running solo at 3:10s when putting in a similar effort, so stuck with it. We went past a couple of guys dropping off the lead pack which is always a boost! The drink stop was at 11.1km and I managed to find it and grab it (Hydrolyte) without too much drama. Takuji missed his completely!
15km – 20km – 16:05 (1:02:36) – 51st place
We crossed a bridge and started heading north on the east side of the lake. There was a moderate headwind, so the going got a lot tougher. Takuji started slowing so I got to the front and we picked up another dropped runner from the disintegrating front pack, Tsuyoshi Yottsuji, who hooked on the back of us. 16.1km was the next drink stop and I found my drink again (orange SIS gel mixed with water) with a small hiccup but was ok. I was ahead but heard Takuji miss his drink again!
20km – 25km – 16:04 (1:18:40) – 50th place – Half way 1:06:07
Turnaround point boost! Drink (Hydrolyte) at 20.1km was good, spotted it early, getting the hang of this. The 2 boys behind were messing up the drinks again! Approaching the halfway point and you get a look at the packs ahead. The front group was still massive (around 30 blokes) and they went through in 64:07, though there was a lot of damage behind, so knew we’d pick up a few more! I was feeling good so was chuffed to go through in 2:12 pace and started to believe that this could be a huge run! We got the tail wind again too which was also a great boost and saw how the boys were going. Brad Milosovic was leading a pack with Moose 30 odd metres behind. I worked out about 1 minute behind me. Then I saw the other boys Tom De Canto, Reece Edwards (struggling) and Brady Threlfall looking pretty fresh but a good way back with Kiwis Daniel Jones and Aaron Pulford. This gave me confidence knowing that the boys were going well behind me so I’d have people to run with if I blew up!
25km – 30km – 16:11 (1:34:51) – 45th place
Drink stop at 26km, Takuji decided to do a surge and established a lead as I was drinking (gel and water again). Tsuyoshi and I worked together and reeled him in by 27km but the effort took its toll and the pace slowed a lot as we went back over the bridge and hit the headwind at around 28km. Tsuyoshi dropped off and Takuji was not keen to work anymore and the pace was slowing. We picked up Shuji Matsuo (61:25 HM) from ahead and he dropped behind us, but at 29km surged ahead, running sub 3 minute ks, whereas we’d dropped to 3:20 odd pace. The race was falling apart but I was still on for a great time.
30km – 35km – 16:22 (1:51:13) – 35th place
I had a quick look behind at 31km, just before the drinks stop (Hydrolyte) and saw a grey vest coming. Turned again a minute later and it was way closer. I realised it was the Big Moose when I heard the insanely loud footsteps of a chunky Aussie compared to these 50kg Japanese guys! Moose blew passed us and I thought ‘Here we go, this is the race!’ and tucked in behind. Moose was bulldosering his way through the field and was flying so I hung on. We dropped Takuji immediately because I think he got one drink in during the whole race! I was very conscious of the fact that I would get roasted if I didn’t help out so went past Moose but really struggled into the wind and could only do about 500m before the big man hit the front again.
35km – 40km – 16:25 (2:07:38) – 28th place
This is the make or break 5k in the marathon! My left hip and right calf were cramping up and I was really struggling to hang on. I knew sub 2:15 was still on but it was going to be tough and not possible if the cramp worsened! Another gel with water gave me something to look forward to at 36.1km and I think this gave me a boost as I had another crack at leading. Moose was saying ‘Keep your rhythm’ but I was in all sorts and could only do about another 500m. We caught up to Shuji and he stuck with us for a bit but then dropped back and blew past us at pace just before the 40km mark. I was on the front and Moose said ‘Go with the pace’ but there was no way that was happening as he was flying again. It was like he was doing a fartlek!
40km – 42.2km – 7:00 (2:14:38) – 25th place
Moose tried to go with Shuji. He didn’t manage it but had gapped me by about 5 meters as we turned back to running south. The last drink stop was at 40.4km but was off the racing line so I didn’t bother. I pushed to catch Moose and managed it with about 1200 to go. With 1km to go I started attacking the finish and Moose was right on my tail. We entered the stadium with 600m to go and I knew Moose had no track speed so knew I was going to beat him but really wanted to bring him home, so I eased on the gas. We were together with 400 to go but he couldn’t handle the 70s lap but we were both well under 2:15 which was fantastic! I can always knock out a fast last 400m of any race, accessing those anaerobic stores and cooking myself in the final sprint. I crossed the line 4 seconds up on Moose but I reckon him being there took about a minute off my time and I’m very grateful that he was there!! British Athletics have set the World qualifier to 2:13 instead of the 2:16 set by the IAAF, so it’s very unlikely I’m going to Doha, but Moose is a strong candidate to represent Aussie and I’m absolutely stoked for him as he an absolute beast and deserves it!!
We then watched the boys come in. My thirsty buddy Takuji unsurprisingly blew up in the last 10km to finish in 2:18:12. Tsuyoshi went past him to finish in 2:16:53 and the fartleking Shuji nailed the finish to cross the line in 2:14:27. The negative splitting Kiwi Daniel Jones was the next westerner in 2:18 followed by Irishman Thomas Frazer and my roomie (and all-round legend) Brady in 2:21 ahead of Brad Kahlefeldt and the other Aussies who had bad days at the office. Later we had a few recovery beers and sake in a bar which resemble the Cantina scene in Star Wars, but was a lot of fun!!
Thanks to Japan and Lake Biwa Marathon organisers for nailing the organisation and putting us up in a legit hotel! Thanks for all the support back in England and in Aus, it really was overwhelming!!
Target 2:15:59 – World Champ Qualifier ✓
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Slow motion sprint finish – attempted celebration – stop Garmin – nap time 😴