A physically, not mentally, sore loser.

A lot of things in life are often referred to as being a marathon; school, work, even life itself. In fact more than one scribe, in searching for padding for their requisite column inches, during Grand Final week, called the AFL season a Marathon.

For the purposes of full disclosure, I’ll come straight out and admit/reveal that I am Collingwood supporter. And that yesterday, along with 5999 other insane people, I ran the Melbourne Marathon.

Having closely watched the 2011 AFL season, and a mere 8 days after watching my team fall (contextually) heartbreakingly close to winning a second Premiership in as many years, I feel like I’m in a pretty good position to call bullshit on this tired, lazy analogy.

Are we saying that the AFL season takes a long time, a lot of effort and you need mental and physical toughness to get through it? If so, then surely a more accurate analogy would be that an AFL season is like giving birth. Because at least there’s a wonderful prize at the end of it.

Or maybe an AFL season is like playing Street Fighter 2. You get one shot, it gets harder as you go along, and if you don’t use the right moves at the right time you’ll get crushed by a big Russian guy or torched by a Yoga-flame.

Or maybe an AFL season is like an AFL season. You get a bunch of teams pitted against each other at least once. There are teams that are favoured and teams that are hardly one by. At the end of the regular season, there’s a finals series which is played out until we find a winner. That is nothing like a marathon. It’s the 4×400 relay at best. This season Collingwood had two byes and a week off before the Prelim. Do you have any idea what I would have given to have three one-week holidays during the marathon? Lookshury!

Yesterday was my second attempt at the full distance. I wasn’t going for back to back, but I had a modicum of confidence going in as I knew I’d made it before and I’d done the requisite amount of training to get me to the line. I’d even eschewed alcohol for the previous seven days. In fact, I can almost remember my last drink. It was polished off while watching the Geelong players get their premiership medals. It didn’t stay down long, and I was passed out in bed within the half-hour.

If the last few kilometers of a marathon are a full body pain, the first few kilometers are just a pain in the posterior. You’re cramped for room, it’s stop start and it’s impossible to get any sort of rhythm. I set out a pace that felt comfortable but in reality was far too fast.

When I ran past my family support crew at the 26 km mark, they told me I was looking strong. I wasn’t feeling it. With a quarter to go, I was spent. I had niggling injuries. My feet were screaming and when I figured out that I’d miss my goal time by a minute or two it was a struggle to keep my heart in it.

I still managed a PB by about 5 minutes, and I got the same medal as the guy who finished fourth, but I’m not as happy as I thought I’d be. The fire still burns and while I said ‘never again’ a thousand times during training, in the words of the Pies’ departing coach ‘Never say never’.

I’d like to think the Collingwood players can see the positives of their performance over the last twelve months. And while I hope they’re disappointed that they too ran out of puff in the final quarter, they were in all honesty beaten by a bunch of Kenyans. And seriously, you can’t be too pissed off about that.




  1. Kenyans with everready batteries that seem to go on and on and on. They’re already talking about next year. (the Cats that is). Hope you enjoy the after marathon recovery

    Good read


  2. Thanks Yvette. Just returned from the opposite of carbo-loading. A steak sandwich and pint at the Southern Cross. Legs feel like rice cakes and chewing on aluminium foil.

  3. Alovesupreme says

    If you managed a 5 minute PB improvement, you’re entitled to fea sense of accomplishment, irrespective of your prior hopes/expectations. Two, three, four or more hours on the road certainly offers a lot of time for reflection, and we learn a good deal about ourselves in the process. You’ll feel better and stronger to-morrow, next week and next month. It’s immaterial whether you run another any time in the future.
    I’ve always found inspiration from a piece of marketing-speak that was used on posters for an early-1990s Melbourne marathon:
    There are three (categories of) winners in the marathon: first across the finish line, every-one who makes it to the finish line, and every-one who makes it to the start line.

  4. The problem with a premiership is that anything less the next year is failure. Expectations of achievement are already high. The challenge is as much for Geelong to keep the Cup.

    You’re right regarding cheap anologies. A marathon is a lot of agony for precious little agon. Each week, allows for the prospect of a change in fortune the week after, regardless of the result the week before. Fewr variables in a the marathon though. The mental challenge is greater too.

    Much respect to you Mr Freak!

  5. Sydney Malakellis says

    Perhaps if the season was broken down into miles, it might be more apt. Twenty two rounds, four finals, means twenty six weeks; akin to 26 miles. Geelong’s form at the start of the year was mediocre, round 1 against St. Kilda was like the Cats were just turning the legs over. Then they just hung on to the leading pack until the half way point, before starting to surge every few weeks in an attempt to break their opponents with mental fatigue. Then over the last four, they kicked it up another gear whilst the Collingwood team who had led all year, ran out of puff, cramping badly in the stadium and falling to the line Gabrielle Andersen-Scheiss style at the 1984 Olympics. Or something.

  6. I recall after the cats lost to melbourne in the 90’s blighty remarked the season “is a marathon not a sprint”. Judging by our performances at the finish line under his coaching, perhaps he was using the wrong methodology after all…

    Nice one, chris.

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