A wholly satisfying half-marathon

by Darren Dawson

I will always be proud of the fact that I am a member of that small percentage of the population who has completed a marathon. In fact, I have competed in four of those 42.2 k runs, with a couple of half-marathons thrown in for good measure. And so it is with a sense of bewilderment that I now look back and search for the reasoning behind my January statement that “I reckon I have one more marathon left in me”. Was it a new year’s resolution? Doubtful, because I do not believe in making them. A moment of madness? More than likely, because I briefly must have taken leave of my senses and conveniently forgotten the anguish I experienced during those torturous events. I am never ashamed to relate how, when my wife picked me up after that first run, I broke down in tears of pain and emotional relief. Also, I had wistfully recalled that the 2009 Melbourne Marathon would be the tenth anniversary of that first result. And the finish line these days is on the M…C…G.

Genetically, I was dealt the hand that said my body shape would be more Mick Nolan than Michael Tuck. Therefore people are always either amazed or sceptical (or both) when the subject of my having competed in marathons gets mentioned in conversation. A quick glance at my non-athletic physique raises more questions than answers. This year, I took a casual approach to my training; indeed, the great Deek would be disgusted with my running only between 8 and 10 kilometres four times a week. But I had experience on my side, and by the end of July I was beginning to feel confident in my ability to get the job done. Then, disaster struck. Not usually one to catch a flu during winter, I was struck down by a virus which lingered on for nearly a month. It caused uncontrollable fits of coughing a couple of hundred of metres into any jog I attempted.

Only two months out, the illness had scuttled any hope of my completing a marathon, but I still hoped to salvage something from the wreckage: the half-marathon. I reasoned that I had a good fitness base, so surely twenty-one kilometres would be achievable? It was with these thoughts floating around in my head that I found myself waiting for the starter’s hooter last Sunday morning. Two days later, with my thighs and hammies settling down into a dull ache, I look back on Sunday. What went right and what did not:

0 – 3 km: People traffic is a huge issue, as I attempt to weave in and out of the congestion. All shapes and sizes, all types of running gaits, all the way up St. Kilda Rd;

5 km: Wondering why I did not properly relieve myself prior to the run. Then I remember those 80-deep queues waiting to use the portaloos;

6 km: The small park at St. Kilda junction is today a rest-stop. I and plenty of others get blessed relief at last amongst the tea-tree;

7 km: Ambling past the Junction Oval, my mind is starting to get the wanders. Luckily, it is recalling an exciting early-80’s Krackouer-led North victory over the Lions;

9 km: I take on my first drink in the shadows of the old South Melbourne grand-stand. I am unable to run and drink at the same, so I stop to a walk and contemplate whether the old Lakeside Oval press-box was demolished or relocated somewhere. Manuka perhaps?;

12 km: As a wonderfully balanced young woman passes by me, I recall some words of wisdom an experienced marathon runner once gave me: “Just settle in behind a good-looking girl and follow her!” Looking back, I am now incredulous. Eye-candy would be the last thing on my mind at this point!

13 km: A woman on Fitzroy St is handing out lollies. I gratefully snatch a snake and rejoice in its sugary sensations;

14 km: Coughing and spluttering as I forget to chew and almost choke on the snake;

15 km: I settle in behind an old bloke whose heavy flat-footed stomping makes my running style look like Haile Gebrselassie. But then he suddenly stops dead in front of me and I career straight into him. “Sorry mate” I whisper as I pass and he grabs for the support of a parked car;

17 km: For some reason, I am making involuntary wheezing noises, suspiciously similar to those my late grandfather made before he would nod off on the couch;

18 km: A group of concerned spectators are assisting a fellow who has collapsed but is now trying to continue on all fours. Ironically, that terrible sight suddenly makes me feel a whole lot better about how I am travelling;

18.5 km: Some fellow travellers are glancing at me, probably thinking that I look and sound like I am about to step off this mortal coil;

19 km: Turning into Flinders St for the final down-hill trot to the G, I glance back at the Flinders St Station clock. It reveals that I am on course for a sub-2 hour finish;

20.6: Entering the colosseum, I am amazed by the size of the crowd in the members’. I have been on the sacred turf previously, but never as sweat-soaked as this. I promised myself I would take it all in, and I do, slowing to a half-jog half-walk and imaging how the Geelong players felt a fortnight ago, gazing up at the teeming masses. I search for myself on the score-board, but all I see are bodies funnelling into the finish line.

I am relieved. I am satisfied. A time of 1 hour and 52 minutes. Not bad for a half-fit old bloke. And maybe, just maybe, my body still has one more marathon left in it.

About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Anyone who can be bothered running more than 200m has my admiration.

  2. Pamela Sherpa says

    Once a sprinter always a sprinter Dips. That’s your excuse and you’re sticking to it!!

  3. my theory is that if Nathan Brown and Jack Anthony were running ahead of me, i would run for miles!!!

  4. And from what I have read, Danni, I reckon you would have no problem catching them.

  5. lol Smokie, what have you read exactly?
    im not exactly as fit as you would think, well not any more.
    last year i got told off by my poor P.E teacher for not moving! LOL

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