GUEST BLOG: Ray Boyd – The Marathon Part 1

The marathon is one of life’s challenges and anyone who has ever committed to running one would agree with this. Emil Zatopek, one of the all-time world’s great athletes, is quoted as saying “If you want to win a race run 100m but if you want to experience a life time run a marathon”

As a marathon runner myself, I know the level of commitment that is required to get to the line and believe me when I say, getting to the starting line can, at times, be harder than the race itself.

There is something satisfying about finishing a marathon and getting that medal around your neck as you cross the line. I believe it’s not just because you finished the marathon that you feel a sense of achievement but that you embarked on a journey that got you to the start line in the first place. The marathon brings with it, a level of comradery that is hard to find in non-endurance sports. This comes about because each runner knows what it took them to get to the line and they can appreciate other athlete’s personal journeys.

These blogs are aimed at getting you to think about what you are doing and then not only get you to the line, but over the line. I believe, and know, that through a sensible but dedicated approach everyone can complete a marathon. The flip side to this however, is that if you don’t use a sensible and dedicated approach I know you won’t get to the line, let alone over the line.

You can’t cheat a marathon, it’s too far. Sure you may get to the 10km on pure grit or the 20km on your basic training but not too long after this a fridge will appear on your back and you will move into survival mode. Further to this you can’t stuff up a marathon and then go and run one the next week, it’s too hard on your body. Seriously, the assault you put your body through from the training and the race requires a period of recovery.

Essentially the marathon runners program is about working on building a strong endurance base that will give them the strength to handle the marathon distance comfortably. The build-up should always be gradual and peak at about five (5) weeks out from race day before the volume comes down in order to allow an athlete time to recover ready for assault on the distance. Initially runners may find that they feel tired when they start to build, this will pass. Use common sense though and listen to your body. Strength comes over time and towards the end of your preparation, you will notice that you are able to sustain a solid tempo for a longer period as well as run continual repetitions at a target pace.

Before we get to this however, it is important to make the commitment to the distance. Too many people treat the distance with contempt and it is this that becomes their undoing. Make no mistake, every person can complete a marathon and every person could achieve their target times PROVIDED that they do the work that is required to achieve the desired goal. This event is built around the story of the first person to run one dying, and while, historically, we know that this has been little exaggerated, people do die running marathons. I’ve run 8 and I’ve had three shockers. My first marathon in 1995 on the Gold Coast, a 2:18:22, I went into it believing that my endurance base would put me in a great position to be competitive and guess what it did, right up until 25km at which point my lack of preparation became evident in terms of both tempo and long runs, my competitive nature and doggedness kept the pace up despite the significant tempo drop however the discomfort was incredible. In 1998, in Beijing, I ran a 2:30:56 and in an effort to make an Australian team I went in under prepared and limped home after 30km. Then, in 2000, at the Sydney Olympic Trial I ran a disappointing 2:22:56 to be the 3rd qualifying Australian over the line and missed a place in the team behind Lee Troop, Rod DeHighden and Mona who had already made the team. What was different about this race was it was the fittest I had ever been in my life yet I bombed. Why…? Put simply, because it’s the marathon and nothing is a given in the marathon.

I have written programs for runners who have smashed their goal time because they were diligent and committed to the cause, Glen Quartermain is a prime example. I have also written programs for runners who simply didn’t put the time in and didn’t achieve their goals. I should say at this point that I have also had athletes who have been diligent and also missed the mark because of injury through no fault of their own, other than the mileage required and the effort required to get to the line took them over the edge. You see, this is the hard bit about marathon training, ask any marathon runner, you have to be prepared to go to bed knackered and wake up tired, regardless of your level of training.

So where do you start?

  1. You set the goal and you select the race
  1. You identify the barriers that may prevent you achieving this goal and you work out how to get around them
    1. The days that you can train
    2. The times that you can train
    3. How long you can train for
    4. Family commitments that may hinder training (Happy wife happy life or visa-versa)
    5. Work commitments. (no point saying you will train at 4pm if you leave work every night at 6pm)
  1. You plan your program
    1. Be flexible with your program, set aside an appropriate time of the day for training
    2. Does it fit in with your other commitments
    3. Is it a time when I feel like training
    4. Do I need to have a variety of times to train on differing days.
  1. You do the time (you commit to the training required)

If you’re serious about tackling a marathon, then you have to be serious about making the commitment. Getting to the starting line and then over the finish line is not a game of lotto, it has nothing to do with chance and everything to do with preparation and work ethic. Just ask Glen Quartermain or even Mona next time you see him.

Ray Boyd


  1. A very inspiring story. It will surely touch many runners and marathon athletes out there. The tips you have mentioned must be kept in mind as well. Hope that you will continue to inspire more athletes.

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