David Morgan runs Melbourne Marathon for diabetes research 11 January 2022 Australia’s largest marathon, and the biggest running event held nationwide since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic almost two years ago, the Melbourne Marathon also happens to be the closest marathon to my front door. The undisputed sporting capital of Australia, Melbourne is known worldwide for its premium local and international events – from famous tennis event the Australian Open to the Australian Grand Prix. At the city’s sporting heart is the Melbourne Cricket Ground, fondly referred to by Melburnians as the MCG or simply the ‘G. Established in 1853, the MCG is often described as the beating heart of this great city.The venerable ground has been the home of Australian football since 1859, was the birthplace of Test cricket in 1877, and the major stadium for the 1956 Olympic Games. Each year more than 100,000 fans gather here for the annual Australian Football League Grand Final, and the ‘G comes to life each Christmas at the city’s much-loved Boxing Day Test. Marathon number five in 7×7 Challenge for Diabetes Australia Today it’s an honour for me to tread on this same famous turf as part of the Melbourne Marathon. First held in 1978, the marathon has grown to become the nation’s largest, with more than 37,000 participants in 2019. Marathon number five in my 7×7 Challenge for Diabetes Australia was always destined to be memorable for me. After reaching the summit of Mount Everest – just – and then enduring the exhausting climb to the summit of Mount Denali in Alaska earlier this year, it’s fair to say my body and spirit have taken a beating. I caught Covid 19 in Nepal prior to my Everest summit, and am still recovering from frostbite, so doing up the running laces in the early mornings as I set off to train for this marathon has posed more questions than answers. I was naively sure that I would bounce back quickly from the punishing Everest and Denali climbs. I was, after all, once at my optimal strength to be on those summits. Perfect day for a marathon Melbourne Marathon day dawns without a cloud in the sky, and I head into “town” – the city of Melbourne. Months of training – and it hasn’t been easy – are all but forgotten in the excitement of the upcoming marathon. Familiar with Melbourne’s sports precinct, I navigate the bag drop within the ‘G and make my way to the starting line in Batman Avenue, one of the city’s major thoroughfares. A new requirement – providing proof of Covid 19 vaccination status – gains you a green wrist band as an accessory and entry. Legendary gold-winning marathon runner Steve Moneghetti, who represented Australia in four Olympic Games, addresses the crowd, and Sinead Diver, who won the 2018 Melbourne Marathon, offers some words of wisdom: “Just enjoy it and don’t go out too hard.” There’s always a nervous vibe at the start of any marathon, but as the countdown unfolds the crowd roars as some of the more than 28,000 participants in this year’s event creep towards the starting line. We’re off. Heading north I’m trying a new strategy today: use the pacers as opposed to just ‘go hard’. For the uninitiated, pacers are experienced runners tasked with running at a certain speed throughout a marathon to the benefit of participants aiming to complete the course within a certain timeframe, or just gauge how they are going. Left into Flinders Street, left into Swanston Street – some of the city’s most famous thoroughfares – and onto St Kilda Road. Once the initial scrambling and jockeying amid the thousands of runners calms down and the first kilometres are behind us, the pace feels easy, two pacers are in front and setting their pace. Given my post-Everest and Denali health issues, I thought I’d be out of breath, but thankfully I’m not. And I’m not struggling to keep up with the crowd. A stranger runs alongside me momentarily and asks: “Are you that guy who summited Everest this year?” “Yes,” I respond, loping along beside him. “Well done mate, that’s incredible.” I’m soon passing the St Kilda Beach foreshore with the kilometres ticking away nicely, a half PB (Personal Best) time of 1:27:57 is now behind me. By the time I reach the 25km sign it starts to feel like a different race: the crowd of runners has dispersed along the route, and the road is almost empty. My speed is slipping, and I’m growing impatient with my performance. But I remind myself that my goal has been to get back to pre-Everest and Denali speeds, and not expect results as well. Running along the familiar sights of St Kilda Road, there’s an unexpected merge with the hundreds of people running the half-marathon event, and the route is suddenly crowded. Navigating through the masses forces me to increase my pace; there’s newfound confidence in these tired legs. Veering right into Wellington Parade South the kilometres are becoming increasingly taxing, but mercifully the body remains pain free. I pass runners who have seemed strong all day but are now, in the final stages of the race, walking. Some, hobbling along the road, appear injured. At the same time the occasional runner comes streaming effortlessly past me, and I wonder where they have found that last boost of energy. A right turn into Brunton Avenue and I’m running to finish now, and before long take a lefthand turn into the MCG. Personal best and unforgettable experience For 168 years dreams have come true and have also been broken on this hallowed turf. Running towards the finish line in the midst of Melbourne’s iconic ‘G is something I will never forget. Finish time – Personal Best 3:10:31 To find out more about David’s 7×7 Challenge and donate visit Soul Search.