The early Wednesdays, the Monday night ice bath, the Saturday social long slogs and the touchy taper period - they've all built up to this point. It's race day. Melbourne Marathon - Sunday 15th October 2017.

We couldn't have received a better day for it, a low of 8 degrees at the start line and no wind made for pristine calm running conditions. Shoving strategic gels and removing non-essential layers we made our way down the side of the start line and snuck through to land next to our desired pace marker - somewhere around the 3.30 flag man. 

Race plan - Go out at 4.55s till 30km and then see what you can do. Oh, and take a gel every 8km WITH water!

Wishing Liv, Nina and my mate Will a good race, I reminded a couple of first timers to soak it up, enjoy every moment and stay calm for as long as possible.

BANG! Time to go!

To me, it looked like a busy year, the pack didn't thin out until we entered Albert Park around the 6km mark, almost 30mins since setting off. Everyone getting into their groove, waving to loved ones and enjoying the moment, we entered the Grand Prix track and got a glimpse of the stick-figure like leaders on the other side of the lake. 3km ahead. Already. WOW! 

Fast forward a little bit to the halfway mark and we're all going strong - It was great to see other Prosport runners at the various turnaround points on course - an opportunity to shout out encouragement and remind yourself that you're not the only insane person out on a jog today.

With no wind and perfect conditions on Beaconsfield Pde (unlike 2016), I powered up Fitzroy St after seeing Sheree at the bottom and started my 12km race to the finish feeling really good. The heart rate had stayed low and legs felt great. Tick and Tick.
Bumped into Stevie K around 32km and ran with him for a while, however I was on a mission to keep this feeling going so finished my gel and said thanks to Stevie. What a guy - smashed Berlin 2 weeks ago and was out again with another bib pinned to his chest.

It got tough from here, merging with the Half-Marathon pack along St Kilda Rd toward the Arts Centre as it filtered into 1 lane. It made for errant zig zagging just to try and find a clear path. Not ideal as the glutes and hammys were stressed as it is.

Under St Kilda Road and up into Birdwood Ave towards the Shrine - the site of 2 previous meltdowns (2014 & 2016), that both resulted in walk/run finishes. 

I was determined to keep this form going and not make it 3, so I ignored the niggling cramp symptoms and sped up instead.

The battle began here and I wasn't being beaten today, so I charged toward Fed Sq, hooked right onto Flinders St and put the blinkers on, trying to shut out all the negative things going on upstairs and focus on finishing strong.

Down Wellington Parade South I began to realise I was almost done and that's when the sheer relief started to totally wash over me. 

I was so pumped up I started yelling wildly at anyone on the sidelines - "C'mon! Leave nothing in the tank!" I was shouting.

"Let's do this guys, almost home", I was trying to motivate my fellow marathon runners to the entrance of the 'G and distract myself from the pain below the waist.

I spotted Carly, Pilks and Arnie the dog and from then was full of adrenaline all the way to the hallowed turf. They pushed me further and once onto the 'G, under the Great Southern stand, I knew I had enough in the tank to go the whole way. 

A polar opposite of last years finish - cramping 3 times inside the ground and having to hobble my way around (much like my beloved Crows earlier in September). However this year was different.

I decided to keep the antics going as I looked to my right, 200m to go, the MCC Members stand full on the lower deck. Crossing the line, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. 

This is why we run. This is the feeling we long for. 2017 Melbourne, my 8th and the best feeling yet!

I couldn't wait to see my fellow ProSport runners come across the line and in moments, Liv and Stevie were there, stoked on their runs and with what they had just accomplished!

A quick photo and a mental note was taken. 

Never forget this, let it motivate you to the next one. 

Bring on London Marathon - April 22, 2018!

Well done to all of our runners in this year's festival, (especially Denise Roberts who PB'ed!) - I look forward to running with you all as we head towards the end of the year and into next.

Aydn Finlay