IN an era when Australia’s star distance runners have generally opted to run overseas marathons, 34-year-old Preston runner Lisa Weightman decided to skip the recent world title marathon in Moscow and make her home race - the Melbourne Marathon - her focus for the year.
Weightman, who was 17th at the London Olympics in 2:27.32, mapped out a plan with husband and training partner Lachlan McArthur and coach Dick Telford, which she hopes, weather permitting, will see her run a PB and claim the Melbourne race record.
“The Melbourne Marathon has been on the cards since we returned from Osaka this year,’’ McArthur said.
“We knew there was a very good chance that Moscow would be hot. Lisa had already run three marathons in very hot conditions, 2008 Beijing Olympics, 2009 Berlin World Champs and 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games.
“Moscow was scheduled for 2pm, which is absolutely ridiculous for a marathon in summer. Berlin 2009 started at 11am (so that Japanese TV could show the race live on local TV) so conditions in Moscow and Berlin were very similar.
“Dick (Telford) and I went to Berlin and ran around the course on the day of the race. By the end of the race we were all burnt from running in the afternoon sun but Lisa ran 2:30.42 and was over the moon to run a PB at a championship race.’’
The decision has already been vindicated in part when only three women broke 2:30 in Moscow, hampered by the heat of a 30 degree Celcius day.
“Hopefully Melbourne offers the opportunity to run a personal best time,’’ Weightman said.
“That is what I want to achieve. We could have gone to Berlin or Chicago, but running Melbourne means that we don't have to travel half way around the world. All of these courses are flat and you can run fast in any of these races, as long as the weather co-operates.
“Hopefully we are lucky enough to get a nice still day, like last year.”
As the most highly credentialed female to have run Melbourne since three-time Olympian Sue Hobson in 1999, the race record of 2:32.30 set by Ethiopia’s Mulu Seboka in 2010, is sure to be under attack.
There is one other factor that may stop Australia’s champion distance runner – a Kenyan 29-year-old named Eunice Kales who won this year’s Brighton Marathon in the UK in a very respectable time of 2:28.50 on debut.
Her PB half time of 69.50 is just shy of Weightman’s best (69.00) and she also shares a knack of finishing strongly having negative-split her run in Brighton.
Former winner Lisa Flint is also returning after injury along with last year’s runner-up Jane Fardell, but neither is likely to challenge Weightman and Kales.
McArthur, who runs almost every session with Weightman, will also be looking for a fast marathon. A star track athlete in his youth, McArthur has a marathon best of 2:32.24 in Frankfurt in 2011 when he helped pace Weightman to an Olympic qualifier.
“This will be the first time that any of our family have seen Lisa run a marathon live, so there will be some excited people out on the course cheering us along,’’ he said.
“I'll be running with Lisa but since the race organisers have decided to invite a Kenyan this year we will be keeping our tactics to ourselves.’’
Certainly the pair are well prepared and have been able to tap into Telford’s knowledge and compare times with what his former star pupil Olympic silver medallist Lisa Ondeiki achieved during her halcyon days in the late 80s.
“Dick sends a training program to us every Sunday night,’’ McArthur said.
“Lisa wears a heart rate monitor and a garmin GPS watch and sends her data for Dick to analyse after each session. Dick has some core sessions that he used to set for Lisa Ondieki and when Lisa hits the same times it is a great confidence boost.
“There is no real mystery about the training. We run hard on session days, easy on easy days and do a pretty solid long run every Sunday. My role is to try to push Lisa each session and hopefully we see some improvement each week during the build up.’’
What is different to many elite athletes, is that Weightman still works a 40-hour week for IBM, where she is currently a consultant at ANZ Bank - McArthur’s workplace.
“We are like anyone else training for the marathon, we have to fit our training in around work,’’ Weightman said. “If we run in the morning we get up at 5:30 and we run every day after work, leaving home just after 6pm and most nights we head to Princes Park for our sessions or through Yarra Bend for an easy run. Each week we work 40 hours and run between 160 and 175km.”