Runner Brady Threlfall leaves this week for Germany and the Berlin Marathon where he will attempt to break the Australian Commonwealth Games qualifying time of 2.19 for the marathon. If he can achieve that he is, at the very least, in the race for a spot on the national team. But first there is September 24 and 42.195km between him and the dream.
THE Berlin Marathon is barely three weeks away and Echuca-Moama speed machine Brady Threlfall has a serious problem.
Threlfall is aiming to break the Australian 2018 Commonwealth Games marathon qualifying time at the race in Germany.
Despite an extensive program with his nutritionist he is failing to hit targets.
He became the 2015 Victorian marathon champion in his first race over 42.2km with a time of 2.26:39.
In 2016 – and still considered a marathon rookie – Threlfall went to Berlin and clocked a sizzling 2.21:53.
He sliced almost five minutes off his race time, but most importantly he was suddenly within reach of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games qualifying time of 2.19.
So he turned his life upside down in his determination to find out if he would be, could be, good enough to throw his hat into the selection ring.
He cut back on his fulltime role as a teacher to create more training, and recovery, time.
And signed up a support team, from his coach to a nutritionist, physiotherapist, masseur and started really learning the secrets of the greatest test in running.
“It opened a whole new world to me, I learnt about over training, diet, using your mind power, meditation, I had blood tests, skinfold tests, my hormone levels got measured along with everything from my heart to my lungs,” Threlfall said.
“The first six months after Berlin last year were spent just getting everything right and the past six months have been all about running,” he said.
“But running smart, since I started this I have only once done more than 200km in a week and for me the results have been amazing.”
In between Threlfall has run as a marathon pacemaker, won the Run Melbourne half marathon, and never once veered from his training schedule.
Except for the biggest hurdle he has faced, and been unable to conquer.
His nutritionist has calculated his peak running weight at 58kg – and try as he might Threlfall simply cannot gain enough weight to get there.
“My body feels good but I simply cannot get heavier than 57kg no matter what I do,” he confessed this week.
“And when I do a long run I can shed 2kg, and have to start all over again.
“It’s really frustrating, I guess it’s a problem a lot of people would like but it’s really nagging at me.”
The most crucial component in Team Threlfall has been focused on just five or six kilometres – the ones between the 35km mark and the finish line.
The legendary marathon wall, when the body has given its all and only the mind stands between success and failure.
Threlfall knows it well; he bumped into it in Berlin 12 months ago.
“I knew I had banked time but when I got to that point I thought I had blown it; it just got so hard. You have got to get that right – if nothing else I have developed a lot of respect for 35km.”
To go for 2.19 he needs to lose around four seconds a kilometre off his time and for a ‘rookie’ that’s another huge slice.
“One of the big lessons I have had is about the fuel needed during a race – there have been times in the past when I have passed up drink stations because I thought I was fine,” he said.
“I wasn’t, I just didn’t get it.
“In training here I have had friends on bikes pacing me and handing me drinks every 5km, we have worked out a mix that helps me, Gatorade and gels, and it really makes a difference.
“Even if you think you don’t need it, just to take the drink and swill it around your mouth and spit it out helps trick your brain into thinking it just got another hit of sugar.”
That brings Threlfall to another crucial step on the road to the Gold Coast via Deutschland.
His 2016 time has qualified him as a sub elite runner in a field where the elite (read East Africans) get the front row, the sub elite (the fastest white men in the world) are standing right behind them, the fast (really good runners with no hope of catching the Africans and little hope of passing the sub elite) are all but back in the pack.
A pack with tens of thousands of runners hoping to crack four hours and with a nasty habit of getting in the way of fast runners trying to get to the good guys.
As a sub elite it means he avoids the crush, gets to prepare in a hotel, be bussed to the race start, have a secure tent to put his clothes and gear in and focus on the race without distraction.
It also means he gets to have his own drinks at drink stations.
In 2016 he was bumped from sub to fast. That meant plastic cups of water, chaos trying to get one of those and plastic cups all over the road.
In 2017 he has been promised that won’t happen.
“Berlin is one of the fastest marathons and it attracts the real stars,” Threlfall said.
“In my first run there I wasted a lot of nervous energy before the start, as a sub-elite you get to conserve that for the race.
“The fast field will help me but I have to stay focused on my race plan, on reaching that 2.19. For me the plan is to go with some of the better Europeans. There will be at least 10 Australians running who are also tracking that time, but I don’t want this to be a competition with them, I want to run my own race without thinking about outpacing guys I know.”
All his training times say he is as good as he is going to be later this month, with his pre-race taper starting at the end of this week.
He said he will be using the support his team, family and friends have given him during the past year as a positive.
“I don’t want to reach a point in the race where I might start feeling guilty about letting them down if my times aren’t good, I want positive thoughts,” he added.
If the Gold Coast doesn’t work out, and Threlfall is quite up front about his expectations, there are still opportunities around the corner.
“With a good time people start to notice you, and while I have a lot of kilometres in my legs I don’t have the experience of many of the big name guys,” he said.
“There are the worlds in Doha in 2019, and because it will be a hot and slow race not many like to have that on their resume and will prefer big money options such as London.
“Then there are the Olympics in 2020 at Tokyo.”
Threlfall is only 29, just entering the peak age range for the long distance runner.
For him 2.19 is not the end result, but just the first goal in a promising transition from a solid performer between 10km and 21.1km to genuine marathon runner.
There might be gold somewhere over the horizon but first up Threlfall will settle for the green and gold.