Melbourne Half Marathon winner Lisa Weightman on her campaign for Rio. By Richard Cooke.


Going the distance: Lisa Weightman, 36, marathon runner

I qualified for the Olympics in my first marathon, running in the London Marathon before Beijing. And someone who’d run quite a few marathons said to me, “Once you get past the 30-kilometre mark and approach the 35-kilometre mark, you start to feel like you just can’t go on – and you just have to push through it.” So I got to 30 kilometres and I was thinking, “When is this feeling going to come? It’s not coming yet; this is weird.”

I was really quite scared of hitting this 35-kilometre mark. I ran along and I got to 35 kilometres and then a headwind picked up and we had some sleety rain and that’s as bad as it got. It wasn’t comfortable and I had sore quads. And it would have been nice to sit down on the side of the road and have a rest. But it wasn’t this unbelievable, amazing thing like I couldn’t go on.   

I would never do ultra marathons. No way. I like to run fast and I don’t want to go out there for hours and hours and hours. I don’t want to be training for hours and hours. If I had been able to be quicker over
a shorter distance then I probably would have chosen that distance, but marathons are what I’m suited to.

Last weekend’s Melbourne Marathon was a comeback race. Originally we were hoping to get ready for the full marathon, after having a baby in December last year. But it took a little bit longer than I was expecting, just with some of the things that happened: breastfeeding, injuries. Babies get sick, and then mums and dads get sick. So it was just the half marathon instead.

Having kids is a marathon itself. I take my hat off to anyone who has more than two children. Having one keeps a nice balance when you’ve got two parents, but once you start tipping the scales I’m sure it starts turning into an ultra marathon. I always wanted to get back into running after having Pete but I knew that without any sort of family support around me it would be pretty much impossible. 

We certainly have days where we have to miss some training sessions and can’t do as many sessions. With juggling everything and being a little more tired than we’re used to… But come the new year we will certainly be in a better position to up the mileage. The body and the mind will be able to tackle more.

Returning from childbirth can actually improve performance in some runners. I’m very much looking forward to finding out about whether I’m going to get that special improvement. I certainly feel stronger, and I’m running at a faster average pace than I was before. I just haven’t been doing a lot of speed work yet, holding that sort of intense 10-kilometre speed.

It’s all about the race in Houston in January. To get a good marathon and a good qualifying time for Rio [2016 Olympic Games].   

Training is a minimum 120 kilometres a week. Top marathoners are running about 180 to 220 kilometres a week, if they can handle it, and if they’re a full-time athlete. But I’ve never been a full-time athlete – I work for IBM and I’ve been in full-time work for all of my career.

Running has been my hobby. It just has to be when you need to eat and live and look after a family. It’s different for my competitors on the global stage who are able to be full-time athletes who can easily get that mileage in. But for me we’d be looking at around 150 to 160 kilometres a week.

Lots of people I know put in so many hours – more hours than I’ve put in recently – to get the best out of themselves. But their results aren’t as good. It’s more about physiology. And about your ability to push through pain. If you can do that, then you’ll be successful up to the level that your physiology allows.

Thankfully I haven’t hit the wall yet. And that’s due to the fact that I have an amazing coach, Dr Richard Telford, who has the formula sorted for me down pat. So I’m hoping that I never meet this wall, but I guess it depends on how hard I go out at the start of the race.

Sometimes I feel like a car at the mechanic’s. Every time I go to see my physio I feel that way, especially now I’m getting older. But I tend to be a very predictable car. Most of the things that happen to me are easy to work out, and easy to fix as long as I don’t let them go on too long.

I work in IT at IBM – and we’re big into analytics these days. So I look back at all of my injuries, and all of my illnesses, and I can see patterns in how those injuries have come about. If you have the opportunity to study your patterns, then you can start to work out ways in which you can prevent injuries. But sometimes they just come out of the blue.


1 . This week’s highlights…

• Horseracing: Cox Plate Day

Saturday, 1st race 12.40pm (AEDT), Moonee Valley, Melbourne

• Soccer: A-League – Sydney FC v Western Sydney Wanderers

Saturday, 7.30pm (AEDT), Allianz Stadium, Sydney

• Netball: Constellation Cup – Australia  v New Zealand 

Sunday, 12.15pm (AEDT), Hisense Arena, Melbourne

• Rugby: World Cup semi-finals – New Zealand v South Africa

Sunday, 2am (AEDT), Twickenham, London

Australia v Argentina

Monday, 2am (AEDT), Twickenham, London

• MotoGP: Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix

Sunday, 6pm (AEDT), Sepang International Circuit, Malaysia

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on October 24, 2015 as "Going the distance".

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