Lisa Weightman is a 39yo mother of two who recently got a silver medal in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Woman’s Marathon.
Lisa, what a run! 2:33:23 in 29 degree heat, now that looked tough, how did you find it out there? Can you detail how the race unfolded from your perspective?
The race unfolded exactly as expected. It was very slow in the first 15kms, a couple of minutes per km slower than what we’d usually run. The first 5km was a bit over nineteen and a half minutes, whereas in a cold climate we’d run closer to seventeen.
I feel like I should say that I felt disappointed about not winning gold, given that was what I had set out to try and achieve, but to be honest I ran my heart out and I executed the race exactly how I wanted to do so. I feel very proud of my bronze at Delhi and my silver on the Gold Coast as in both races I ran to win. I didn’t win those medals by waiting for others to fall off, I ran to a strategy. You can only ever try your heart out and then you need to be proud of what you achieve when you cross the line. It was just unfortunate that I didn’t have the cadence that Helalia had in the closing stages to achieve the ultimate fairy tale. But there’s another Commonwealth Games in four years and it will be cooler!
Living in the conditions as she does and as Michael does was definitely an advantage so there’s no surprise that they were our CWG Champions for 2018.
Helalia Johannes, the 37-year-old Namibian girl who won, did you expect her to be so strong? She had a 2:26 low pb when she came 11th to your amazing 16th place at the 2012 London Olympic Games but in recent years has been a bit inconsistent.
It is a mistake to ever discount an African, regardless of their PB. If you look at all the Africans in the field, they all had inconsistent results over the half and the marathon. Take the winner of Prague marathon on the weekend. She ran a 4 or 5 minute PB!
As we all know with the marathon, just making it to the start line with a perfect preparation is an amazing achievement. You never know the form of your competitors until you start executing the race. I hadn’t discounted anyone and I certainly didn’t think I had it won.
How’d your preparation go? What did you do to prepare for the heat? Were you injury free? How many kilometres a week did you cover? What did a typical week look like in the lead up from Monday till Sunday?
As with my preparation for the London marathon in 2017 I had a great preparation with an average of 160km per week. I don’t run as far on an average basis as most of our elite marathoners and certainly of those I compete against at World Majors. I should be doing closer to 200km, but with working 4 days per week it makes it a bit impossible to get enough rest to cope with that level of training.
Training through our Summer is a breeze. Lachlan (Lisa’s husband) and I run together and I was fortunate enough during this block to run some PB training sessions on the track with Nick Earl and Max Ueda. That helped me learn a little bit more about how much speed I really have and gave me the confidence to go it alone at the Bridge Run in February.
I didn’t get injured this block but I got the crazy gastro bug that did the rounds two weeks before the Bridge Run. That was a crazy experience but the rest may have helped in the long run.
My training is pretty standard, 3 sessions per week. A long run with no over distance work and a bunch of easy runs.
Lisa, I’ve now got several reader questions.
You have managed to compete at such a high level, work near on full time as a consultant at IBM and still be a mum. Most mothers I know would say being a mother is a full time gig. How do you make this work?
I have one son, Peter who is 3, but Lachlan and I have been enjoying being hands on Aunty and Uncle for my now 12 year old nephew Thomas from the minute we cuddled him at the hospital. Like my sister Jodi and I, like Lachlan and his brother Campbell, Thomas and Peter are best friends despite the age difference and it is wonderful.
How do we do it? With a team! My parents and my husband’s parents take care of all of us and we take care of each other. We have a weekly roster across the entire family which includes everyone’s activities, who’s picking up Thomas from school and helping with homework, who’s taking Peter to kinder and getting him to bed while we do our sessions together! It takes a lot of organisation, but it’s given the boys the opportunity to do so much together and for the entire family to stick together and support each other to achieve more than we would ever achieve as single units.
I am also very fortunate to have the opportunity to work some days from home so I can be there for Peter. I wouldn’t have ever wanted to give up helping him in his development years and I have my mum to thank for that too as she takes care of him the 2-3 days per week I am in the office.
We spend quite a few weekends training in the distance community of Victoria, Ballarat. Lachlan’s parents have retried in the neighbouring town of Creswick and we are fortunate to make this a good training base and home away from home. Combine this with a summer stint in Nagambie with my family along the back roads and we have the perfect combination of terrain, fresh air and relaxation to get everything done.
Lisa, you have been Australia’s fastest female marathon runner for the last 10 years, but you still don’t seem to get the recognition this deserves?
I’ve found it very hard to get sponsorship. After a few years I just let all that go and have worked out a way to earn a living and run at the same time. I run because I love running with Lachlan and I love finding out just how much more I can give every time. If sponsors aren’t willing to get on board then it doesn’t change why I run.
Running has given us amazing opportunities to travel the world and despite it being a busy and exhausting life we wouldn’t change things. Peter Richard (named after both of fathers and coach Dick Telford) is a lucky boy too having already been to Chicago and London before he turned 3. I don’t think I’d left Melbourne until I went to my first All Schools!
Do you have any regrets in your career?
I only have one regret in my career and that is starting the race at the Rio Olympics. I was having dizzy spells and headaches and couldn’t finish a few sessions on camp and I knew deep down I wasn’t right, but didn’t want to let anyone down. I really shouldn’t have started the race. Apart from that I have done everything I can to combine a Corporate career and to be an elite runner.
If I can switch the balance a little over the next Olympic cycle to get more opportunity to train then I will. We will see what opportunities life brings.
You had an injury riddled junior career, with multiple stress fractures, how many was it? What do you believe helped make you a more robust athlete? What are the keys to being able stay injury free?
There were many times where I thought I was wasting my time persevering. I had 8 stress fractures in 9 years from about 17 years of age. It wasn’t until I stopped running on the uneven surface across the grass and stuck to well compacted gravel and concrete bike paths that the body said “ok you win”! This change wasn’t the only change though. I finished my university degree, got through the long hours of a graduate consulting position and when I finally had a more balanced week of work I was able to recover a lot better. I think these two things and a great podiatrist were the key to overcoming my injuries.
I’ve always eaten really well and I was always concerned that I’d be thought of as one of those female distance runners who didn’t eat and got stress fractures. It was very far from the truth and so I am glad that I was able to over come my injuries and show the female distance community that being super skinny and starving your body is not the answer. It should never be the answer as it may get one good race or even two but it soon catches up with every female athlete I know that has tried it and failed in the long run.
I never had the chance to demonstrate my ability on the track in the 9 years I was injured because I just kept getting a sore shin or foot. This prevented me from even considering running as a full time pursuit as I was told I wasn’t good enough time and time again. But in the end I beat it and that endurance has kept me on the circuit for longer than most and perhaps has prolonged my elite running career. I knew what I could do, as I’d demonstrated what I could do in training, I just wasn’t prepared to give up until I had the chance to show it on the racing track.
Lisa, you ran your marathon PB last year with an incredible performance at the London marathon, running 2:25 at 38 years of age for fourth place. What are the keys to running pbs as you get older? Is there anything you do differently in your training week now?
When I ran my first marathon 10 years ago at London and ran 2:32.22 I did that off 100km per week. Given my injury history each year I experimented with a little more volume and a little more intensity. It’s really just been a decade in the making. My performances have consistently gotten a little bit better each time because we’ve taken things a little bit further each time and I’ve ran quite a lot of hot weather marathons which have taken their toll.
If I’d chosen not to run a championship and instead ran a faster, cooler race in some of the instances I think the 2h25m would’ve come earlier. I don’t think it has anything to do with my age, but more about the level of training I’ve put in each time. Hence, why I’d like to try to do more in the next few years, leading into Tokyo.
What is in store for Lisa Weightman now? Have you thought of retirement while you are running so well? Or is Doha 2019 or Tokyo 2020 still on the radar? Any more city marathon plans?
Absolutely no plans for retirement. We are looking into whether I’ll run another marathon in 2018 or wait for 2019, but I’d like to run another if the right opportunity presents itself this year. Hopefully we have a bit of clarity there very soon. I’m planning on racing all of the big road races across Australia and I’m most definitely not running Doha. A marathon at midnight in 40 degrees plus is insane and irresponsible. Someone could die in those temperatures.
Too true, Lisa, we can only hope that it’s not long till championship organizers schedule the marathon at venues/times that are in the best interest of the athlete’s health and well being rather than optimizing TV viewership.
Lisa, thanks so much for the time you devoted for this interview. I know that your words will inspire many out there in the Australian running community. To achieve what you have despite having 8 stress fractures in 9 years from the age of 17 is a remarkable story of perseverance. The quote; ‘it has been a decade in the making’, is one every runner should savior from this chat.
I also loved the quotes; ‘but there’s another Commonwealth Games in four years and it will be cooler!’ or the couple of references to Tokyo. Lisa, you are definitely showing no signs of slowing down anytime too soon. It surely will be exciting to watch you race another faster marathon major ala Berlin or the like over 2018/19. Or how good would it be to get the CWG’s full set in Birmingham 2022!
Thanks again Lisa, you’re a legend!