This week Run Culture is interviewing Liam Adams 13 days after his 5th placing in the Men’s marathon at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Liam really needs no introduction, he has won nearly every meaningful fun run in Australia THREE times over. In fact, he has been among the best distance runners in Australia for a decade and his list of running accolades is astonishing. So, to put it simply, he is 31 years old, lives with his girlfriend Charlotte in Melbourne and works full time as an electrician. He came 9th at last years 2017 Berlin marathon in a PB of 2:12:52 and 31st at the 2016 Rio Olympic marathon (first Australian). He owns the Australian Park run record at 14:22, has a 5k PB of 13:31, 10k PB of 28:11 and ½ marathon PB of 63:28. He has represented Australia at the World Cross Country Championships 8 times, his best placing being 23rd in Poland in 2013. Anyway, enough hoo ha, here is the man.
Mate, how’d you pull up?
Yeah, I didn’t pull up too well. I didn’t run all week from the Commonwealth Games marathon until last weekends Jells park relays (Round 1 of the Athletics Victoria Cross Country season) because I was super busy with work and studying for a test (Liam is an apprentice Electrician).
I can’t believe you did Jells relays, just 6 days after the marathon?
I was feeling pretty good towards the end of the week so I told Essendon’s cross country team manager that I would be available to run which I regretted saying when I started my warm up. I usually do a 4-5km warm up but because of a couple of sore spots I decided to cut it down to 1.6km and hope that I got through my relay leg fine.
I ran the relay leg controlled but my sore spots in my right lower calf made it really hard to run especially on all the right hand turns you make at Jells. I was limping pretty badly in sections. Fortunately, that soreness has now dissipated and I’ll be doing my first light session tonight.
Liam, you still ran a very respectable 18:55 for the 6km leg, given all that. That’s great that the soreness is already subsiding. Now, lets reflect back on 12 days ago, the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. That marathon looked hard! So many DNFs, you have to be happy with a 5th place finish, an improvement from your 7th at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwelath Games. Talk us through your perspective of the race from start to finish.
I’ve got quite mixed feelings about my result. It’s hard for me to say that I’m pleased with 5th place when I felt that I was in pretty good contention with the placings. It’s definitely great to get an improvement on my result at Glasgow but it felt like it was an opportunity that got away from me.
The first half of the race, I felt controlled and relatively comfortable with where I was sitting and how things were going. But as soon as we hit that halfway mark, Callum turned the pace right up and over the next stretch of about 8km that front pack was put into the red zone. I knew I wasn’t comfortably with the pace but at the time I thought I needed to keep with this front pack because there was suppose to be a headwind on the way back and if I got isolated then I was going to be in trouble. Unfortunately, it was a very poor decision because after the turn around it felt like there wasn’t much of a wind at all and that decision to go with the attack cost me dearly.
I think most of that front pack would usually be comfortable with that change in pace especially those sub 2.10 runners but because of those conditions we all felt the pinch. It seemed like everyone else other than Callum and Shelley blew up a bit after the attack and the pack split.
At about the 28km mark Shelley was rolling a good pace and had about a 20m lead on myself & Mungara then there was a few other runners including Mutai & Mathibelle just behind us.
Throughout the whole race Mungara was unwilling to take the pace and because Shelley was just ahead in Silver position and I was in the battle for third, I wasn’t going to drag Mungara back up to him. I tucked in behind Mungara and he absolutely cracked the shits with me and kept waving me around. He stopped abruptly in front of me a couple of times trying to force me to go around him and take the pace so I ran beside him. He slowed the pace down a heap so that the Ugandan athlete Mutai would catch us.
Mutai joined us, those two exchanged words and it looked like they were waiting for me to pick the pace up, so they could tuck in behind me. The pace stayed slow which allowed Mathibelle to catch back up. Mathibelle wasn’t having any of the nonsense that was going on so he went straight past. I allowed him to get about a 20m lead from us then put in a quick spurt to bridge the gap and give myself a gap between Mungara and Mutai.
We started getting a bit of a gap on the other two but although the pace wasn’t quick at all, there was something wrong and I still couldn’t maintain the pace that Mathibelle was setting. This was the point where I watched my chance of a medal slowly get away from me and there was nothing I could do about it.
The damage had already been done from that Hawkins surge. I still had more than 10km left to go and I was already running fairly slow like I’d had a bad blow up. Mutai slowly made his way past me. I tried to tag onto him and lift my pace but couldn’t manage to hold on. At the 35km mark, Mutai had an 18second lead on me and not too long after this split I saw Mathibelle walk off the road and pull out of the race. This meant I was back into 4th spot and 3rd spot was still in striking distance. I would have expected that this would have sparked some extra fight into me but I just had absolutely nothing left.
In fact, I was now running the slowest splits I have ever ran in any race of my life including races as a junior or even Chicago marathon where I pulled my hamstring and limped to the finishing line. My 35-40km split was 19min for 5km and everyone seemed to pass me through this section. It was embarrassingly slow and I remember seeing kids on the sideline running along with me that looked like they actually had to slow down to run my pace. I was at a point where I wanted to just hide my head in shame.
Tanzanian runner Makula came past not too long after the 35km split and he wasn’t getting too far ahead. Through this section someone on the side of the road told me the lead runner had pulled out. They didn’t say who it was or what had happened but it was a bit of a shock to me as Shelley and Hawkins looked strong with their moves and I didn’t have a clue about what the order was. Not long after another bloke yelled out to me, ‘your mate is in front’ which still left me confused as to who was actually now leading the race and who had pulled out of the race.
This meant that Makula was now in 3rd spot and the bronze medal was once again in striking distance but I was soon to have more company join me in the battle for third spot. The 90sec lead I had on Robbie Simpson and Kevin Seaward at the 35km mark was gone and they came past myself and Makula like we were standing still. The chance of medalling had gone just like that. Makula was in the same boat as me, we were both running extremely slow and our bodies were shutting down very quickly.
Just before the 40km, I was running slower than 4min/k and I was thinking that I wasn’t going to make it. As I hit the 40km mark, I was approaching an ambulance on course. I looked across and saw that it was Callum being treated. It wasn’t until after the race I heard about what happened to Callum and it wasn’t until later that afternoon that I saw the distressing footage of him collapsing. As I was slowly bridging the gap on Makula, I witnessed Makula pull off to the side & collapse in the distance ahead of me. This was the point where I started to workout the seriousness of the race and how close I was to the brink too. I was quite concerned for Makula but thankfully I could see some first aid/volunteers sprint towards him to help him out.
That last hill with a kilometre to go was an absolute struggle and I was on complete empty after that. I started cramping up especially in that last finishing straight. As I was running down the straight, I saw the Aussie’s celebrating their awesome efforts but they all stopped to cheer me on as I drew closer to the line. Once I hit that line, there was a sense of relief that I made it to the line but also a sense of frustration and embarrassment so I pulled the singlet over my face until I gained composure.
It was an absolutely brutal race and I’ve never experienced those conditions in a marathon before. I gave it my all but unfortunately I didn’t listen to the warning signs and paid for it in the end. So I’m not as much disappointed with my effort, I was hurting pretty bad in that race but more so disappointed with the way I ran the race and the end result. When you put that Australian singlet on you just expect yourself to have the best race of your life not have one of your worst ones. That support I got on course was absolutely incredible, deafening at times so it was a shame I couldn’t use that energy and incredible experience towards having a good result.
There are many lessons that I will take from this race but the main lesson that I learnt was to pay more respect to the distance by being more cautious in hot conditions. It will definitely influence the way I race the next marathon I run in the heat. So good to hear how the race unfolded straight from the horses mouth. Liam, there aren’t many tougher runners out there than you, you buried yourself out there, there is no question about it. The marathon is tough enough in perfect conditions, let alone in adverse. Adjusting race plans and strategy according to the weather is a great lesson that all buddying marathoners should also take on board. Any news on Callum Hawkins? Post race I saw a post from Callum’s brother. I could only imagine how horrific that would have been for Callum’s family and friends, so it was such a relief to hear that Callum was recovering well in hospital. The latest I’ve heard or seen was an interview from the London marathon weekend. He said something along the lines of; that he is starting to feel normal again but is still a bit tired and that the doctor has told him to double the amount of rest that he’d usually have for a marathon. It also sounded like he was eager to get back out there or at least get back out there on a bike. The guy is an incredible runner and is already mixing it with the best in the world, so there is no doubts he will bounce back quickly and be right back up there. Although it’s still two years away just wait and see how well he does in Tokyo. I reckon he’ll be vying for the medals in the marathon.
Mike Shelley must be stoked with his Commonwealth games marathon resume now, how was he post race? Yeah, Shelley is creating quite an impressive marathon resume. Two Commonwealth Games golds, a Commonwealth Games silver, a 16th at the London Olympic marathon, a handful of top 10 finishes at world marathon majors and I still think he has plenty more to add to that. For Shelley to win the Commonwealth games Gold in his home town, I definitely think he would have been stoked with that.
But all this unfair scrutiny he has copped from ill informed trolls that probably didn’t even watch, I reckon that probably would have got to him a bit and taken away from Shelley celebrating his courageous effort & a well deserved victory. Like I said before, Shelley was the only one out of that front pack to survive that brutal tactical surge. The rest of us including those sub 2.10 marathoners blew up hard.
You took 1 month off work for the Commonwealth Games. This enabled you to spend 2 weeks at falls creek to train and then get to the Gold Coast 10 days before the event to acclimatise. In looking back are you happy with the way you prepared? Is there anything you wish you did differently?
Well when I first booked my Fall Creek accommodation it was suppose to be pretty good weather up there. Roughly 17-23 degrees most days but when it got to a couple of days out from going up there, the weather had turned for the worst. I had spent two and a bit grand on this stint so I wasn’t going to let it go to waste.
I knew the weather wasn’t ideal for heat acclimatisation for the Gold Coast but the benefits of altitude for me, someone who has a below average lung function and a very poor VE max was going to be very beneficial. On top of the typical benefits of altitude training, I feel that my lungs or respiratory system gets the biggest workout at altitude. I respond well to altitude training so that was the main reason why I went to Falls Creek before Commonwealth Games.
There was also going to be the benefit of living and training like a professional athlete at Falls Creek but obviously I could have had that same type of life style if I did a stint of heat training or acclimatisation in Queensland. I had considered doing some heat training in Queensland before the race but when I checked the long term forecast for the morning of the race, it was predicted 17 degrees and raining. That along with the long term predicted temperatures for the week of the race being around 20-24degrees, I thought that the weather wasn’t going to be too much of an issue to acclimatise too and throughout the whole time training up the Gold Coast it wasn’t.
When I first arrived on the Gold Coast, the race day temperature had increased to 24 degrees so I just tried to train in the peak of the day and had no issue with the weather at all. When it got to about 5 days out, Shelley let me know the predicted temperature had jumped to 26 degrees and then a couple of days later he once again let me know the temperature had increased. This time it was an increase to 29 degrees at race time, which was warmer than all the days I had experienced in the lead in to the race. We both knew we were in for a tough one.
With the way that Shelley and how other locals were talking about the weather, it seemed like we were quite unlucky with the weather we got on race day. To top all that off when I saw Kyle Langford (this year’s Commonwealth Games silver medallist in the 800m) up at Falls Creek, he said in the previous weeks before I arrived at Falls that the weather was absolutely beautiful. So, I was pretty unlucky with most things in this prep! Obviously, in hindsight I would have changed a few things up with my preparation but then again I also would have changed a few things up with the way I raced too. There’s quite a few lessons I’ll take away from this race. What we experienced in Gold Coast will be very similar to Tokyo so I’ll be making sure I’m well and truly prepared for the worst of things. You doned the 4%ers, how were they? What’s your verdict?
I like them, I did the ‘Run for the Kids’ Fun Run on March the 18th and a couple of other sessions in them and they felt pretty good. They feel light with lots of cushioning so I thought they’d be ideal for marathon running but I think my experience with them in the Commonwealth Games was hindered by other factors.
My experience in them for Commonwealth Games was affected by some plantarfascia pain I had on race morning. My heels flared up a couple of mornings in the last week leading into the race. It was strange because I didn’t have any issues in this preparation prior and it came about in my taper week. I tend to believe they flared up because of the team shoes we were forced to wear for the duration of the Commonwealth Games. Anyway, I reckon my plantarfascia along with the camber of the road played havoc with my foot strike. My feet were rolling in a lot more than usual so I don’t really think I got to test the shoes out properly over the marathon distance. I might see how they go in my next marathon and be able to make a better verdict.
You recently ended a long and successful partnership with adidas and went into the event unsponsored, have you had any interest yet?
No, I haven’t really had any interest yet, but then again I haven’t been actively seeking any partnerships at the moment. I’ve been busy with work and many other things so looking for a sponsorship has been low on my priorities list at the moment. Maybe I will wait until I finally have a breakthrough run and then try my luck then. What is the plan now for Liam Adams? You mentioned Tokyo 2020, so that’s still on the long term agenda? Ultimately, Tokyo is the number one goal over the next few years so a lot of things will be geared towards qualifying for that, but the qualification period doesn’t open until probably around April next year. I’m still keen on running another marathon this year but I’m tossing up whether to go overseas and chase a fast time, tick another big city marathon off the bucket list or have a crack at one of the big local/Australian marathons. I’m thinking a marathon between September to December will be ideal and then I’ll gear everything up to trying to qualify for the Olympics.
I believe, as do many that you are capable of running faster than 2:12:52 for the marathon and 63 for the half marathon. What are your thoughts here? Does this motivate you still? If so, how, when and where do you think you can get yourself to a level to do this?
Yes, I definitely feel I’m better than what I’ve posted so far and it’s something that is annoying me at the moment. There has been a lot of runs where I don’t think I’ve ran anywhere near as well as I should have and I don’t think my current personal bests are anywhere near my full potential. It’s definitely a driving factor for me and I think it’s now time to take my training to a whole new level. This sort of thinking is probably the “runners mentality” that we all have and it’s something that drives us to strive towards our personal best. I know I’m better than the times I’ve posted so far, so it’s on me to work even harder than ever before to achieve what I want to achieve.
Mate, this is the answer, I and so many other Australian running fans wanted to hear.
Liam Adams, it’s been an absolute pleasure as usual. Don’t be too hard on yourself; you just came 5th in the Commonwealth Games! Thanks for sharing plenty and giving so much of your time. The insight you have shared is going to be invaluable to so many!