Apologies for the 2 week delay between blogs I was busy last week doing the most important piece of writing I’ll ever do, my wedding vows! Now that they are looking sharp for 2 weeks time, I’ve got a great interview this week and I’m sure you will all find it was worth the wait!
Today’s blog is an interview I had the other day with Brett Robinson a professional distance runner with Nike and the Melbourne Track Club. With slick times of 7:45 for the 3000m and 13:15 for the 5000m, a 28th placing at World Cross country (one of the first non African finishers). A multiple time finalist on the world stage be it at 3000 or 5000 at the Olympic Games, World championships, World indoors and World juniors. At just 27 years of age, Brett already goes down as one of Australia’s all time great distance runners!
Today, we join Brett on the eve of a big step in his career. In 6 days time on the 2nd of December Brett will make his long anticipated debut at the marathon!
Anyway, I really enjoyed this one. So grab a comfy chair, a bite to eat and enjoy a glimpse into the life of Brett Robinson.
Mate, you have been building for your debut marathon with a long altitude training stint up at falls creek (since October the 17th!). It has looked lonely up there over the past 6 or so weeks, have you had any company?
Yes, I’ve been lucky because the first 3 weeks I had Paul Robinson from Ireland come out to train with me, he is training for the Irish National xc Championships and then hopefully the European cross country. Then the day he left newly weds Ryan and Gen arrived and then the next week the rest of the group arrived. I’ve done a lot of sessions by myself but I don’t mind that because I could run to ‘feel’. I just like having people around for warm ups, warm downs and easy runs.
Do you get bored? What have you been doing between runs?
I think I’m very good at keeping myself entertained. I enjoy running and then not doing much else, I think this is the best way to recover, especially when doing the big Kms in marathons training. Most days between runs I watch some Netflix, play Playstation, occasionally nap and go down to the one cafe thats open up here
So Fukuoka marathon! Did mona get in your ear? Or has this always been something you have wanted to do?
I actually didn’t speak to Mona about it but I’ve wanted to do a marathon for a few years now but just had to find the right time for one, I didn’t want to wait till i was over 30. When I look at all the best Australians they have run them when they are young. If I was going to run one I wanted to make sure my body could handle the training. Fukuoka is on a similar time zone, with a short flight and I could train in Australia for it.
I’ve loved the pre run photo you upload each day on your instagram story, have you saved everyone? Maybe I could combine all of them into a collage for the lead in page for this article. It really does show how many runs go into a good prep.
Yeah, that started on the second day, I’m actually a bit disappointed I missed the first day!
There was a lot of snow when I first got up here so it’s cool seeing it melt every day and I’ve also thrown in a few “spot the difference”photos just to see if people pick up on them.
Mate, 1 week till Fukuoka, how has the prep gone?
I’d say its gone very well, I’ve pretty much done a 8 week marathon specific prep. Before that there were some good weeks of training coming off the end of my European track season where I was getting ready for the Great North Run but unfortunately hurt my calf the week before.
I didn’t know what to expect when getting into marathon training, at first I was tired but then felt like I adapted really well and was able to handle a lot of training.
Coming to Falls for me isn’t really for the altitude, its more to get away from everything and really just focus on training and recovery.
Is it snowing up there right now? Yes, the last 2 days there has been a lot of snow. It was actually a nice novelty! We only had to change training slightly and did some 1K reps on the road. Apart from that its been fine and its good for my Instagram stories!
You paced the 2017 fukuoka mara till half way, what was that like? Surely that experience is going to be invaluable for 6 days time? Were you already contemplating the move up in distance back then?
Yeah last year I paced the lead pack to 23km, so at least I know that part of the course (I know there is a bridge at 16km) but I think the experience was invaluable in terms of experiencing the travel, the hotel, available food and how it works on race day.
I looked at the long range forecast, it looks set for roughly 15 degrees on race day, which should be good! What time does the race kick off? What was the weather like last year?
Race time is 12.10pm local time which is kinda nice because it won’t have to be a super early morning. Last year it was 13 degrees during the race and no wind so it was perfect. Sondre Moen ended up running 2.05 for the win!
Robbo, what have you changed from your normal training routine to prepare your body for the rigours of the marathon?
A lot of my training as been about getting myself tired or glycogen depleted and then doing some quality, my sessions have actually been fairly similar to the normal schedule up here but instead of doing a 4km warm up once a week I’ll do a 17km warm up, then do 8x1km or Quarters and a threshold, then a 5km warm down. So, it ends up being a 2hour run with some quality after about 70mins.
Also, I’ve done 3 depleted long runs to train my body to be more efficient with how it uses the fuel it has, I know that the pace isn’t going to be a problem its whether my body can still work efficiently after 35km so thats what I’ve worked on!
I have seen a few solid long runs been logged up at falls creek, the other week I saw you covered 38kms at 3:35/k at altitude! What was the plan for this session? How did that one feel?
This was my last really hard session, the plan for this session was to get the kind of feeling I’ll be feeling at the end of the marathon and try to run a good pace with that feeling. The run was 60min easy (4.13s), 20minutes of 1min at 2.50 pace, 1min at 3.30 pace, 5min jog, 10km in 31.00, 5min jog, 5km in 15.30. Total 38.5km in 2:19. I enjoyed this session, I felt very comfortable during a lot of it, I could definitely feel it getting difficult towards the end but felt like I was still able to hold a decent pace
I suppose this is the big unknown for you, how will your body cope from 30k onwards, have a few of these long runs given you more confidence?
That session I just mentioned gave me the most confidence, the way I was able to run during the whole session and the feeling I had, made me confident that I’ll be able to run out the marathon distance.
Mentally, I felt like I went through a few stages where I would questioned myself but was able to push through and be confident in my ability.
Also Sunday afternoon runs have given me some confidence, of all the doubles I feel best and ran my fastest on a sunday afternoon. After running 35-40km in the morning to be able to come back later that day and actually feel good running another 7kms I think shows my body is adapting well.
What’s been the most difficult aspect of marathon training?
The depleted long run. I didn’t enjoy these, not because of what I was feeling in my legs, it was more to do with how much it tested me mentally.
If I had a depleted long run on the Sunday I would think about it all of Saturday and then as soon as I finished eating dinner I knew I wouldn’t be eating till about midday the next day.
During the run once I got past 2 or so hours I felt a little bit tired in the legs but the hardest part was that I felt like the run took for ever to complete. I would look at my watch at 2:10 then look again after what I felt was 10minutes but it was only was 2:13! I did my 40km long run depleted
Have you worked out what shoes you will wear for race day and why?
Nike Vaporflys, hopefully they don’t get banned but if they do I want to get a marathon out in them before they are. I actually don’t think think they make a huge difference, but any difference they do make has been multiplied by what people think about them. If you’re wearing them you believe you have an advantage, If you’re not wearing them you believe you have a disadvantage
How’s the body coping?
Better than I expected, I had a bit of a niggle with my achilles but nothing too bad or uncommon for someone running 200kms per week! The rest of the body has felt great and seemed to handle the load with no worries.
What’s a typical breakfast lunch and dinner up there looking like?
Pre run- Weetbix and coffee Post run- Protein shake Lunch- Omelette Snack- Porridge Snack- Toast with Peanut butter Dinner- I change it up but I’ve had a lot of stir fry with rice up here Plus I have small snacks all day!
Have you been able to get treatment up at falls? Give the audience an example of the 1 percenters you do every day and every week up at falls to stay in check.
Mostly I have seen a Physio named Tim Retchford in Mt Beauty, I’ve seen him twice per week. Most days I’ll do a bit on the foam roller, activations before every run, stretching routine a few times a week, Gym 2-3 times a week. You’ll never see me in the aqueduct though, unless I have something sore.
You have had some decent injuries in your career including: achilles trouble, plantar fasciitis, a Neck of femur stress fracture and a shaft of femur fracture. What have I missed?
Yeah when I injure myself I really do make sure its not a small injury.
I also had a weird glute/hip joint problem at the start of this year that I had a lot of trouble getting on top off and that took away any chance of running at the Commonwealth Games. A 13:15 5k Pb earlier this year off a Neck of femur stress fracture last year. It was 4 or so months off running entirely wasn’t it? You must be proud of that comeback?
I actually got back running from that stress fracture then spent January and February injured with a problem in my other hip. I finally got back running and I really just wanted to get back to being a good athlete and competing in races.
After the training camp in Spain I had a 6 day period where I won a 3km, won a 5km and ran a PB in the 5km.
It was funny the amount of messages I got in that week, I think a lot of people had forgotten about me or written me off so it was good to show that I am still a contender in the 5km and I’m thankful for the support I received!
I feel your ability to get yourself back into career best 5k shape in Spain hasn’t had enough recognition. Did you ever lose hope?
The 12months prior to that PB was a tough, with scan results giving me set backs, countless niggles as I tried to get back and getting another hip injury! It all really did test me and there were times where I didn’t know if I would get back to running well but I never stopped trying to get back.
I believe before World Cross in 2017 I was in the best shape of my life and not being able to compete really hurt! All I’ve wanted to do since then was to get back into that kind of shape, so thats what I’ve used as motivation!
What do you feel were some key reasons as to why you were able to get back to such great shape?
I’m very good at cross training, if anything I probably go a little bit overboard with it. I feel like aerobically I stay in very good shape.
I also have such a good group around me that keeps me motivated, a lot are my best friends so I actually miss not being around them. Nic is also great with being patient with me and just letting me get back to the level I need to be before pushing me in training.
How often a week are you doing a gym routine? What do you focus on here? And why?
At least twice a week, a fair bit of core and glue activation, then I rotate exercises for Hamstrings, hip strength, gluts and calves. Then I’ll do any rehab I need to be doing. I do a pretty general program and just try and touch on everything every time. Only 5 Australians have broken 2:10 in the history of marathoning: deek, mona, Clayton, Carroll and troopy. The fastest Aussie debut is Jeff hunt at 2:11:00.
Now, I know it’s hard to predict what you are going to run given it’s your first and there are so many unknowns going into the marathon but what time are you hoping of running? I heard you say hopefully 2:08 on the inside running podcast, is this still the aim?
(Side note: For great running insights and a further interview with Brett download The Inside Running Podcast).
There is going to be pace for 3.00 and 3.03, I’m going to go with the 3.03 pace which is 2.09, hopefully I’ll be able to keep that pace or improve towards the end. I could play it safe but I want to find out if I have a future in the marathon. I figure that I’ve made a world champs and olympic final in the 5000m before so I want to find out if I have the potential to finish at least that high in the marathon. I think if I tried to run a 2.12 it would still leave a lot of questions.
I’ve seen you roll some very comfortable looking 64 minute half marathons. You seem to be efficient at that pace. What other indicators have you had throughout your career that suggest there is a good marathon there waiting?
I think last year pacing Fukuoka to 23km and being able to knock off consistent 3.00s showed that I have some good rhythm for the marathon. What are you thinking of doing drinks wise for the race? Have you practiced this?
I have been training with Maurten and I’ve really liked it. I had one problem where I was doing a 2hour run with the last hour at close to race pace. I didn’t really realise that there was a technique to drinking while running, I was just grabbing the drinks and smashing 150ml down in about 15seconds.
After my third drink I started to get a stitch. I spoke to Sinead Diver and a few other people and they told me to slow down the drinking. Since then I’ve had no problems, I have my drink over about 2minutes and seem to handle it a lot better.
You have been amongst the best distance runners in Australia for a while now! How long have you been coached by Nic bideau and trained under MTC for now?
Nic first started helping me at the start of 2011 but I was still coached by Philo Saunders. At the end of 2012 I moved to Ballarat to live and train with Collis Birmingham and Ryan Gregson and at that point Nic started to coach me.
Has all of this time been as purely a professional runner? Or have you had a job, course or side hustle along the way?
Purely a professional runner, a couple of times I’ve enrolled in Uni but I haven’t lasted very long before I pulled myself out.
Supportwise what does Nike offer?
I’m on a contract with Nike and get as much gear and shoes as I need.
What proportion of your income is from your shoe contract, winnings and appearance fees? Do you feel financially secure as an elite professional Aussie distance runner? Times must get tough when injured?
Its hard to say, when things are going well you can make some good money!
When things aren’t going well things can be tough.
Last year obviously I spent a lot of the year injured so wasn’t able to race and make money.
Additionally, after making the olympic final Athletics Australia decided to kick me off funding. So I was paying for all my scans and medical bills which really started to add up after a while and that all adds extra stress.
You and Ryan Gregson are now the old wise hands of the group. I’ve heard interviews on the inside running podcast from training partners like; Jack rayner, Jordy williamz and Stewy mcsweyn, they speak so highly of you. Does this surprise you? Why do you think they look up to you so much?
I was lucky enough to live with Collis, He showed me the ropes, I moved to ballarat and just copied what he did and how he went about being a professional athlete.
So I felt like after I had some success I had a responsibility to help some of the younger guys in the group.
Stewy and Rayner both wanted to improve and they pretty much did to me what I did to Collis.
I think any young athlete that comes into our group and is prepared to try and learn off the older guys in the group is going to improve.
The ones that come in thinking they know everything are the ones that don’t succeed and don’t last long in the group.
Funniest training partner in MTC and why?
Matt Ramsden, doesn’t care about what anyone thinks and just says what ever is on his mind. I find that so funny!
Fellow MTC runner and good mate of yours; Jack Rayner also looks like he’d run a good marathon if he wants to. You guys had any chats about potentially targeting one together and training the house down for it? If so when and where could this happen?
I tried to make him run Fukuoka with me after he ran 61.00 and again after he paced Sinead at melbourne marathon but he wasn’t keen just yet.
He is running so well right now he can do what ever he wants.
Hopefully next year we will train for one together!
Will you run forever?
I cant see myself racing forever, Im to vein to let myself get out of shape but think i would cut down the running a bit and maybe bulk up and play a team sport. I still think I could make it in the a-league!
If you had to retire today, what would your biggest regret runningwise be? Or are you ecstatic with what you have achieved?
I won’t have many, I’ve always gone with the view of doing everything I can so when I retire I have no regrets looking back.
This is a lot of the reason I don’t do anything else but run, I didn’t want to get to the end of my career and be saying ‘what if I put more time into running?’ I’m confident I’ll get everything out of myself and be happy with the decisions I’ve made.
What’s ahead for Brett Robinson in 2019/20?
If Fukuoka goes well I’ll then look at running World cross in Denmark because we can have a very good team with Stewy, Rayner, Tiernan and myself!
Then I’ll do a marathon probably in April.
After that I’ll go back to running some track racing.
Even if I’m focusing on the marathon I think its important to be able to get back into good 5km shape.
Mate, as always it’s been a pleasure! Good luck in Japan! Just know the Australian running community will be tracking and supporting you the whole way through!