Marty Lukes- Post Tarawera Interview

“Number 1 thought for me is what a superb athlete and wonderful sportsman Marty Lukes is. By 5k he was in trouble, and by 6k he was standing still… severe quad cramps. He literally had to stand there and wait for them to start working. He did not DNF, but got started again, ran through the field, but took the time to talk to and encourage other athletes a long the way. By 20km he was 40 mins down on the lead bunch, but he ran like the wind and worked his way back to a podium spot.” - Andrew Shelley

We are working through a bunch of post Tarawera stuff and the moment (as well as pre Northburn100), but as soon as we got this it had to go up-an interview with Marty Lukes, multiple NZ title holder and 3rd place finisher at the 2012 Tarawera-

TheBackcountryRunner (TBR)- you sounded pretty relaxed the day before the race when I chatted with you, how was your build up/preparation to TuM compared to other 100km races that you have done (NZ and world 100k champs)? 

Marty Lukes (ML)- My build up was based on a solid base of adventure running through January. It is always good to have time off after the Kepler and a busy year teaching which I do over Christmas and New Year. The adventures in January included long days in the Nelson Lakes National Park, Kaikouras, Paparoas and West Coast. Some sharpening runs on Mt Isobel were supplemented with racing Avalanche Peak and the Bedrock50 in February. My 5 km race speed was a bit down (16 mins 9 secs) but I did feel strong in the long stuff. The big difference in training would be getting by with doing less; family and work commitments are now the main priorities. Biking to work assisted with overall aerobic fitness.

TBR- there was a fair amount of hype, by NZ standards, about the men’s field at this year’s TuM- did you buy into it?

ML- Not really my thing hype. Fortunately I’ve performed in ultra races with very strong fields of World Champion 100 km ultrarunners and multiple Comrade winners so having exceptionally fast runners starting wasn’t a big deal because it added depth to the event. Going into the race who was keeping you awake at night? My 3 year old daughter Eva. Who did you see as the biggest threat for the win? Any of the dark horses… and there were a few out there. Never trust the dark horses…

about 3 steps later the quads packed in…
Photo: Andrew Shelley

TBR- You went from running in the lead bunch, to 2nd to last place at the 4km mark, to then pass all in front of you bar Mick and Vajin- please explain. especially what was going through your head, knowing that you had lost 30-40mins on the leaders?

ML- The quads packed up going over the brow of the hill down to the watertanks. It has happened twice before in 15 years of racing and training. The symptoms are the same: both quads develop spikey sensations within a few seconds then immediately vicious cramping develops causing both quads to become rock solid and excruciatingly painful. Walking is gruelling let alone a weight bearing jog. When it happened on the Port Hills in Christchurch I was left wondering how I would get home (a super slow walk) and the second time was in the Dunedin marathon where I DNF’ed at 5 km. When the quads went on Saturday I stopped, held onto a wooden platform to allow the field to get past then evaluated the situation. Continuing was not an option given the pain and the flight of steps to go down; a DNF was the best choice. I spent a good 20 minutes letting the field go past and stretching the quads to kill time. I then hobbled back up the track towards the road and then lay on the ground to stretch the back, hammies and glutes. Once the field had gone past I headed back to meet a tailender who said to turn around and walk the other way. It took a bit of effort but I managed to do the steps then get up a small climb and keep walking on the track to the Blue Lake. Striding lunge movements and more stretching continued to loosen the quads and after 30 – 40 minutes from the enforced stop I got going. My attitude was nothing to loose and that there was enough distance to go to catch up. I knew I had to go very hard. The quads felt damaged and the downhill sections were very sore but it felt like muscle fatigue at 80 km rather than DNF- not – able – to – run – pain. It was a surreal experience to be running so hard in an ultra not knowing how long things would hold together for but knowing that the pace intensity may just get to within striking distance. By the end of the Tarawera Falls section I knew I was close to the two leaders and was very confident that within 10 km I would see the next runner. Unfortunately what was left of the quads began to tire and then fatigue on the first set of hills. Damn I thought this section was runnably flat…. Then intense discomfort on the downhills restricted stride length and speed and by the Hill of Death I knew that I’d need to be very conservative to finish in one piece and retain the 3rd place. Even still it was a close thing with a rapidly chasing David Eadie zooming through the trees at the finish. I was lucky the race wasn’t 100.1 km.

TBR- I can’t imagine attempting to run down that field- what made you decide to give it a nudge?

ML- Nothing to lose given I’d been thinking DNF plus I knew that 30 – 40 mins was retrievable if I could sustain a high enough intensity.

Marty, with RD Paul, at prize giving explaining how he got back in the race. Photo Andre Blumberg

TBR- You’d be disappointed how things played out, but what positives are you taking away from the race?

ML- Ironically this would be one of my most satisfying runs on a variety of personal levels. To go from a down and out state at 4km to finishing 100 km is very satisfying and reinforces my belief that how we perform is largely driven by the muscle between the ears. It took the tail ender to show me that. I owe that guy a big thank you.

TBR- What did you think of the Tarawera course and the race/event as a whole?

ML- The event is truly magical; great start location, positive vibe, absolutely amazing course that is exceptionally well marked and resourced with drink stations and food. And of course the running terrain is just world class. I was very impressed by Paul’s genuine knowledge and passion for ultra. We are so lucky to have this event here in New Zealand.

TBR- Where will we see Marty Lukes next??- ANZ 100km champs at Hagley Park, TNF100 in the Blue Mtns, or anchoring the SRC relay team at an early season cross country race in Canterbury?

ML- Well, the Sumner Running Club winter season fires up soon and I get a huge amount of satisfaction from the local scene. Great events, wonderful sense of community and professionally run events by the Athletics Canterbury volunteers. I’d love to race overseas again if some generous financial benefactor made an offer but seeing NZ has some cool events then some of those road and trail events are looking very enticing.

TBR- Thanks for your time Marty, recover well and we will see you on the trails soon!


About GTG

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3 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. A great interview Grant, and another insight to what a great athlete and bloke you are Marty! Good job’

  2. Marty, you are an inspiration to us all, good read Grant

  3. Great stuff Grant – awesome comeback Marty. I can attest to the stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks effect of those full leg cramps, I’m still recovering from last years.

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