An Olympic performance that made Brett Robinson feel “terrible and embarrassed” is spurring on the Australian long-distance runner as he eyes the next Games and a national record that’s stood for 36 years.
The Melbourne-based athlete had a miserable run in last year’s Olympic marathon in Tokyo, winding up in 66th in the time of 2:24.04 after an agonizing struggle on the streets of Sapporo.
Instead of humming along at a tick over three minutes per kilometre, like Robinson had done in a 2:10 marathon in London in 2019, excruciating stomach pain left him jogging.
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But that shattering day out is burning within the 31-year-old as he shoots for the 2024 Paris Olympics and Rob de Castella’s long-standing Australian marathon record — 2:07.51.
“It’s just frustrating … Any bad result hurts. A bad result at the Olympics hurts even more,” Robinson told Wide World of Sports.
“With a marathon, as well, because it’s such a big build-up you don’t really race during a marathon block. So I knew I was fit, but I had nothing to show for it, which hurts.
“It definitely makes me want to go back and redeem myself at the next Olympics.”
Robinson’s showing in Tokyo stands in stark contrast to what he produced on his Olympic debut at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, where he clinched a berth in the 5000m final.
It’s also a far cry from a scintillating run he put together in the Japanese city of Marugame in 2020, when he posted 59:57 to seize the Australian half-marathon record.
Robinson’s 2:10.55 in the 2019 London marathon makes him one of just 12 Australians in history to have cracked the 2:11 barrier.
But at the Tokyo Olympics he encountered “a lot of frustration”.
“You think about being at the Olympics and running your race, having a good race, pushing through the pain, and then I was reduced to jogging,” Robinson said.
“Doing that was just making my stitch even worse.
“You’re at the Olympics, you’re representing Australia and you’re jogging. You just feel terrible and embarrassed, really. It did really hurt a lot, that.”
It was in Boston in 1986 that de Castella registered 2:07.51 — a record Robinson describes as “crazy”.
His next chance over the marathon will happen when he laces up in London on October 2.
He won the Gold Coast half-marathon last Saturday, and he hopes to do the same at the Sunshine Coast half-marathon on August 14.
Robinson will also sharpen up for the London marathon with a 10km Sydney Harbor race on July 24.
He had a couple of track races in the USA in May, but the main reason for his American trip was to see a specialist about his stomach pain.
The problem has arisen in every marathon he’s run, so he got in touch with a physiotherapist based in Portland called Dave McHenry.
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“I’ve been working heaps on my mobility and my strength to take the rotation out of my body when I’m running,” Robinson said.
“They seem to think it’s a compressing of my rib joints.
“So, hopefully if I’m a bit more mobile and a bit more strong through that area it won’t come.
“It’s a scary thing for me (with) running marathons (that) I can be so fit going into a race and I still don’t know if it’s going to come on or not.
“But hopefully I’m doing everything I can to be ready.”
Robinson is absent from the Australian teams set to compete at the World Athletics Championships and Commonwealth Games across this month and next.
He’s targeting October’s London marathon because of the cooler weather.
“My main goal is to run a really quick marathon.”
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