Four-time Olympian Lisa Weightman nailed a personal best 2:23:15 at the 2023 Osaka Marathon to bank the qualifying time for selection for the fifth Olympic Games of her career.
The 44-year-old shares the performance insights that have helped her maintain consistency and longevity as she prepares to represent Australia at Paris 2024...
Hi Lisa! Your family has a strong sporting pedigree as your father was an Aussie Rules Football player and coach. How big an influence was he on your running?
My dad used to say to me “nothing beats persistence” and that quote has underpinned everything I've achieved throughout my life.
At a young age, my sister and I would sneak into the dressing rooms to listen to dad’s half time address to his players. We quickly learned some colourful language, but learned about high performance sport and the importance of teamwork.
My dad encouraged my sister and I to run together in primary school and into our teens. After not being able to make it a mile in my first run, dad carried me home. I was so upset about not being able to make it, so the next day I asked dad if we could try again. We ran the next day and I made it two miles without stopping!
As my passion for running increased, I committed to doing more training at the football club so dad could ensure I was safe while he coached the boys.
Since those early days of running, you’ve racked up top-35 marathon finishes at four separate Olympic Games. What do you put your longevity down to?
A few things:
- Regular breaks to recharge and agree as a family unit on what’s next and what our priorities are. My husband (and coach) Lachlan has been the most supportive partner anyone could ever wish for.
- I had all of my major injuries as a young athlete in my late teens / early 20s (nine stress fractures in nine years). The injuries were frustrating at the time as you're scouted when “you're young and have potential”, so throughout my running career I've had no choice but to work full-time. I wasn't willing to spend my life struggling to pay the bills and having injuries define me and my worth. It’s been a really tough way to do it, but it's also given me longevity.
- Because I can't make a living out of running, I have a career and any corporate worker knows that for every hour behind a desk, you need exercise to balance things out and keep your mind sharp. Running is my balance.
And you logged a PB marathon time of 2:23:15 in Osaka to bank the qualifying time for selection at what would be your fifth Olympics! Not many athletes are recording PB's at the age of 44...
Yeah, I reckon I’m faster in my 40's for two reasons.
- I’m running more now than I was able to in my early years as my body is stronger. For Osaka, I took time off work over summer and trained longer and handled more intensity than ever before.
- We're in the era of the 'super shoes' that help us recover faster and handle shock better. This means that when we're at the same level of fitness, we're naturally able to run and recover quicker for the next block. The technology is a game-changer, but it can also be quite frustrating as some athletes have access to shoes that others don’t, and that's not within the spirit of fair competition.
How do you maintain motivation for running at an elite level over a prolonged period?
Consistently being told I’m not good enough is what motivates me. For years, I've been told “you're too old, we're only interested in investing in athletes who are young and show potential”.
Lachlan shared an Instagram post with the quote:
Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.
I can relate to that as my best performances have always come when I've been able to do it our way and create that inner passion which feeds motivation. My worst performances have been when I've run races because I felt the pressure to do so.
Given I don’t make a living from the sport, I only choose races because I really want to do them.
So, what does a typical week of training involve as you look to peak for those races?
I don't have a typical week as Lachlan and I have to juggle things around work schedules, school drop-offs, gymnastics classes, and our son Peter's other activities.
As most parents can relate to, life is bonkers. Sometimes I miss runs, or have to do them with a head torch. You do what you got to do, right?
All things being equal, my ideal running week would be:
- Monday / Wednesday / Friday / Saturday - 2 easy runs
- Tuesday - Track in the evening with my Melbourne University Team, Lachlan and my nephew who I coach. A go-to session is 5 x 1,600m at 10km effort
- Thursday - Long Tempo at Half Marathon effort
- Sunday - Long Run (with or without marathon effort work depending on where we're at in the year)
Excellent, so what would be your advice to athletes trying to find a work-family-training balance?
The journey of delivering a project for a client has so many similarities to that of preparing for a marathon.
They both take meticulous planning. They both require discipline and at many points in the journey you question whether you're going to reach the deadline or run your target time. At those points in the project or the marathon, you need to believe in yourself, have the ability to adopt a different approach, and most importantly you need a team that's unwavering in their support.
I’m fortunate that I've learned skills along the way across both of these aspects of life that have then helped me be a better parent (I hope!) and to apply strategies to get through the hard stuff.
My advice to those navigating a similar path in the quest for achieving personal best in career, sport and family is to know your limits and put boundaries on yourself.
Just as you schedule a work call, schedule your workout and your recovery times. It's quick to see whether you're balancing things in an optimal way. And don't forget to tell each other that taking time to rest is a strength not a weakness. 'No pain, no gain' is a path to self-destruction, not greatness.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve taken from each of your appearances at the 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2021 Olympics, that you’ll then hopefully take into Paris 2024?
I qualified for the Beijing Olympics in my debut marathon. I learned a lot from that race. We had slushies of isotonic sports drink before the race to address the warmer temperatures and little did I know it would be the first of many hot marathons in the green and gold. I didn't hit the wall but I didn't go out beyond my means either.
Since then, I've found I run my best with my family by my side, which is why my best performance of 16th place occurred at the London Games in 2012. I also learned that you can't do everything, all at once, so prioritising the Olympics has been the most rewarding experience of my life.
The way I fuel my races has changed massively in that time. Fast forward to Berlin and Osaka where I introduced PF 30 Gels into my race nutrition plan; I ran 2:24 and 2:23.15 respectively and increased my carb intake significantly from the earlier days.
I'm still refining my strategy with the PF&H Sports Science team as we're looking at another uplift in carb intake in training at the moment, as well as introducing the PH 1500 Electrolyte Tablets in preparation for the heat of Paris.
With your fueling plan, what does your final meal before a race look like?
Rice, potato, banana and some carb mix to wash down the very plain dinner! Before Osaka I found it a little challenging to find the potato so I had to settle for a few hot chips. This might be a superstition now rather than an important nutritional component!
And what’s a typical post-race meal for you?
Burgers, fries and a milkshake! It's our tradition!