When Bernie Millett ran his first Canberra Marathon in 1980, he was determined to clock a personal best. As he approaches his 30th run, the 72-year-old's focus has switched to survival.
Mr Millett, of Jerrabomberra, has pounded the pavement in the popular run 29 times after he caught the marathon bug in his 30s.
''In those days, I was going for speed; nowadays, it's just about surviving.
''My best time was, I think, two hours, 32 minutes and 47 seconds.
''Now I'm on the other side of that, your times get slower. You just want to get under four hours.''
If Mr Millett can keep any injuries at bay and cross the finish line again this year, he'll join the exclusive ranks of the ''Walter Burley Griffins'', a title given to the most dedicated runners through the Canberra Marathon Griffin Program, which recognises participants who have completed the run 10, 20 or 30 times.
Mr Millett will be joined on the track by Sydney running enthusiast Bob Fickel, 62, who is also set to complete his 30th race this year.
''I've said I'll run the marathon if I have to crawl on my hands and knees,'' Mr Fickel says.
Mr Fickel remembers, down to the second, the times he's run in all 232 marathons he's completed since he first took part in Sydney's City2Surf more than three decades ago.
''I love the Canberra Marathon,'' he says. ''It's actually my favourite, and it's the marathon I've run the most.
''The atmosphere is absolutely fantastic and they really look out for you.''
The Griffin Program is one of the main reasons he's kept coming back, ''because you're being acknowledged''.
Thousands of joggers across the country have increased their fitness regimes ready to descend on the capital for this year's Australian Running Festival - which includes the Canberra Marathon - on April 12 and 13.
The marathon course starts and ends outside Old Parliament House and traces the edge of Lake Burley Griffin past landmarks including the National Museum.
Runners can also take part in an ultramarathon and fun runs.
Mr Millett has been a runner since his school days but he got hooked on marathons after his first race in Sydney in 1976.
He has since taken part in more than 50 marathons across the country, including those in Surfers Paradise, Melbourne and Adelaide.
As for his training strategy, it's simple: ''I run.''
Mr Millett jogs about 50 kilometres each week, an effort, he says, that takes more out of him than race day.
He encourages competitors to ''find a nice, steady pace, and no surging''.
''Everyone estimates the time they're going to run, but just break it down into sections.''
■ Details: runningfestival.com.au.