PREPARING for his first marathon, Ipswich runner Stephen O'Brien is hungry - literally.
But it's not only an increased appetite to conquer one of sport's toughest challenges that O'Brien is dealing with.
"One of the things I've found - because I've never done this amount of training before - is getting hungry,'' O'Brien said.
"How to keep fuelled up while you're out there racing for those sorts of distances.''
O'Brien, 28, is getting ready for the Melbourne Marathon on October 14.
While stepping up his training program in recent weeks, he has received valuable advice from experienced Ipswich competitors Matt Casos and Kym Jaenke.
My Run Club coach Casos and regional ironwoman Jaenke have competed in gruelling 42km events.
"I can make the half marathon without any water or any food,'' O'Brien said, having placed regularly in events between 10 and 20km.
His bolstered training program in recent weeks includes longer sessions from 20km to more than 30km on weekends. With that has come the important change.
"After about two hours now, I'm getting a bit hungry and thirsty,'' he said.
The former Ipswich Grammar School student is learning about the gels he needs to consume on such a long race.
But having improved by more than five minutes over half marathons in recent months, he's keen to test his progress.
"When I nominated after Park2Park I was unsure if there would be enough time,'' O'Brien said.
"But looking back, there's definitely enough time.
"I've had a good preparation.
"I originally was going to do the half (marathon) at the Gold Coast, which I did, then the plan was to do the full marathon next year at Gold Coast.
"But just knowing how much I improved on my half marathon this year, I figured I want to get at least one marathon under my belt before the Gold Coast next year.
"At least then I'll know how to prepare myself and train for it.''
Among O'Brien's recent successes was finishing third in the 10km at this year's Park2Park.
He also gained immense satisfaction from coming fifth behind Ipswich clubmate Clay Dawson at the 10km Koala Fun Run at Redcliffe earlier this year.
"I cracked the 35 minute mark for the 10k so I was pretty happy with that,'' the Peak Crossing-based runner said.
Working on business solution projects with Hastings Deering, O'Brien is a man on a mission.
He has been running with Casos for six years as part of the successful My Run Club based at Limestone Park.
Casos is also venturing to Melbourne for his latest marathon quest.