Sunday, 17 April 2011

I did it - woohooo - first marathon sub 3 hours 30

I woke up this morning feeling rather nervous and my stomach didn't feel so great either.  The good thing though is that I set my alarm for 6.15am which gave me plenty of time to eat breakfast beforehand.  The last thing I wanted is to have to stop for the toilet mid run and ruin my time.  I went with something recommended on various forums - a couple of pancakes with maple syrup and washed down with a glass of orange juice.  In the past I have tried to down lots of sports drinks prior to the run but apparently this is not such a good idea as it can cause a sugar spike, making you feel lethargic, and the most important thing is just that you are hydrated.

I didn't want to have to worry about leaving my kit at the depot beforehand so I dressed ready in my shorts and running top prior to leaving the apartment.  It was rather chilly to begin with but I knew it would soon warm up.  Whilst in training I haven't had any problems with sore nipples, I took one of my friends advice and taped them up anyway.  In addition I put a plaster on the back of each heel just in case.

When I got down to the main station, I decided to walk a bit along Bahnhofstrasse towards the start, as my legs haven't seen much action the last week so I wanted to give them a little taste of what was to come, although obviously not on the same scale.

When I got to the start I looked around for the 3 hour 30 pacemakers, as my plan was to follow them at least to start with, and if the pace felt good then to keep up with them the whole way.  I couldn't see them to begin with but finally they showed up and they placed themselves rather near the start.  I assumed that there would be thousands of runners above this pace, but maybe not thousands as it turned out.

When the gun went it took 1 or 2 minutes to get over the start line.  It was the usual jostling for position, but fairplay most people must have chosen their start spot honestly, as I wasn't really held up by slow runners who overestimated their time.  It was fairly easy to follow the pacemakers, and they were certainly easy to spot holding their bit yellow balloons, although they did have a fair sizes bunch tagging along behind them.

As the runners spread out slightly, the pace seemed comfortable.  I knew at that point I was in with a definite chance of a 3 hour 30 marathon plus or minus a few minutes.  I missed the first water stop as it was only on the opposite side of the road, and after that I decided to make sure I didn't miss the second.  My plan was to at least take a few sips at each water stop, although I was carrying my own gels so didn't need to worry about that.

As we got to 15km or so, I was really surprised just how relaxed I felt, and I wasn't blowing hard at all.  I felt sorry for some people that were already blowing incredibly hard, as I couldn't imagine they were going to have an easy time of finishing.  By this time I was just ahead of the pacemakers, as I got fed up of weaving in an out of other runners trying to tuck in close to them.  As I could no longer see them and was trying to keep an even pace based on how I felt rather than continuously looking behind or looking at my watch, I started creeping ahead.  When I looked down at my watch I saw the pace was 4 minutes 40 per km and I still felt okay.

At Meilen we turned around and I felt I definitely had enough in me to at least finish.  I was very wary though of what I have heard from others, that it always seems okay and then suddenly you hit the wall very quickly in the last 10km or so.  For this reason I took sips of isotonic drink wherever it was offered, washed down with some water, and in addition I ate a couple of dextrose tablets, one gel pack that was handed out at a food station and another gel pack that I was carrying with me.  I felt this would be enough to see me through to the end.

Then suddenly just like I had been warned, in the last 11km my legs started becoming very heavy.  It really felt like an effort to lift them up and for the first time it was no longer just another training run so to speak.  I looked down at my watch, and I had been running so well up till now that I really only needed to keep under 6 minutes per km for the remaining 10km in order to get my desired sub 3 hour 30 time.  I knew I could run this easily in training so I didn't give up my hope of achieving my aim.

The kilometres from kilometre 32 onwards seemed to go so slowly.  It was as though someone was playing a trick on me.  Surely I had run a km by now and yet that marker still wouldn't show itself.  But surely and steady the kilometres to the finish did count down, although as they were going down my legs were becoming heavier and heavier.  It was shocking just how many people must have passed me in the last 5km.  Despite the fact it was an effort to propel my legs forward, my heart didn't feel that stressed and there were a lot of people blowing harder than me.  I wonder therefore what I am capable of if I can increase my lactate threshold and get my body better at processing the waste.

It was when I looked at my watch and saw the time remaining with 2km to go that I knew for sure I could achieve my sub 3 hour 30 time.  I knew I didn't need any crazy mad dash sprint and I just needed to push steadily onwards like I had been doing for the 8km beforehand.  Then soon enough the finish was in sight - I saw the clock was just over 3 hours 30 but then I remembered it had taken me at least a minute to cross the start line.  So I put my last remaining effort into propelling my legs forward and there it was - success - short sweet success - an official finishing time of 3 hours 29 minutes and 51 seconds.

I did it - I am so happy that I set myself a goal - one that I knew would not be that easy and then I achieved it.  And on top of that I didn't exactly have a smooth ride.  If you recall I had a lot of problems at the beginning with runners knee and had to take 3 weeks off running and 9 physio sessions right in the middle of my marathon training.  So although I was keeping fit with cross training I only did one solid month of running in preparation for the marathon.

Thanks to all of you who have supported me throughout and who told me they believed in me.  This is just the first step though remember, as the real challenge is yet to come - the Marathon des Sables.  But for today this is a great start.

Enjoy your weekend,

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