Sunday, October 09, 2005
3-Country Marathon, Lake Constance, 2 October 2005
I'm better prepared than ever before for a marathon, though that is not saying an awful lot. My preparation was hampered by shin splints about 2 months before the marathon, and I subsequently missed a significant amount of training because of that.
We fly to Zürich on Thursday, 3 days before the marathon. I check the weather forecast and they say 13 degrees, cloudy, with occasional showers. That’s a bit chilly maybe, but not too bad running weather. By Saturday they’ve changed their mind: 10 degrees, rain, lots of it. Unfortunately, the latter prognosis is the correct one.
The start is in Lindau, Germany, a place with limited parking facilities, so the organisers urge everyone to park in Bregenz, Austria, near the finishing line and catch a boat from there to the start. I follow that advice, but completely fail to anticipate that the majority of the 5000 other starters (just over 1300 for the marathon, the rest for the half-marathon) had the same idea, and the queue is enormous. I manage to scramble onto the last boat, and get changed there. I haven’t got a watch on me, which is good, because we get to Lindau only 10 minutes before the start, we just have time to put our clothes onto the lorry and go into the starting area. The Good Thing about this is that we don’t have to wait in the freezing rain. The Bad Thing is that we are right at the back of the field.
Start: It takes a bit to get going, and then the pace is slower than I have planned. I intended to run roughly 5 minutes per km (8 minutes per mile) for as long as I can hang on to, but the pace for the first 10 km is more like 5:20 per km, about 8:30 per mile. The race is not run on the Bundesstraße (main road) but on smaller pathways and dirt roads along the lake. That makes for nicer scenery, but considering the number of runners, it is not sufficient. The worst point comes at about km 6, where I overtake a very slow trio of middle-aged fat slow bitches [insults definitely intended] who complain about being overtaken by so many people, because if people want to run faster, why don’t they start ahead of them in the first place. I just about manage to avoid the temptation to kick all kinds of **** out of them and keep going.
I miss most of the early km signs due to the congestion, but with my heart rate monitor (and the included stop watch functionality) I can always tell exactly where I am. It is frustrating to be stuck in the crowds, but I tell myself that at least I am prevented from starting too fast, and that is definitely a Good Thing.
The congestion continues all the way until about km 16 (10 miles) when the marathon and half-marathon courses finally split. From then on it’s more like being lonely rather than too busy.
I feel fine, not tired at all at that stage, and the water stations are every 2.5 km, which is great because it is never far to the next one. I have three carbo-hydrate gels with me. I initially attached them to my shorts, but that doesn’t work properly, so I carry them in my hands for most of the run. It doesn’t really bother me, but maybe for the next marathon I’ll get a belt for that kind of thing.
At km 20 (mile 12.5) I start to feel really good, without a trace of fatigue. Maybe the second gel I had just taken had something to do with it. The high doesn’t last for too long though, and by km 25 (mile 16) I start to feel low. Really low. Totally tired, knackered and out-of-it-low. I feel the overwhelming urge to do anything but continue running, but I somehow manage to find the energy to keep going, step by step by step, and finally, by km 30 (mile 19) I start to feel better again. I also realise that this is the farthest I have ever run in a marathon without getting cramps (I’ve had longer training runs without cramps, but then I never get cramps in training, ever). My pace is slower now, I just can’t keep the original pace any more, and I just manage to keep running by concentrating on my breathing. Left – right – inhale – left – right – exhale, and again, and again, and again. It’s not as boring as it sounds though.
The km markers keep coming, and there are plenty of people along the course cheering on the runners despite the weather. Oh yes, the weather. When they said rain, they really meant it. It is lashing for all of the 42 kilometers. It’s not just raining, it’s pouring, and without any break whatsoever. I’m running in a sleeveless top (thank god I’m not wearing a cotton t-shirt, it would drag me to the ground my now), and I’m grateful that it’s not windy, or I would be freezing despite the running effort.
It seems to be easier to run 42 km rather than 26 miles, because it is less distance from one marker to the next one. It really does seem to make a difference.
I manage to keep going, and finally the beautiful number 42 does appear on a sweet orange background, and me and everyone around me manages a surprisingly fast sprint into the stadium, around the track and over the finishing line.
My finishing time is 3:55:57, which means of course that I have finally, finally managed to beat that blasted 4 hours barrier, but considering all the hard work I’ve put in over the last 4 months, I am a bit disappointed. The weather was dreadful, but then again a cold day is better than a hot day. The congestion over the first 10 miles was brutal, but if that hadn’t been the case I would probably have started too fast (again) and my finishing time might have been slower, who knows. I have also finally managed to run a marathon without any cramps, and I have actually managed to run the whole distance without walking break.
I have originally had an eye on the Connemara marathon in March for my next effort, but maybe I’ll take some time off marathon running, concentrate on a few shorter races (after all, in my life I have run exactly 4 distance races, 3 marathons and one 5km run that I didn’t take very seriously) that don’t take so much effort, and maybe do another autumn marathon in 2006, after my body has had some rest.