Sunday, October 25, 2020

Let's Be Grateful

 In a strange masochistic way, I always wanted to know what it would be like to run an entire marathon on a treadmill. I think it was Jo Fearon a few years ago when she ran 12 marathons on the 12 days of Christmas (she had to restrain herself to the marathon distance because she was nursing a baby at the time - talk about hardcore!) that started my curiosity, but knowing how miserable an experience even a single hour on the treadmill usually is I wasn't ever tempted to follow up on that in reality.

Two things have happened since that made the difference. The first was the emergence of online training platforms like Zwift with their virtual worlds tied to your own performance on a treadmill or bike trainer. It should not really make a difference, you are still working away without moving from the spot, but seeing your avatar moving along in a 3D world is a complete game changer. The second thing was obviously a worldwide pandemic that made it rather unwise to hold mass events, to be putting it mildly, and virtual events have taken over instead, poor replacements they may be.

I had waited for a long time to sign up for the virtual Dublin City Marathon, not really being tempted by virtual races, but eventually I did. I was a bit unsure where I should do my running; laps were an obvious choice, especially as it allowed you to stow away some sports drink, in the hope nobody would interfere with it, and I had the option of Bray's People Park (1 km loops), Shanganagh Park (2 km loops) and Boghall Road - Southern Cross Road (5 km loops), plus the distance it would take to run there and back home.

Then level 5 lockdown came to Ireland, and while all those options were entirely inside my 5 km radius and therefore perfectly within the guidelines, I opted to cocoon and went for the treadmill, though in all honesty more out of curiosity to finally grab the chance to see what it's like rather than an overblown sense of civil obedience. It also solved the drinks problem, all I had to do was to put them on the windowsill beside me.

Once all was in place, it was just a matter of starting the computer and the treadmill and start running.

The first 5k were rather tedious. Time just didn't want to pass and I thought this was going to be a VERY long day. Mind, I have plenty of experience of very long days running and today wasn't going to be one of the tough ones, not really. Eventually I managed to tune out and get into the Zone, which helped a lot and made the next 90 minutes or so mostly just fly by.

The pacing was maybe a tad optimistic. I hadn't done any marathon specific training and was falling back on muscle memory, though I had covered plenty of miles in that last person standing challenge, which I reckoned would stand me in good stead, so I set the pace of the treadmill to 12 kph, 5 minutes per k, which would get me home just under 3:30. That was fine for the first 25 km and I was doing pretty well, mentally as well as physically. Of course, I've been in that game long enough to know that the first 25 k are not the ones that really count. And true enough, at that point I felt the first spasm in my right calf, the bane of my life, yet again. Fuck.

The treadmill adds another dimension to the cramps game, assuming that you don't want to be spat out at the end when you seize up, which could easily lead to further injury, something I was keen to avoid. So when I felt the second spasm I decided to play it safe and slowed down. At that point I still felt pretty good and managed to get another 10 k out of my legs but then the fun started again, and this time with rather more vehemence. I narrowly avoided an undignified treadmill exit out of the back end, but it was perfectly clear that the only way to avoid further drama was to slow right down, which I did, and I jogged home the last 7k in rather pedestrian fashion and finished up in 3:37:49.

To be honest, I was happy enough with that, not a complete disgrace and I was definitely feeling it for the last few miles and not exactly in perfect shape when I finally stepped off.

So, the Virtual Dublin City Marathon is done and I have satisfied my curiosity regarding treadmill marathons. And I got the badge on Zwift. 

The final verdict: In all honesty I'm not particularly keen to repeat the experience, I much prefer a real marathon. But you know, one day there will be the day when I cannot run any more. Today is not that day. Let's be grateful for that!




  1. You look like me Thomas with the COVID ribs (not). Good to see you still at it. Cheers. MO

  2. That's awesome! I have been fascinated by this Zwift.