On 08th September 2013 I could successful sweep one point on my life’s todo list: Running and finishing a marathon!
I added this item to the list about 7 years ago when I was studying in Constance and already ran a half marathon in Stein am Rhein, Switzerland. The due date for the task was before my 30th birthday. So I reached it a bit too late, but decided that it still counts 😉
Preparation is everything
But let’s get back half a year: The decision to run the marathon in Münster was made at the beginning of this year. Fortunately a friend of mine, Frank Upgang, decided to run along with me which made it much more easier to fix the plan. Later another friend, Matthias Nieratschker, also decided to register for the event. Thank you, it was an even better event running together with you two!
From various sources I knew that you should do a really good preparation, so the marathon won’t be that much of a torture. I always had a target of running it under 4 hours, so I chose an appropriate schedule and started my training.
The following weeks were very alternating: Most of the time the runs went very well, but 4 runs a week is sometimes exhausting, more mentally than physical. A welcome change in the monotonous schedule was my trip to London at the end of August. As the marathon was only 1 week away back then I had to take my running shoes with me, of course. But it was worth it: The training in the Victoria Park together with the holiday in general was real refreshing and motivating.
The last week before the marathon only contained some really short and slow runs, so I was in good condition on the weekend of the event. Matthias cooked his famous Spagetti Bolognese on the evening before which should give us enough energy for the race.
The nice and easy part
My plan was to run the marathon with the 51-49 tactics as I tried it out successfully at the half marathon already. It means to run the first half of a race in 51% of the target time, the second half in 49%. So you start a bit slower than you have to be, but have more reserves for the second half.
One great advantage of this tactic was that I could run the first half and part of the second half together with my friend Frank who hadn’t set any target time but is normally a bit faster than me. This time though he didn’t have the time for a proper preparation, so the speed of my first half (5:45 min/km) was quite right for him. We divided after about 26 kilometers. And although 26 kilometers are not that little I have to say this part of the race was really, really nice and easy. Thanks to Frank
The confused part
After we split I hold my now a little faster speed. I just had my watch to check my pulse and my time. With the kilometer markers next to track I could check if I am still in time or have to speed up/slow down. This worked very well for the first half. But not that well at the start of the second half as I got a bit confused about my times. I took the pace of the first half for the kilometers of the second one (5:35 min/km) so I thought I was really good on schedule. Fortunately my speed was right when I realized my mistake, so instead of being some minutes in front of my schedule, I was only a little behind. It was no good moment anyway as I also realized that I had to keep up this speed till the end of the race.
The euphoric part I
Although I had already run about 32 kilometers and the speed was higher than in the first half, I suddenly started to fly over the track. I came across the village where I broke down a year before during the relay marathon (See My relay marathon background). This time though I already did more than 30 kilometers and didn’t see a reason to stop. Furthermore there were many people cheering next to the track and bands were playing live music. I will never forget the moment they played „Die Toten Hosen“ with their song „Das ist der Moment“ when I came by. Another band was playing „Sportfreunde Stiller“ which was also played at my successful half marathon in Hamburg before.
All the preparation was already worth these moments. Fortunately I savor them to the fullest as there were other moments to come…
The hardest part
Everybody who have already run a marathon knows what comes next, you read it in each article about marathons, heard about it hundred times, but it still hits you like a hammer. One famous saying is „A marathon doesn’t start before 35 kilometers“ and boy, know I really know what it means. From one kilometer to the next all the euphoria suddenly fade away and made room for a deep tiredness. This is the part were you ask yourself: „Why the hell am I doing all this?“ You know if you stop now you won’t finish the race but on the other hand this is the thing you want to do.
Till now it was a physical challenge, now it becomes a mental one. You have to think about all the preparations you already managed which would have been for nothing if you stop now. And of course think about the triumph if you manage the remaining 7 kilometers („Hey, 7 kilometers, that’s less than any training run!“).
I kept my speed and just ran, one kilometer felt to take as long as 5 beforehand. In the end running on is all you can do. And it’s worthwhile as this isn’t the final part.
The euphoric part II
To beat my target time of 4 hours I had to pass the 4 hour target runner somewhere. My goal was to pass him on the last kilometer and for the last 4 I could already see him at the horizon, coming closer. Suddenly he was only some meters away and it was still 2 kilometers to go and than I was in front of him. This was the moment when I realized that I will finish the race and I will finish it under my target time. My legs were tired and I knew now that 2 kilometers can be very long, but nothing could stop me from reaching the target line. I took all my remaining breath and ran, knowing that all extra minutes I earn now are only nice-to-have.
The race ends in the heart of Münster, passing hundreds of cheering people. Reaching the target line wasn’t the great moment I hoped it would be, I was just happy to pass it. But I was very, very glad that I did it: Finished my first marathon in 3:57 h!
My legs hurt about 4 days long, but it was worth it. It was a great event and the memory about it is just priceless. One tip at this location: Don’t try to play soccer even a week after the marathon. Your legs might not hurt anymore, but you will feel the pain again the day after. Trust me, I tried it 😉
I decided to make this marathon my first and my last. I haven’t had an experience like this before in my life, that’s true. But the preparation time is just too long. Plus you want to beat your previous time, of course, and that would be very ambitious. Half and relay marathons come with much less preparation time plus you can run them easily for fun and with friends.
Although while writing this I felt the need to run a marathon again…