There was never any doubt about running in the Bucharest Marathon event. It is organized by my wife and my employer is the main sponsor. The only valid excuse not to participate would have been to take part this same weekend in the World Championship Ironman in Kona, Hawaii, but I didn’t earn a slot. The question was therefor in which event to run, the relay, with 3 others, each running 10,5 Km, the half marathon or the full 42,2 Km. I had been freewheeling somewhat after my Ironman Frankfurt race in July this year. This didn’t stop me from achieving a quite honorable result that the Olympic Distance triathlon in Mamaia this year. I came in 23rd out of 100 and won my age category but running a marathon is different. It requires you to put in lots of kilometers in training, which I didn’t do anymore after Frankfurt. On top of that I also gained 5 Kg and that doesn’t help (but my wife says I look good :-)))).
So, I had more or less settled for the half distance. I ran 20 Km in a training 2 weeks before and it seemed easy. When I picked up my race kit and start number yesterday, I found out I was nevertheless registered for the full distance. Now the feeling of guilt, of seeming to chicken out became stronger and I said I would see how things went and make up my mind halfway. This is of course not a valid argument. As any marathon runner will tell you and others can easily imagine, it is the second half of the marathon that is the problem, not the first one.
The Full Distance, Again
Predictably, I ran the full distance. I decided to go off on a schedule of 4 hours and keep this as long a possible. This translated in practice to the 33 km point, after which the wheels fell of and I needed to slow down. At least I could keep on running (with the exception of a 30 sec walking break I gave myself as reward for running 39 Km. I like to be able to say that I run my marathons (as opposed to walk them).
I finished in around 4:20. In comparison, last year I ran around 3:40 and I ran the marathon in the Ironman this year in 4:37 after I pushed it too hard on the bike.
A fit and experienced person can run a marathon even if he or she has not put in the necessary kilometers in training. It just takes longer and gets more unpleasant towards the end.
Suffering a bit should hopefully be a reminder to prepare better for next events. I will make a serious commitment to participate in an endurance event net time or not participate at all. (You’ll still suffer, but blame yourself less for it)
You should know you limits, a bit of suffering is OK, but you should understand when you get to the point that you are damaging you body (too much) and have to stop.
The mind can easily trick the body. My body regrets my decision, my mind not.
Born To Run
A marathon is a great event and most of us run it against ourselves and not others. I found it worth running the full distance even if I was not full prepared. The book on my About My Books page Born to Run describes a theory about the popularity of running long distance races and the uniqueness of the pre start ritual. Basically this goes back tens of thousands of years, when men hunted by running down animals that were much faster over shorter distances but man could outrun over long distances. The sensation that many marathoners feel at the start and consider unique goes back to the start of the hunt, if I recall the story correctly.
Don’t try this at home
Please bear in mind that I am not a newby, I have been training for at least 35 years. I participated in 2 world championship rowing and the Olympic games, I finished 2 full Ironman triathlons and about 20 marathons. Don’t take my experience as advice. If you want to run a marathon, join a running club, take a coach or read about how to prepare. The internet is full with advice, most of it of course with the goal to make you buy products you don’t need, but you can find the basics about training.
My 2 Cents
Often people ask me for advice about equipment or food. I have the feeling that I disappoint them by saying I eat mostly vegan (no meat, no milk, yogurt or cheese but fish I eat), never take any supplements, drink mostly water (no sports drink) and not at all if I train less than 2 hours unless it is really hot. When I train for more than 2 hours I’ll make a concentrated solution of a product that is based on complex sugars and take that with water. Again, I worked this out over the years. Everyone needs to find out what works for him or her, that is what training is for.