Bucharest Marathon 2011, Ex Post

by Steven van Groningen on 9 October, 2011

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.

 Lessons Learned

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.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Serban Damian October 9, 2011 at 18:27

Congratulations for the race and for your constant promotion of active life!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts here and for recommending our club on your blog :)

Ro Club Maraton


SvG October 9, 2011 at 19:45

Thank you for your comment, Serban. I think I am still a member of Ro Club Marathon


Serban Damian October 9, 2011 at 19:48

Sure you are. And we are proud to have you in Ro Club Maraton :)


Anka October 9, 2011 at 19:20

Congrats! Like also the style of writing.
We were Nachbarn in the transition zone in TriChallenge Mamaia 2011 and since then I read your posts!
Good luck!


Maarten Klein April 23, 2013 at 14:49

Leuk om je blog te lezen Steven! Ik vond je als winnaar in een youtube filmpje over de Mamaia Tri Challenge. Ik wil daar mn eerste triathlon gaan doen. Ben nu tien jaar aan het hardlopen en wilde al graag eens leren zwemmen (crawl)….

We zijn regelmatig op bezoek bij mn schoonouders in Constanta en al jarenlang probeer ik een wedstrijdje te plannen tijdens een verblijf. Nu – eindelijk – komt de Mamaia Tri Challenge daarmee op mn pad.

Hoe is die triathlon?

Op je blog vond ik dit artikel en met al jaren lopen en steeds maar ‘finetunen’ om steeds beter wedstrijden te kunnen doen, ben ik een steeds meer vegan leefstijl erop na aan het houden. Het voelt zeer verrassend goed om vegan te leven (alhoewel dus nog niet de volle 100%). Onlangs de Rdam marathon ook op een spinaziesmoothie gelopen (wel paar uurtjes vooraf natuurlijk). Mn inspiratie hiervoor kwam van Eat & Run van Scott Jurek. En van deplanteneter.nl. ‘s-Morgens aan de groentenslowjuices en veel minder drang naar koffie of tussendoortjes meer en met fietsen/lopen voelt het ook beter.

Keep on inspiring people,



Roby Roth October 9, 2011 at 19:40

I had more or less the same pre-race doubts. I hadn’t trained enough for the full marathon, my mind told me to stick with the half, which I eventually did (with slight traces of regret). The course was fine (in spite of the blandness of the scenery, it’s a faster course than the regular one), the weather was excellent for running, the organisation excellent (kudos to Valeria) and I ran a personal best.
So it boils down to this: does it make sense to run a marathon that you’re not fully prepared for? It is heroical, so it probably doesn’t make sense – but then we’re no robots, if your body recovers soon enough it’s up to your mind to decide whether to shelve it under ‘memorable experience’ or ‘don’t try this again’.
Congrats for the stamina and for the long hours put forward achieving it. But mainly congrats for an excellent season.



Serban Ciusca October 9, 2011 at 20:13

Congratulations Steven!

I’m just a beginner in this Passion ;-). (just relay in the past).

After I read your article I decided that, at least once in the lifetime, I have to run the whole Marathon.

Thank you for your example which ispires “regular people” ;-)


SvG October 10, 2011 at 21:55

Thanks Serban, be warned, after a first one follows as second and so on, you might run out of time for your other passions !


Sandor Boldizsar October 10, 2011 at 07:21

Nice post – straight, honest & full of truth!
First – CONGRATS to a very good triathlon season (great improvement on the bike)!
Second – THANKS for promoting sports (for the regular/masses of people) in Romania! The RENTAL BIKE program has great success in reminding people what it is like riding a bike in the city (at least in Brasov).
Third – I am proud to be part of the running club that has members like you & Valeria.

Finally, after 8 years of triathlon/endurance sports, I have come to the same conclusion – a triathlete can run a marathon (especially at the end of the season) without much specific training. However, going for a PB (or qualiftying for Boston) takes more than just running around the block. ;-)

Good luck & happy resting off-season!


SvG October 10, 2011 at 21:54

Thank you Sandor, you are too kind. The hardest part of the off season is not to gain too much weight !


Andrei Petre October 10, 2011 at 11:15

Since I am responsible for your (full) marathon registration, not intended of course, I need to express my “regret” for causing you a some suffering :)
I made my decision to run this marathon 5 days before the race as well, after running Piatra Craiului Marathon last weekend and not having enough training on flat road. So my situation was somehow similar – I took the (calculated) risk as you did (and many others yesterday) and now I am happy for that ! It was great and I didn’t even mind the bad weather.
I guess this kind of decisions and what a runner is doing during the race – how he calculates, how he runs, how he listens to his body and mind, how he takes energy from the crowd :) and so on) make him / her know his / her self better.
Every long distance runner had his/her share of suffering yesterday and we all know how it feels when your muscles are about to explode. But your words and your experience make it almost visible :)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for everything else !


SvG October 10, 2011 at 17:31

Thanks Andrei, I am really glad I did the full and have to thank you for this. You wre flying yesterday! Next year I”ll do Piatra Craiului as well.at least I have plenty of time left to train….


Leon Vrska October 10, 2011 at 16:05

I found your blog when I was preparing for my first marathon. I was looking on the internet for advices and guides. I have not used any trainer, which I think is a mistake. I was hoping for time close to 4 hours.
Nevertheless, I followed you about first round and after that the distance was increasing. I have to admit, when I was passing you in last round, that I felt mixture of pride, sympathy together with regret that I have got in front of you.
In the end my time was 4 hours and 8minutes. I am sure that next time, times time will be below 4hours.
Thank you for the inspiration and direct involvement and indirect through the bank managed by you.


SvG October 10, 2011 at 17:36

Thank you Leon and congratulations on running your first marathon!


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