Monday, 9 December 2013

Istanbul Marathon; On running my slowest marathon

“I always start these events with very lofty goals, like I’m going to do something special.And after a point of body deterioration, the goals get evaluated down to basically where I am now – where the best I can hope for is to avoid throwing up on my shoes.” Nuclear Engineer and ultrarunner, Ephraim Romesberg, 65 miles into the Badwater Ultramarathon

Three weeks ago I ran the Istanbul marathon. And that happened to be my slowest marathon yet. I was not expecting a PR as I didn't train properly for a few weeks. I didn't think that it would go so badly either. 

The race started on Sunday morning in a great vibe. The start line is located in Asian part of the Istanbul just next to the Bosphorus Bridge. It was a bit hard to pass the other runners on the bridge as the road was relatively narrow and there was only one starting group. But the scenery was  great and the weather could hardly be any better. 

As I passed the 2 km mark, I started to pick up my pace. I was probably going too fast and I knew it but I was feeling great and could not convince myself to slow down. My average pace was 5 min/km for the first half of the race. Given that my best time in marathon was 3:49 with a pace around 5:20, I knew I was going too fast. I knew I might hit the wall and won't be able to keep up with this pace. But I also knew that I was not in the best shape and I might hit the wall anyway. So I decided to run in this pace as far as I can and if something went wrong I would try to manage it.

It was around kilometre 28 (Just before the turn around point) That I felt the sharp pain under the arch of my right foot. I did ignore that for a couple of minutes but the pain grew and I could hardly run. The pain was quite similar to ankle sprain. I stopped, walked for a little while, stretched my calves and started to run again. But the longest distance I could cover by running was about 300-400 metres. 

I did hit the wall during the Frankfurt marathon last year when I was down due to quad cramps and fatigue. In Frankfurt I was not sure if I could finish the race, I had pain all over my body but I could at least walk comfortably. This time it was different though. I was not feeling tired, If only I could get rid of that pain in my foot I would finish it in quite a good time. But the pain was growing up and after 35km I was limping and taking care of my right leg. I was grabbing my right leg with my hand and pull it forward in every single steps. It was not the question of getting to the finish line, I was sure I can make it there. It was that I wanted to get there in a good time and in a good shape. I could see that it is not possible with this physical condition. 

Because I was running in really bad form, there were more pressure on my knees. So the closer I got to the finish line the more difficult it became to run. Finally I dragged myself to the end and when I saw the time on the official race clock, I felt sad. I could not believe that I finished a marathon in 4:16. When I reached the halfway mark, I was 7 minutes ahead of my PR. And now I was finishing the race almost half an hour behind it. It was the first time ever that I crossed the finish line and was not chuffed.

Another marathon finished and I would consider it as a great experience. I could finish the race easier and faster if I paced myself better and did not start too fast. But as strange as sounds I don't regret that. What I found is that I could keep the 5 min/km pace for 25 kilometres even though I did not train properly for that pace. So If I train harder and If I can keep up that pace along the course, a 3:30 marathon is achievable. 

I would not run another race until I am absolutely ready for that. Having said that it would not give me an excuse to cancel any planned race, but to train harder and get into the best shape I can be. I would run more often and put some serious strength workout into my training routine. I would get leaner and faster and become a better runner. Istanbul marathon was not the easiest one but it did for sure make me stronger. 

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