The day of the big race had arrived, and I went through my pre-race activities as is normal for me. My largest hurdle on a race day is staying relaxed, but this day I was loose, calm, and mentally open. Unfortunately, my body was acting the opposite. However, I kept a positive mindset on all that was going on around me, as most often my feeling during an event is the exact opposite as the hours leading up to it.
I forced myself to eat a little more breakfast than usual, which isn’t hard. I had one apple, one half of a banana, and two pieces of bread with butter and marmalade. That’s one more piece of bread, and one half of a banana more than I usually take. I was hoping to store a bit of extra sugar for the end of the marathon, as in my first and only other time running the distance I crashed HARD over the final 6 miles.
Lisi, her father and I made the half hour drive from the country side into Salzburg, Austria, chatting casually, and trying to keep things loose and relaxed, yet focused. I made my final pre race restroom pit stop at a small running club about 2 miles from the start area, where the restroom was clean and there was no line. What I received there was my first hint that things may not be running optimally. I’ll save you the details, but let’s just say things were NOT „coming together.“
In warming up for the event I didn’t notice anything grossly out of sorts. I had spent the week leading up to the race a little sluggish and unresponsive, which is not atypical for me. I had been having some minor hip tightness and lower back discomfort, but I knew it was something I could push through if it sprung up in the last portion of the marathon.

As the gun signalling the start fired, every one of the thin, toned pair of legs building a wall along the starting line exploded forward, spilling a universe worth of nervous energy into the city street. In this one instant I knew that I would be in for a long hard fight. The group I intended to pace with had exploded out, and opened a five second lead by the first half mile. I slowly started to make up ground, until finally, around the fifth kilometer, I had connected with the small pack of five or six. I attempted to remain as relaxed as possible, but my legs felt as though they had roots attempting to hold them to the ground. I focused my breathing to keep a low, steady heart rate before taking the lead of the second pack at 6 kilometers. For the next 7-800 meters I attempted to „flush“ the tired from my legs and wake my system up, but it was to no avail. I decided it was in my best interest to let the pack go, and try to find a tempo I knew I could manage for the duration of the race. The second pack, my goal time, and my intention to scrap and battle for a good finishing place were all gone before I hit the 5 mile mark of the 26.2 mile race.
By 15km my head had turned from upset to distraught, and all I wanted to do was step off of the course. My tight hip had already become a problem, and a tightness that usually precedes cramping had already moved into my hamstrings. I had only quit one race prior in my entire life, and I remembered the feeling it left with me. I knew that I would finish this thing, regardless of how hard it would be.
After running 6 km at 2:20 pace early in the race, I went through the half marathon in 1:13. My pace didn’t change much after that until I hit the last 5km of the race, when I began to slow quickly. What surprised me was how well my body had held up after feeling so crummy early. I never shook the lethargy or heavy legs, but my aching hip only made taking corners difficult, and the tightness in my hamstrings never began to cramp. If I had any reason to run harder over the final 5km it would have been possible, but I had packed it in around 15km, and this had become a long run for me. It was not a race.
It was a long, hard day. I did a good job of taking in fluids and fuel to ensure that my recovery would be speedy and that I wouldn’t waste the incredible level of fitness I’m carrying right now. After the race I let a couple of barely noticed tears escape… it’s hard to know how to feel when you put all of yourself into one event, and you wake up that morning and just have not good day, for no reason you could have changed. But I guess that’s life, right?

The day after the race I had some residual soreness in my hip and lower back, but nothing else bothered me. Two days after I was full of energy and ready to run another marathon in a week or so. And today… well today all I know is that I need to make more time to get my mileage, but that I should be pretty proud of my 2:30 marathon. Especially since I did it on a day when I couldn’t have felt much worse… and also because I only averaged 68 miles per week in the build up. I don’t know many people who can run 2:30 on less than 70 miles a week.

Thanks for sticking with me. One day I’ll make us all proud.

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