It’s been almost two weeks since I ran a marathon under 3 hours, and the runners high is far from diminished. It wasn’t my first marathon but to me a very important one. It was the race to fix what went ‘wrong’ last year. in 2021 I finished the marathon in 3.00.09.
Last year’s marathon, Icarus and I’m Napoleon
Icarus, the son of Daedalus tried to escape the island of Crete (Greece) with wings made with wax constructed by Daedalus. Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too low to the sea water or too close to the sun, as the wax would melt. Icarus, at first complying to Daedalus’ warning, at some point does fly to high. The wax melts and Icarus drops to earth, landing in the sea and drown.
It doesn’t take a genius to see why I tell the story of Icarus: Last year I was Icarus. Or at least, that’s how I felt at kilometer thirty-three or so (although at that moment not Icarus, but the battle of Waterloo crossed my mind, and I was Napoleon, and only after finishing Icarus came to mind and seemed more fitting).
The moment I started flying too close to the sun must have been around kilometer twenty-five. Up until that point I stuck right behind the sub three hour pacers in a pack of around fifteen runners. I crossed the half marathon point in 1.28.30 and felt great. I remember doing some sort of body check: heart rate, arms, neck and legs. All was fine.
Paying the price
There was a slight head wind. At around twenty-five kilometer we ran through the industrial area of the city. This part is known for its wide streets. As I felt real comfortable in my run I wanted to take a look at my fellow runners, so I went to the side a bit while running and checking out the runners. Doing this I used precious energy for a silly unnecessary reason, and boy did I pay the price!
At thirty-three kilometer I collapsed. Just like that. From feeling the king of the world, convinced that I would nail that sub three-hour marathon, to completely miserable. I entered ten kilometers of hell. My pace dropped, my legs felt like rubber bands, I couldn’t even take in another gel as I would have to lift my arm. All I thought was: how can I save energy and survive? My solution was to stop using muscles I did not need. I thought I didn’t need my neck, so I just let my head hang and let my head bop around (got some great photos of that!) Now, I realize this wasn’t the only reason this happened, but it is the one that scratched my mind the rest of the year: what if I didn’t…
Enough with the modern-day Greek mythology. Something else I did not do right (I think) with last year’s marathon was my carb loading. In retrospect, I might have miscalculated somewhere and accidentally cut short on my daily carb load in the days prior to that race. I think I emptied the tank too early, and I paid the price.
This year’s race
How different was my race this year! In the days leading up to the race I felt a little sick, I was a bit snotty but determined to do my carb loading right. This year I made a full excel sheet with everything I had to eat on each day. For everything i had written down the amount of carbs, and I kept adding things to the list until I would have enough. In my case I had to carb load 600 grams a day. So next to my daily portion of pasta, my Maurten drink mix, my plain bread with jelly, I just kept adding bananas to the list until I reached that 600… and a little more.
The second thing I changed this year as opposed to last year’s race was that I broad a soft flask bottle along (just holding it in my hand). My initial idea was to drop it at the 10k point at the drinking station, but I had emptied the bottle by 7km where I could hand it to my girlfriend.
But even before the taper, race and carb loading, this year my marathon training was a lot more focused on running large chunks at marathon pace (here’s a list of my favourite tempo workouts). To give an example: last year I would run a 30km long run with the last 10 minutes at marathon pace (and felt satisfied). A ‘similar’ training this year would be a Sunday 35km long run with two blocks of 30 minutes at marathon pace at the end, with 1 minute rest in between. The difference in intensity is obvious. Not only that, in that same week I would have a 60-minute or 20-minute triplet marathon pace block on Thursday, and sometimes I would run these runs a little depleted of carbs. On race day I was a lot tougher and fatigue resistant than last year.
Now, I couldn’t just do these training sessions, I had to build strength, resistance, my endurance and everything else. I did so in the months leading up to my marathon specific training.
Because I still felt a snotty on race day, I decided to run a little slower than I initially planned and trained for. No Icarus this year! During my race I prepped myself for that 33km mark. I was ready to meet hell. I was expecting something similar but then with more mental toughness. And then… it didn’t happen. Nothing. 34km, then 35km. No wall, no hell. at 35km instead I stepped up the pace significantly (only to slow down again 1,5 km later because of cramps, but no serious issue. I just did not want to ruin my race this year).
Eventually I ran a 2.54.44 marathon on October the 16th 2022. Upcoming april, so half a year after finishing my marathon, I will go for a new PR during the Rotterdam marathon.
My goal? 2.44.59. I am Icarus, after all…
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