I’ve finally managed to tackle a marathon and to be honest it’s all a bit of a blur, with the exception of the pain towards the end of it. I’m hoping that some of the details come back as I write this!
After 14 weeks and a little less than 1000km of training, Sunday was M day. I’d been feeling less than prepared in the crucial two weeks prior to the race due to a nasty virus and had adjusted my 3:15 target to ‘just finish in one piece’, but a couple of days before the race I realised that I’d regained the weight I’d lost and was feeling totally up for it. I’d never taken part in such a huge race and was quite overwhelmed by the sheer number of people on the day. Luckily though, I was in the front pen and had loads of room to warm up and relax in the minutes before the 8.30am start. We were set off to some Mercury and Caballe and loads of spectators so the feeling and mood was great. I was feeling kind of sluggish for the first 1km or so but soon loosened up and felt as if was running very well. I therefore immediately adjusted my target pace of 4.30min/km (3:15 target) to my then current natural pace of 4.15min/km (3:00 target). This was my first mistake and, admittedly, one that I was pretty certain I’d make! So from the start to 21km it was great – I drank at every water station, took sports drinks and energy gels when available and was metronomic with my km splits – and I crossed the halfway mark at 1:29:58 … perfect! This state of bliss continued for a further 10km or so as we passed loads of great landmarks and noisy crowds of spectators. And apart from a blister forming on my left toe, regular revision of how I was feeling showed absolutely nothing to worry about. And then at 33km the first signs of trouble appeared.
I noticed a twinge of pain in my left calf which I immediately associated with the cramp that I’d experienced on some of the long classics races and by 35km, as we were running along past the Olympic port on the Mediterranean coast it was pretty bloody sore! I kept on running and tried to relax as much as possible and continue to drink at every station but by 38km, as we entered the Plaza CataluÃƒÂ±a heading towards the Gothic quarter, my quads were cramping and even my forearms – very odd and not enjoyable in the slightest. The downhill section of the Ramblas towards the Christopher Columbus monument was a welcome relief as I knew that the final 2km to the finish were uphill. I know I lost several dozen places on that stretch and my pace had slowed to between 4:45 and 5:05 min/km, but I pushed on and tried to maintain form and make it to the finish at Plaza EspaÃƒÂ±a in one piece (and still running!).
I’ve never been so relieved and emotional to see a finish line in my life. I was also quite happy to see the clock showing 3:07 as I approached – I’d failed to even bother looking at the time for the majority of the race, other than noting it at the midway mark. Crossing the finishing line was glorious. I stumbled onwards to drink water and eat some fruit and blether with the other runners. It was only then that I noticed how warm it was and that maybe I should have tried even harder to stay hydrated. I’ve no idea why I suffered so badly from cramp. Was it poor running form? Was I not relaxed enough? Did I not manage to stay hydrated because of the heat? If anyone has any theories I’d be happy to hear them. It certainly made it interesting and even more memorable! It’s been great to finally compete in a marathon and do some proper endurance training, so I’ll be doing more in the future, that’s for sure. But in the meantime, there’re some great races in the Pyrenees coming up in the near future, so I better get my hill legs on!