Looking back at the Linz Marathon 2008

cp20x30-LIFP0510.jpg It is day 3 after the marathon and I am slowly recovering from the strenuous run on Sunday. My muscles have suffered especially from the last six kilometers, which I covered with the 11th fastest time overall. Only a few pro runners were faster… (+ more pics)

Slowly I am realising what I have achieved on Sunday. I had been very disciplined, getting up often early in the morning, sticking to a tight schedule, which was so aptly designed by Georg Ruess. This meant getting out there in the cold days of winter, sometimes running in the darkness and fog of the early morning. But this goes to show what you can achieve if you train regularly. After all, it was not that much time that I invested into my training. On average I trained only 14 kilometers or 1 hr 12 minutes a day. Considering how much time people spend in front of the TV, this is not much. Even more, it is time invested into your fitness and mental health. As a matter of fact, so many aspects of your live can benefit from running, which, in the end, makes it so precious. So much about my politics of running…

raw-LIFG3146.jpg Sunday, of course, was a special day and I want to give a short account of the day and race…I got up early at about 5.15 a.m. in order to make sure to eat early enough before the start. After my rice with squashed bananas, I prepared my carbo drinks and set off to the start. I arrived in front of Brucknerhaus, where the changing rooms were located, at about 07.20 a.m. There the hardest part began: waiting for the time to pass, drinking, making sure to go to the toilet as often as possible. At 08.50, I started to warm up, beginning with a slow 5 minute jog, which I finished with one tempo run that pushed my heart rate up to my expected marathon HR. 10 minutes before the start, I found myself in the toilet again, trying to empty my bladder and bowels.

raw-LIFM1152.jpg Just in time for the start, I entered the starting area and waited for the shot. The first kilometer went fast and easy. My legs felt perfect; they were running by themselves. I had the impression that I had nothing to do. Since I had run the first kilometer in 3:50 min/km, I slowed down in order to get into my marathon speed of about 4:10 min/km. Georg had provided me with many valuable tipps on race strategy, pointing out that I should avoid doing too much speed work and look for a group to run with. I was lucky to find that group upon the first three kilometers. There were about seven to eight runners in that group, which was led by three guys from a running club in Germany called LC Mettenheim. They determined the speed and worked in turn to keep it steady at about 4:08 to 4:12 min/km. DSCF1488-gross.jpgThis group led me a long way. We arrived at KM 10, where the first relay runners were waiting, and ran back towards Linz along the river Donau – one of the most beautiful sections of the marathon. A light breeze was blowing but it was light enough not to hamper our progress. Running still was easy and I jogged along with a perfect heart rate of 153 to 156.
Georg had recommended keeping my HR below 160 at least for the first 25 KM, something I had not believed to be possible. After KM 15, I knew that I was really strong and that I could beat the 3-hours-mark today. The only problem was that my bladder was filling up fast. Unfortunately, I had drunk too much before the race. I didn’t want to stop, though, since I wanted to stay with my group. So I tried to keep my liquid intake as minimal as possible while making sure that I did not dehydrate.
DSCF1491-gross.jpg In such a manner, I arrived at KM 20, where Martin Hackl joined me on his bike. No longer running alone and having support at my side, made an incredible difference, especially mentally. I suddenly felt even stronger and Martin did a perfect job, handing over drinks just at the right time when I needed them.
DSCF1490-gross.jpg After KM 22 I started to take gels in order to restore my carbo reservoirs. In order to convert the gel (80g per taking), the body needs about 250 – 300 ml of liquid. While the gel was really good and bolstered my energy, my bladder started to suffer. This was my biggest worry. Still I pressed on, trying to neglect the growing urge to relieve myself. At KM 26, only three of our group were left – my two pace makers from LC Mettenheim and myself. Still the three of us were cruising along almost effortlessly and at that time working well together. Just after KM 27, I couldn’t continue. I didn’t have a choice and with a heavy heart, I had to let them go. This was a critical situation, in which I lost about 40 seconds.
But Martin was a big support, encouraging me, pushing me on, making sure that I would catch up with them as soon as possible. With him, it took me only two kilometers to rejoin my fellow runners from Mettenheim. My heart rate quickly dropped back to about 158-159 and I continued along with them until KM 35.
DSCF1501-gross.jpg On the last seven kilometers of a marathon, a lot of unexpected things can happen. A lot of runners have suffered total breakdowns there, not being able to finish the marathon at all. I had made a similar experience, suffering from terrible cramps and knew that all your effords can come to nothing if you act foolishly. Here it is crucial to be able to listen to your body. Is it better to slow down and make sure you reach the finish? Or have you been able to preserve energy so that you can press on even faster?
rt20x30-LIFE0358.jpg I felt really perfect that day and when one of the LC Mettenheim runners sped up, I followed him, overtook him and continued along alone until the finish. Martin had been acting as a mental coach all the way and, watching his speed indicator, he made sure that I kept up my speed of about 3:53 min/km. Thus, I arrived at the last kilometer, a stretch of road paved with cobblestones. Running is difficult on such a surface, all the more, of course, when you have already 41 kilometers in your feed. While running really fast and concentrating on not twisting my anckle, I was still able to take in the breath-taking atmosphere. Thousands of spectators had lined up along the road and pushed each runner towards the finishing line. It was like flying, an incredible feeling.
I finished in 2:53:20, with a negative split (i.e. running the second half faster than the first one), on position 40, beating my personal record by 13 minutes and 25 seconds. It was a great day and a great accomplishment but my effort was just one of many valuable contributions from quite a few people. And this makes this marathon all the more valuable.

Click here to see the results…

Download my kilometer splits and HR chart here…