Wrocław marathon

The night before the marathon Michał (my bro) and I went to sleep around 22:30. Woke up at 6:35, quick breakfast: pasta with vegetables. Two portions. No sweets apart isotonic drinks. Michał and Kasia woke up just after 7:00, and joined us for breakfast. Chatting, joking, preparing t-shirts, start numbers. Driving to the stadium on the other side of town. Around 8:30, Michał and I, are in. We were at the back of the pack. We walked towards the crowd with two pacemakers with baloons marked 4:15-4:30. At 9:00, boom, start. But the crowd took a while to move forward. Slowly, we walked towards the starting line. Then slow jogging, and then we crossed the start line. It took us about 4min to reach it. Not bad. Starting the wristwatch. Running. Wrocław marathon uses the net time as the official classifying time, which makes it fair for people at the back of the pack to compete on the equal footing with people up front the long “queue” of runners is city marathons.

So it started. The first 200-300 meters really packed and crowded. I was running faster than the crowd around me. This was the pattern until about 26th kilometer. I was running faster than everyone around me. Judging my pace was a bit hard, given I did not have good points of reference in a form of steady running people around me. At around 10th or so kilometer I have passed the pacemakers with the baloons marked 3:15. On 15th kilometer I met with Michal, Kasia and Hania cheering up on the street. Michał said that at this point I was about 20min behind the first runners. I felt good physically and continued with a steady pace through the halfway mark, which I hit at about 1:33. If I could maintain the pace, I should be able to break the 3:10 limit, theoretically. I felt it was possible, although I continued to struggle to find a pace and runners with whom I could relate to. From about 27th kilometer I had a very mild dip in performance, then again at about 32km. From 34km or so the struggle became unbearable. Not physically. Mentally. I could run, there was nothing stopping me running faster. I had no cramps, no serious pain anywhere, I was not running out of breath and I was doing fine, but I just couldn’t make myself run with a faster pace. It felt as if the problem was nowhere else but in my head. The pacemakers 3:15 caught-up with me, and I forced myself to keep their pace, which I did, and it felt manageable. It felt fine. Unfortunately about 4km or so before the finish I lost few meters and running behind them, chasing them, became quite hard. I managed to cross the finish line 2 or so minutes after them, so I wasn’t far behind, and I know I could have kept the pace, but I didn’t. Nevertheless, beating my personal best from Auckland marathon 2012 felt great. New personal best.

The new training regime: running at slower pace but longer distances, and building up a solid endurance base. It seems to work remarkably well. However, in the hindsight, I feel that 1 day a week or so, of speed training and high-heart rate workout might be necessary to combat the “mind” issues with sustained pacing and motivation. Definitely doing 3hrs training for 3hrs marathon makes sense – it conditions the body for the particular timeframe of sustained effort, and even though the trainings are at much slower pace, the body learns to cope with the physical requirements of activity lasting particular duration of time.

The other thing I have changed was that I did not went into sugar eating frenzy before the marathon and withdraw from eating energy gels until 22km, at which point I had the first “bite” of the energy gel. It seemed to work, too. I guess I should do more thorough analysis of sugar influence on performance.

Before Wroclaw Marathon

Next week, on Sunday, my brother and I will run Wrocław Marathon. I have used a different system when preparing for it. I have not done any speed training or weight training, and I focused exclusively on building up endurance base, slow long runs, and proper recovery periods. I will see how it worked out. Compared to other marathons I feel well prepared, although I feel I have not done any progress in terms of speed, and I worry my body may react differently to a racing speed, as it got used to a slower-paced training speed.

This weekend was the hardest so far. I’ve done 110km in total running (84km Saturday-Sunday and 26 on Friday). My speed on flat was in a range of 5:30-5:45min/km, whereas on hills around 6:00-6:30. I guess hill and forest training compensated quite well for the lack of weight training. I may do a short speed session on Wednesday. This week I’m winding down, so no more long runs.

On ethics, and the use of art.

The blog post about driving and texting (“This is not going to work” by Seth Godin) argues that the use of art will fail to change the culture. He argues the use of regulatory mechanisms and force, to prevent people from driving and texting. His argument goes along the lines of: “Art will not work. We have to use force to prevent people from texting. Let us turn it into a technology problem.” Yes, we can turn this from a moral choice to a technology problem, but it will not solve the bigger issue. What is the bigger issue? How we, as a society deal with human choices that might result in tragedy. In general.

Let us take driving. In general, driving a car might results in a tragedy. And it does. On regular basis. Yet, we do not ban driving. Why? Because the benefit of people driving “outweighs” the costs. What is the cost? The cost is in people injured or killed in car accidents (on average in 2011, 89 people were killed on the roadways of the U.S. each day). How can you measure the benefit and the cost? What is the cost of a human life? How can you make the decision? When would the cost outweigh the benefit? How you measure the benefit?

Utilitarian morality and ethics rely on this type of calculations. We say: “let us ban texting while a phone is moving because the costs, the accidental deaths caused by people texting and driving are not worth the benefits”.  His perspective is not an isolated one. When discussing this topic with students the majority of them hold somewhat utilitarian perspective of what is fair, what is just, and how morality and ethics should work. Many consider the use of utilitarianism when making decisions.

The underlying assumption for utilitarian morality is the maxim of “always picking the lesser evil”, and many people agree that state and the legal system should enforce such a model. Is this the only valid perspective? Is it the one that will maximize the happiness in our societies in the long run? (*)

The story of Reggie Shaw and Megan O’Dell is so powerful not only because it is about a family, and about irrational and tragic death caused by 19-year old careless teenager driving and texting. It is so powerful because it is about remorse, about doing the right thing after making a mistake with such enormous consequences, it is about forgiveness and it is also about bond, that we have, as human being with one another. The story of hatred, transformation and friendship between Reggie and Megan is a big deal here. This story is powerful and it can transform lives of people eaten by regret and hatred. There is no utility measure that can deal with that.

Texting and driving is the wrong behaviour, and none should do it. No exception. But the use of force, the limitation of liberties is a wrong thing to advocate. Telling the story, discussing it with your kids, with students and friends, is a powerful mechanism that can, and it will make the difference.

Never text while driving. 


(*) I think life without choices would not be worth living. I think utilitarian perspective is flawed, and dangerous, leads to potential abuse, and should be avoided. Deontological ethics is a school of thought closer to my heart. Rules that are setup and agreed by a society as a whole, work better in a long run.