Poznan marathon story
Before the start
I was supported by my dad. We got near the stadium around 40min before the start. It was hard to find a parking spot. Cold morning. It was around +4C when we started driving. My dad had to scrape frost from the windshields. While walking through the Poznan trade centre towards the hall I’ve done a quick warmup. The hall was packed with runners, and the inside of the hall was nice and warm. We walked through the Hall #3 and exited on the other side. There were long queue to the toilets. Lots of people everywhere. I’ve run back and forth a bit, trying to keep warm. The time passed quickly. The last 10min of waiting I spent already in the crowd, near the start line. Jumping. Screaming. Getting the adrenaline pumping. And then – the run just started.
Before the 18th km
I started relatively fast, trying to get in front of the slower runners to have space to keep my own pace. I have not started far from the start line. 10 seconds to be precise. I kept the fast pace. Unusually fast. My heart-rate was in the excess of 180, hitting 190bpm. All due to adrenaline rush. I wasn’t actually running on my limit – quite to the contrary, I felt relaxed. 5min into the race and the heart settled on around 165bpm. I have never run that fast before. Usually, I start quite conservative for the first 10km or so. I try to pick up the pace later. Early fast start means early build-up of lactic acid in the muscles, which means trouble later in the race. Because the last two marathons I’ve finished with the power reserves, I wanted to know how it feels to run faster. The pace was set, and even though the pace was fast for me (4:15min/km), I was able to keep it up reasonably well. I’ve joined the group of runners with the 3:00 pacemaker, and running with that group felt great. I could see some of the runners in the group doing well. Others showing early signs of struggle. I was in the latter category. I knew I will not be able to keep up that pace till the end of the race. The first crisis came at about 18th kilometre.
After the 18th km
The running with a group means you have to keep the pace of the group. It is both: good and bad. The good thing is that you have less air resistance and that the group keeps you motivated. This particular group was quite densely packed, to a point that even small variation in speed was hard to execute. We all were so close to each other, that slowing down means everyone behind you have to slow down with you, and speeding up is not easy because there is no space. I decided I need to vary my speed a bit more than the running in tight group allows me to do. I slowly dropped to the tail of the group. I wasn’t much slower than the group, but I’ve noticed that moving forward towards the centre of the group became impossible. I just couldn’t move forward anymore. I continue running with slightly slower pace then. In the group I managed 4:13min/km, and then by dropping to the tail, I’ve dropped also to 4:15min/km. But, that was the speed I should have to achieve 3hrs mark anyway, so I was actually quite happy. Running at 4:15min/km felt somewhat easier, and I could vary my tempo more freely. The relatively happy running was then interrupted at around the 26th km, when I started feeling quite bad. The run suddenly became super HARD.
The right quadriceps started aching shortly after 10th or 11th kilometre, and I had to favour my left leg for a while. This soon elevated the pain of the left calf to a point that it was aching more than the quadriceps before. With both left calf and right quad aching quite badly, I tried to vary the gait so that other muscles put in more effort offloading the two that starting showing signs of damage early. I have also started pushing more with my arms, hoping that the tired leg muscles will have just a bit easier. Once the pain sets in, it never really goes away, but when a new pain in new muscle appears with ferocious intensity, you somewhat forget about the previous pain. It is like climbing the staircase, where each new step is just a bit taller and harder than the previous one. While you overcoming step 3, it feels intense and hard, but once you at step 8, looking back to your efforts and troubles at step 3 you get a completely different perspective. The leg pain actually faded into minor once my back and shoulders started aching from intense arm workout that I was putting in. I tense too much, and the hard fast running was taking its toll.
After the wall
I hit the wall around 26th km. Suddenly, I just felt extremely weak. I pushed harder, trying to wait it off, but the pain, tiredness and lack of power never went away. In fact, my leg muscles felt weaker and weaker. I had to push harder still, yet, watching my tempo slowly dropping down. 4:16min/km. Push push push push like never before, just to realise, it is now 4:18min/km. I tried real hard to find the power and energy and pushing even more. 4:20min/km. Yes, the intensity of the wall was somewhat crushed, and running for a while at 4:20min/km felt good again. Stable. Perhaps I could keep that pace? Nope. The thing is that the time between the walls actually shrinks the longer you run, and the new down period set in. Pushing you more into the hell. I felt quite good overall. Sure, I was aching everywhere, but the leg muscles stopped complaining, and went numb instead. I couldn’t feel much pain, just a total inability to generate energy. The leg muscles felt really slow and weak. The arms could pump something but that was rather painful. My back was hurting from the workout my hands were doing. I monitored my heart-rate and it was steady at around 165bpm. I asked myself: can I do 170bpm? And the answer was: NO. No matter how hard and fast I tried to run I simply couldn’t push my body beyond the 168bpm. Strange feeling. I new my heart can do more than that, I new my mind can withstand more pain that I was in, yet, for some reason, I just couldn’t push harder. Was I on my physical limit? I’d like to think that, but I probably wasn’t 😉 I did not feel that I was. Have I reached my physical limit?
When there were 6 or so kilometres left, it became even harder to run and to keep the pace. And then, on the last 4 km stretch we all had a head-wind pushing us back. Making the forward progression became even harder. I remember slipping slowly back in the pack, being completely depleted, and having no power for a strong finish. I was empty. Crossing the finish line have not delivered a strong emotional kick. It just felt the job was hard, and now, the job was done. I was pleased to reach the same time as before, which is 3:10. This time, without any power reserves left. And with the whole body in pain.
My dad was waiting for me at the finish line. My wife and kids where cheering my back home, watching the entire race through internet broadcast. They knew I went well for the first 15km or so, but I was slipping in position from then on. I eventually finished on place 334th.
About 20min after the finish, the endorphins kicked in, and I became overwhelmed with a good feelings 😉 That good feelings stay with me for about 2 weeks solid after every long run. (Writing this entry I have a grin on my face.)
Because I have already achieved 3:10, it turns overall into a bit of anticlimax. With all the prep and no improvement in the actual “result”. But then again, i’m not sure if the result in terms of time is the key, or if the experience is the main reason why I do it. The experience is worth the effort. The 13th marathon story ended.
There were 7052 runners taking part in the run. 6242 finished. That means more than 10% tried to do something and gave up at some point.
The oldest man finishing was 74 years old (Piotr Silkin). He finished with the time of 4:14. The oldest woman was 73 (Wiera Stasiewicz). She finished with 5:28.
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