New Jersey Marathon

Long Branch, NJ, US
4:52 min/km
168 hrm
141/1855 (7.6%)

Wake-up at 6:30, quick breakfast & drive to the start site. I'm only half an hour before the start, so I rush through the warm-up and head to the starting line to secure a good spot. Gladly the path there is very wide and it's easy to work my way up pretty much to the front. Some guy sings the anthem a capella -- and does a pretty good job at that. We go.

Ready, set, ...

I want to follow the pacer for 3:15. I know it's the smart thing to do. And I do that. For 200 meters. Then the excitement takes over and I overtake him. Go at my pace. It turns out to be a pace for 3:12. I feel good. I pass miles with Swiss clock accuracy; 7:20 per mile.

It's warm. Luckily there are many water stations and I don't miss a single one; sometimes even grabbing two caps: water & Gatorade. Quite quickly I'm pretty much on my own, with only few runners around, so there's no elbowing through the crowd.


I'm doing good. I feel strong. I think I can do it. Of course it's stupid thinking. The marathon does not start for good before 25-30th kilometer. And I'm far from that. I wonder when will the crisis come. Because I know it will.

And indeed I don't have to wait long. As I'm nearing the half-point of the marathon, I notice that my pace drops. Not much. I was going 4:30, now it's 4:35; bare 5 seconds per kilometer, but the course is pretty flat, so it's enough to make me realize that I'm getting in trouble, as I cannot keep the initial pace.

On the run

I cross the half-way point at 1:36:18 -- still time for 3:12, but my pace drops. By 15th mile it's already 4:40. Then 4:50. Then 5:00... I break. I know I'm done.

The weird thing is that I'm not sure what's the matter. My cardiovascular system is doing just fine. No shortness of breath. No problems. I cannot say my legs are as fresh as daisies, but it's not that they are done for, either. Somehow it seems as if the problem is in my head. I just cannot push hard enough. I have no will to fight. And yet, I cannot do anything about that. It's as if the race was over. It's as if I was on a training, barely doing what was prescribed for me. Only it's not my watch that tells me what to do, but my legs. And they sure as hell seem to be determined to take it easy and slow down. And so I do.

Almost there

Things grow increasingly more painful. I experience the marathoner relativity theory in action: the closer to the end of the race the slower the time seems to pass by. At the beginning miles seem to be sweeshing by; now I look at my watch every 10 seconds, willing the next minute to pass, longing for the next mile mark; and they sure do seem to be placed more far apart now.

I will myself to raise to the only challenge I can at the moment: I promise myself not to stop running, not even for a bit. It's difficult, especially at hydration stations where it's so tempting to just switch to walking. I finish at 3:25:40.

I'm somewhat disappointed. This was supposed to be the turning point; an event where I'd finally improve my personal best. And I did put quite some effort to make it happen. True, it was only 4 months of preparations, but during those months I was as systematic as never before. 17 weeks during which I did 74 trainings, run for 109 hours and did 1073km. That gives average of 4.4 trainings, 6h26min and 63km per week. I don't think I can be more systematic than that.

Too bad the time you can see here
 is for the half-marathon;
otherwise I'd be pretty happy indeed ;)
Finished, watch stopped, now I can enjoy
the beauty of suffering after a marathon
Oh yes!

My first thought is to give up this marathon business. But that would be quitting and I'm not a quitter. So instead I decide to already now book a next marathon, to get motivation for training. Berlin is already fully booked, but I decide to go for the Budapest marathon, 2nd of October. The plan is to put another 5 months of regular trainings and then to finally break the spell and improve my personal best. Or else...

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