Berlin marathon: ooops, I did it again

Before

Berlin marathon. Famous. Fast. Big hopes.

I know that before every single marathon I moan about how the week leading to it was not perfect and how everything in the world was conspiring against me. I won't do it this time, but take my word for it -- this time, for a change, the moaning would be well justified. This was probably one of the most stressful weeks ever. And, funny as it may sound, I could feel it in my legs. I was super tense. And I did not manage to go for a massage, or at least to a sauna, as planned. Oh well, again with the excuses.

What was different about this marathon is that we went with a 5-strong group of people and still met up with few more in Berlin. Until now, except for Paris that I did with Michal, I was always flying solo (well, that is, of course, not counting my most devoted & beloved supporter :). That was a nice change and lots of fun, I have to say.

The weather was almost perfect. Not too windy, not too hot, not too cold either. Pretty much a book definition of perfect running weather (on the day itself it turned out to be a tad too hot for my taste, but still no reasons to complain). We did a very gentle warm-up run on Saturday and then went to the Expo and a bit around the city. By the end of the day our legs were tired, but I suspect it had more to do with the pre-marathon hyper-sensitivity than with the level of activity we sustained on that day.

During

As for the race itself I decided to try to run at around 4:30min/km, which would give me a final time of 3:10. Yes, that's fast for me and I paid the price for this pace. But let's not get ahead too much.

At the beginning I managed to very accurately stick to this pace. I did the first 5K in 0:22:21 (4:28min/km, projected finish: 3:08:37) and 10K in 0:44:49 (4:29min/km, 3:09:06). I was quite surprised when at that point in the race I was overtaken by the 3:15:00 pacer. Either the guy's math skills were not too great, or he was not trying to run it flatly. Anyway, I decided to just run my race and shook him off shortly afterwards.

I was happy with my pace but of course I was aware that this did not mean a thing. The question was when I'd collapse. I was hoping I could keep up this pace until 30K or maybe 32K, which would leave me with the last 10K where I could loose approx. 5 minutes and still end up with a PB. Somehow, at that point this still sounded reasonable. My 15K split (4:30min/km, 3:09:41) and 20K one (4:31min/km, 3:10:16) and even 25K (4:32min/km, 3:11:19) were still looking good, but that's pretty much were I broke and started slowing down. Fast. And clearly it was far too early for that.

It didn't take long for me to realize that I can forget about a PB. And as soon as that happened I lost it; I lost hope of making a PB and with that I lost the purpose for the race. I know it's silly, I should have at least fought for my bronze goal (3:20), which was still well within reach, but I just didn't have it in me anymore. From that moment on, it was purely about survival; I just wanted to cross this bloody finish line. Finally I did, in 3:21:33.

After

I did a little thinking after this race and my conclusion is this: either I'm completely hopeless and running around 3:20 is simply the best I can do. Or I am doing something seriously wrong with my training. And the main candidate for that is lack of specificity. To run sub-3:15, I guess one really needs to focus on marathons and do a training specific for that race. There simply isn't enough room for spontaneity (pretty much what powers my trainings most of the time) and mixing up with ultras (something that I started lately).

That leaves me with a simple choice: either completely focus on marathons or for now forget about improving my marathon PB. Since the coming year I will be in California and I absolutely want to do some trail and ultramarathon running there, that means that for now I'll be putting my marathons on hold. That does not mean that I will not run one ocassionaly, but if I do, it'll be more as part of a training for ultras, or just for fun and not to improve my long standing PB. There. I said it. I guess my Boston qualifier goal will have to wait for better times...

Gladly, my friends did much better than I did. Marcin finished his first marathon, always a big thing. Thyra run in 3:50 smashing her previous PB by half an hour and absolutely meeting her goals. And Mikolaj run in 3:20 setting an amazing new PB and kicking my ass in the process :). Amazing work, guys, I'm proud of you; congratulations!

In the post-race gloom ;), I'm looking at races and slowly coming up with a schedule for 2013, so expect a post about that soonish.

P.S. I'll update this post with photos once those become available. I may also put my usual race chart, but I do have some problems with the data so it may not happen. I forgot to mention that I bought myself a new Polar watch, but as it turned out its performance was even more disappointing than mine...

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