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Nov 19, 2013

Kobe Marathon finisher

After being on the roadside to cheer and photograph runners at several marathons (as you can see here and here for Dublin, or there for Osaka), and as I was looking for a new challenge after our charity bike ride for Project Biwa, I decided some time ago that it would be nice to run one as well.

Initially, my plan was to run last year's Dublin Marathon. It is said to be very nice, and after so many years living in the city, it was quite fitting. However, with the arrival of our son scheduled for a few months before the race, it became clear that it was not such a good idea, and I did not register.

Six months ago, I decided that this year would better. I applied to the Kobe Marathon (it is over-subscribed so there is a lottery to award spots in the race), and prepared a training schedule, based on information I could find online. When we were training for Project Biwa, I had prepared our schedule by scaling a marathon training programme to the longer distances we would cover on the bike, so I knew that if I could follow through on the schedule, I would be fine.

The big problem, of course, was to fit that training programme on top of a busy work and the exciting (but time-consuming) family life with a one-year old.

My 24-week programme had a total distance of just over 800km, the longest week at 66km, and six runs over 20km, with the longest being 32km.
In the end, I only managed 347km. My best week was 38.6km, and I only had three runs over 20km (maxing out at 25km). Quite a big gap, isn't it? As you can see in the graph below, my training was in trouble early on, but a mid-October injury to my foot did not help.

Finally, race day came this Sunday, November 17th. I was quite anxious, but also excited to get going at last.

Before the race, my only objective was to finish. To do so, my rough strategy was to have a good start, if possible going faster than the five-hour pacesetters, then to hang on with them as long as possible when they would overtake me (which was very much expected, given my lack of training), and to finish relying on my willpower.

The first step went even better than planned. I was cautious of not going too fast, but finished the first 10km in 1:07:51, (a 6:47/km pace corresponding to a 4:46:17 finish).

Even though there is no real hill on the course (except from the climb to the highway section and the bridge to Port Island, both in the last 8km), there were still a few bumps and bridges to get over on the way to Akashi. While running down one of these (shortly after the 12km mark, if I remember correctly), I must have landed awkwardly on my right foot, because my knee started to hurt, and my pace to decrease.

Another few kilometres on, I decided it was wiser to try to walk this off. It did not quite work, and I started to run again. I could not run properly though, and rapidly developed a major blister under my foot, (it is still longer and wider than my thumb, two days after the race).
With all that, my second 10K split was 1:30:23, and I was starting to worry about not being able to finish, as I was barely able to walk, let alone run.

My third 10K split was the slowest and most depressing, limping my way through the course at 10:53/km to reach the 30K mark after 4:27:13. After a while though, I suppose you get used to the pain. I was able to slightly increase my "limping pace", even managing to run a few hundred metres here and there. My fourth 10K split was covered at 10:35/km, and I finally crossed the finish line in 6:35:24.

Very slow, but enough to get my prize.

It was probably unwise to attempt a marathon with that sort of training and so little running experience beforehand (my total running distance since 2010 is 512km, 424km of which coming since April this year!), but I am thrilled to have finished it.

A big thank you to family and friends for their comments on Twitter and Facebook during the race, and to the amazing crowd along the course. They really helped me get through this despite my body doing everything to stop me.

A special mention to the unknown cyclist I spotted many times along the course, who was offering some "magic spray" to the runners. You saved my knee, and my race, good sir.

Finally, another big thank you to Kevin and Scott who helped me several times in the last few months when I had silly newbie questions. The race was Kevin's tenth marathon. Impressive! And Scott finished in about 2:47, which is not even his PB!! Congratulations to both of them.
You can follow Scott's progress towards a sub 2:30 marathon on his blog.

In 2014, I will probably focus on 5K and 10K races, as it will be easier to fit a training plan for such distances into my schedule. Then maybe a half-marathon in 2015, and my second marathon in late 2015 or early 2016.

I have already noticed two convenient races right on my doorstep: a 10K on February 9th, and 5K on March 2nd. Time to start thinking about how to properly train for these. Advices and recommendations welcome!

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