Monthly Archives: April, 2014

Düsseldorf: A four leaf clover marathon with a clever medal

Again, I was nervous in the days before this race.  Everyone should always be respectful of 42.2k, no matter whether you have previously  run 3 or 300 marathons and each course will bring its own unique challenge. My fear with this course was that is had a reputation of being flat and fast. Jon, my son-in-law, obtained his pb of 3:06:15 here last year, a time that gained him entry to Boston which he ran just 6 days before coming back to run Düsseldorf again. My concern was my own expectation.  My previous marathons had been on courses that had hills, very noticeable in some cases, but the improvement in my conditioning, because of actually running the distance in 3 previous races, meant I had knocked 16 then 14 minutes off my moderate first marathon time. Now the pressure was on, in my mind at least, to pb again; I couldn’t imagine another +10 minute pb, just 5 minutes would be good as it would give me a noticeable good for age time…for Boston.

The forecast was to start wet, then for the rain to get heavier until 13.00, when I should be getting near the end. Fortunately this wasn’t too accurate, the rain was heaviest in the hour before the race and during the first hour or so, but never so bad as to be a problem, although some runners did seem to find it necessary to keep some rainproof coverings on for nearly all of the race. Actually the conditions were ideal for distance running.

I had 2 problems during the race. After less than 2k I felt something hit the back of my leg and on checking my gels I found that 2 had fallen from my belt; this usually also has 2 bottles but I decided they would not be needed.  So clearly I had failed to realise the gels were not held tightly enough. The next few k were spent deciding if I needed to adjust where I had planned to use them, or whether I had correctly remembered that they were being supplied during the race and if so were they my favoured brand. It transpired I had remembered correctly, but I did purposely end up using less than planned, and because of the ones supplied during the run I had a nett zero gel balance at the end!

DSC_0005 I didn’t become aware of the other problem until much later in the race, my Kalenji gps watch had stopped working after 43 minutes. All I can assume is that the water now clearly visible inside had caused the problem. As I planned to run with the 4 hour pacer for a majority of the race I didn’t consider that the fact that I couldn’t check my pace/time shouldn’t cause too much problem. Annoyingly I don’t have a permanent electronic record of the race.

I can confirm that it is a flat, runner friendly course.

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The 2 ‘peaks’ actually show a rise of less than 10m and they occur on the approach to the Oberkasseler Bridge, the gradient was hardly noticeable. During my outward crossing the leading group of about 10 Africans were running in the opposite direction, scary how fast they were going!

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As well as the main marathon, a relay took place over the same course; fortunately it started an hour later, so didn’t cause the congestion I found in Luxembourg last year. The course design, with 4 loops (a 4 leaf clover!) meant that the swap over points were not too far removed from the overall start/finish.

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Well this 4 leaf clover course did prove to be lucky for me.  Around 6k from the finish I saw a clock outside a shop. A quick calculation convinced me that assuming I didn’t fall over and break something, keeping a pace I should be able to maintain would see me home with a reasonable pb. But it wasn’t until the finishing line was close enough for me to clearly see the clock that I realised I was going to achieve the time that most part time runners have as an aim when they run a marathon (well, runners that aren’t in the Mo Farah class); although it had clicked over to just more than  4:00:00 when I crossed the line I had started well after the elite runners. In fact I clocked 3:58:48, not something in my wildest dreams I considered would happen just 4 hours earlier, or so near to the start of my 26 alphabetic marathon quest.

I didn’t really see much beyond the finishing line as I crossed it, my wife was cheering just before the line and Jon had waited around to greet and congratulate me. The impressive medal clearly shows some famous Düsseldorf buildings, but it wasn’t until the next day when I walked though where the finish had taken place that it shown the actual view as you cross the finishing line.

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I only decided to run Düsseldorf a few weeks ago, after not being sure that the ‘D’ marathon I had booked would take place

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Expectations count

When I entered this race in January I was looking at 4 month gap between marathons in Cyprus and Dundee so I decided a few half marathons in-between might be a good idea.  But two weeks ago my marathon plans changed and I entered Düsseldorf which is 4 weeks after this race…then another 4 weeks later…then another 5 weeks after that.  So this race changed from a bit of a fun run to one that would show me if I had any chance of recovering sufficiently to tackle the ones after Düsseldorf.

Until last November half marathons had been my staple distance, and I was comfortable with it.  But at the end of everyone I could not imagine carrying on and repeating the same distance.  Now after 3 marathons in 4 months how would I feel at the end of this race? None of my previous half marathons had been particularly quick, and my target time for the 12 months to my birthday in mid-April was one I hadn’t achieved.  So I decided to see how close I could get to it.

It took me much longer to get to Paddock Wood than my sat nav suggested, maybe the traffic over the last mile was to be expected, but not the diversion because of a closed road.  By the time I had parked further away than planned, finished getting race gear on and made my way to the start I had 20 minutes to spare.  That would have been plenty if the toilet queue had not been so long.  I ended up joining the back of the pack 3 minutes after the race had started, so the first couple of k were spent weaving my way around more than half of the field.

I thought that one thing my running of the last year had taught me was sensible pacing; however I didn’t get it right this time.  As usual I didn’t check details until I got home, but I knew well before the end of the race I had set off too fast. If I had maintained the pace of the first half of the race for the second 10.6k I would have beaten my target time by 5 minutes. Suffice to say that didn’t happen so I can use the same target next year!

My body and brain had expectations, they knew how far I was planning to run and wouldn’t have been willing to let me go further so it was a good job I hadn’t just finished the first loop of a full marathon I certainly wouldn’t have been up the the challenge of going around again!

As this was the 25th running of the race they produced a special medal, which did make the run well worthwhile.

PW medal