Monday, 12 September 2011

Münster Marathon

This was the big one for me, the first marathon that i would race from start to finish. Id set myself a goal at the start of training that i felt was reasonable, sub 3:10. But my preperation races didnt go quite to plan, and i was starting to doubt my ability to actually maintain the required pace for the whole marathon. It seemed to me that it would depend on the weather.

So the days leading up to race day i kept a close watch on the forecasts. The Friday before raceday was absolutely perfect running weather, a cool 12°c in the morning rising to 16°c by midday with overcast skies and a gentle breeze. Unfortunately the weather forecast predicted a turn in the weather for the better for saturday 27°c ... with the warmth staying around on sunday... it was predicting temperatures of 20°c overnight rising to 23°c during the day ... I was mentally preparing myself to miss my goal.

The Day before the race i spent the morning with my kids, we watched England narowly shutout Argentina in the Rugby world cup before i headed home for another round of carb loading, spinach ricotta tortelini with a little cheese and herb sauce. I put my feet up in the afternoon drank lots of water and watched a few films. I had a small serve of whole wheat spaghetti with herrings for dinner, a bannana for desert before hitting the sack early at 9:30.... Surprisingly I managed to fall asleep pretty quickly.

Sunday the alarm went off at 5am I got up and went for a short 10-15 minute jog, much to the amazement of a couple of women that were still out celebrating a long saturday night. Then i tucked into a medium sized bowl of porridge, topped with banana walnuts and honey. Had my first Coffee in over two weeks and the got myself prepared for the race.... you know toilet, shower, lubing up etc.

It was only a 45 min drive to the start, but the only cheap parking place in Münster also happened to be directly besides the start zone, so i needed to be there early to get through the roadbloacks and get a park space. During the drive i looked at the temperature reading in the car... 19.5°c the sky was looking clear too. I thought to myself 3:15 is also a great time.

I got myself a park, got out and walked around a little before going back to the car eating a small protein bar and putting my seat back and closing my eyes for a little while, I didnt sleep more sort of a few moments of meditation. The temperture was up to 21°c and humidity was sitting at 80% by 8:30. The sun had come up and it was looking like it might get really uncomfortable. I put some sunscreen on my shoulders, visited the port-a-loo's, locked up the car and headed for the start blocks.

At 8:46 we had a minutes silence to remember the horror's of september 11 Ten years earlier.  Directly after i took my first Gel, washed it down with a cup of water, the first drink other than my morning coffee. I didnt want to have bladder presure issues like i did in Vienna so i didnt drink any extra fluids race morning. The start process from there seemed to go pretty quick. I guess because i was chating to Henning a fellow DailyMiler that was also running. Although we started in the second block we were right at the front and probably only 10 meters from the start line.

My plan at the start was to slowly ramp up into my race pace over the first 5km. So i had planned the first km in 4:45, the next 2 in 4:40, and 2 more at 4:35 before holding 4:29 through to km 32. Id rehearsed the whole sequence several times in training and although i wasnt bang on the times the whole point of not going out to fast in the first 5k seemed safe. My opening 5 according to the garmin turned out to be,  4:38, 4:30, 4:37, 4:35, 4:31 So i was still caught up in the adrenaline of the moment, but nowhere near like the vast majority of runners, In those opening 5k i was passed by hundreds of runners, including the 3:15 pacers. The whole time i kept saying to myself 'your too fast' and 'slow down'

However despite my pace according to garmin being a bit hot, as i crossed the 5k marker i was bang on the required 5k split according to the pace chart i had attached to my Garmin strap.  This was because the start wound around the small roads and lanes of the city center so despite me aggresively trying to run the tangents whenever possible i was still gaining extra distance pretty quickly. In fact by the time we got out onto the more open roads around km 11 Id already run an extra 280 meters on the garmin.

At km 5 i took my second gel, and then concentrated on trying to settle into my target pace. The field had started to open up a little, the buildings provided plenty of shadow and i started to pull back a few of the runners that had flown past me at the start, notibly the 3:15 pace group around km 7 now that they too had settled into a more apropriate pace.

 At the drinks stations i started a pattern that i followed for the whole race. With a gel i would drink an guesstimated 200ml of water, at the other stations the water was primarily applied to my head and clothes to help with cooling and just a mouthfull from each was drunk. The cups were paper so made drinking on the run, especially the bit at the bottom, really easy. For my gels i still used my drink while walking strategy.

Around km 12 we came out of the town and started to run through the very picturesque Musterland. Unfortunately this also meant less shade and from that point i started pulling back runners a lot more quickly. My times through each 5k were pretty much matching up with my pace char. I crossed 10k in 45:54 my pace chart said 45:40, the half in 1:35:02 the pace chart for 21km 1:34:59  I was feeling good, but still wary about the weather and the effect it would have on the later stages of the race.

Coming in towards the halfway mark i recognised Henning a bit further up the road, resisted the temptation to speed up to catch him and just closed the gap over the next few km's. After the half we wound through a small village then turned and headed south, into a little bit of a head wind, Henning and i chatted for a bit, and i encourged him to tuck in behind me, I knew he was aiming for a sub 3:10 as well and that if he slowed too much at that point it would slip from his grip.

The stretch from km25-km30 was quite narrow and we hit a fair bit of traffic, I was being concious not to get lulled into running off pace, Thankfully the weather had also turned a little the humidity dropped away quite quickly once the wind picked up, it clouded over and even started to rain a little. I crossed km 30 in 2:15:14 6 seconds ahead of my pace charts 2:15:20.

My pacing tactic to go sub 3:10 required me to pick the pace up to 4:25/k from km 35 onwards. If i could do that id come in comfortably with a good 30-40 seconds to spare to cover off the additional distance id run over the blue line. However I was feeling really good, my breathing was still easy, the legs were getting tired, but were still in pretty good shape,  and the weather had turned a little.

So i took a bit of a risk and decided to wind things up through the final 10k. km 32 i ran in 4:17 had a down hill i think or i was a little to exhuberant, km 33 in 4:24, km 34 in 4:20, km 35 in 4:19 By this stage the field was starting to thin out, i was still pulling back runners, but not in the droves on earlier... still as i passed each one i imagined my self syphoning off the last dregs of their energy like some sort of evil lich.

I continued to build the pace through each kilometer At this point i started to realise that baring catastrophy id hit my sub 3:10 goal, which gave me a even more energy to keep going. I ran Km 36 in 4:17, km 37 in 4:15, km 38 with the last rise ( i cant reall call it a hill ) in 4:19, Km 39 in 4:15 Km 40 in 4:10. I started to wonder when we would hit the crowds to cheer us onto the finish as for Km 41 in 4:05 we were still passing through through a residential area with very few spectators. The legs now were starting to suffer from a build up of lactates.

But then I came round a corner and the city center was ahead of me, and the crowds too. It was just what i needed and the cheering really helped me to keep on pushing, by now i was trying to forget all about my legs and just concentrated on swinging my arms and hoping that the legs would just sort of follow along. I ran km 42 in 4:00

In typical marathon cruelty the final stretch over the last 4-5 hundred meters was over an uneven and slightly wet cobbled road, with the finish line hidden 50m around a corner. By then i was biting my teeth together and fighting hard, the legs were screaming, my breathing was down to breath for each step, I could no longer really see the crowd i was just looking for the finish line. When would it come when would i see it. It couldnt be much further could it?

Then i rounded said corner saw it ahead and threw myself across the line with the last reserves of what i had. I ran the last 530 meters with an average of 3:51/k Across the line i pulled up took a few steps to the side and thought for a moment that i might collapse. I didnt, thankfully, but it was a distinct possibility for a few wobbly seconds there... then i managed to get some air in and things started to come right again.

I had been so concentrated on crossing the finish line that i hadnt even looked up to see what the clock had showed, So I looked at my Garmin it said 3:06 the seconds were hidden id find them out later on but the first big grin of the afternoon crossed my face and i turned to one of the guys handing out the medals who'd been waiting paitiently for me, collected my medal. and then walked through to have some water poured on my head.

I drank two cups of some funny tasting pink stuff, no idea what it was, got myself wrapped up in a big sheet of pastic, and headed for the banana's... If they hadnt been cut into thirds id have probably set another PB for fastest consumption of a bananna... Then i thought about Henning, would he hit his target? he was hoping for a sub 3:10 as well, but wanted to at least get a possible BQ. He ran in with 3:10 showing on the clock that was all i could see from where i was standing.

We had a couple of post race beers together in the finishing area... its one thing that has to be said for germany, they sure have their priorities sorted out when it comes to post race refreshments... sure it might be alcohol free but your marathon softened brain doesnt seem to notice, and youll not find a better tasting beer anywhere on this planet than the one you drink 10 minutes after setting a new Marathon PB, regardless of brand or type.

We collected our Finisher shirts, Which we then promptly put on as it was getting windy, still raining a little and neither of us came with much in the way of an insulating fat layer. It was too cold for me so i headed back to the clothes bags picked up my stuff and hit the showers, which thanks to the local rapid response environmental contamination units shower system was actually warm.

I picked up my finishers certificate which held another great surprise. My offical finishing time and place. My new Marathon PB is now 3:06:46 I came 72nd overall from the 1983 male finishers, and 13th in the M35 age class. Once again i was fastest Kiwi ... ok its most likely i was also the only Kiwi.

I had one of those outstanding races, a race where i did much much better than i thought i was capable of. Sure race day adrenaline, a well executed taper, and racing under the influence of gels helped pull my performance up above what is normal... but the conditions were not ideal, it was just one of those days where everything just seemed to come right for me, It will be a race that i will look back fondly on.

The Münster Marathon itself is a great event. Its small but not too small, It has a nice mix of city and country racing on a course thats about as flat as you could like. Register early and the value for money has many of the bigger city marathons here in germany beat with perhapes the exception of berlin...but thats berlin after all. It could well become a fixture on my race calender, if not as an A race then as a Great Autum dress rehersal run.

Here Lady Garmin's version of the truth.


  1. Thanks for the great write-up. Really interesting to see the race from another perspective. Made me chuckle, too at various points. I was also curious to read about the details of your pacing strategy; inspiring! And thanks again for helping me out during the headwind. It really was a "deus ex machina" moment: Just when I recognized my pace was dropping and I was becoming all indifferent, that Kiwi-runner from dailymile turned up again...

  2. Awesome detailed report of your race. Glad you took the time to write it. I want to congratulate you again Paul on having such a great race. It's interesting reading how marathons are orchestrated differently in other countries. Nice that you guys had showers in the end, however I have never been a big fan of beer so I don't know about drinking that in the end even if it was non alcoholic, hell after Boston I was nauseated just drinking Gatorade. I think your time is even more impressive due to you not having ideal weather conditions. When I ran 3:06:48 in LA last year it was mostly cloudy with a little bit of showers but it was real cool, so for you to pull out such a time is very impressive.
    Congrats again Paul on a great race!

  3. Great report Paul! I looked at the Garmin splits and you were on fire the last 10k which is hard to do. Congratulations! Now go register for BOSTON!!


  4. Certainly a 10k race with a confortable 20 mile warmup Paul - wouldn't I love to run one of those. Blistering pace for the end of a marathon. While some might think that you could have upped the pace slightly for the first 20 miles I think you executed it brilliantly - flawless run. Well done again.

  5. Grellan i completely agree, Given my pre-race performance estimates and the weather conditions at the start it would have been foolhardy to have tried to run a pace bassed on a time faster than 3:10 ... in hindsight yes perhapes i could have been more aggressive at the start and in the end run a tad faster, but hey ill take the race i did run.

    Ryan, Its worth considering isnt it.