In October 2019, I ran Munich Marathon, a race I had entered 7 times before, but had to cancel every time due to injury. And when I finally stood at that start line, Munich threw another challenge at me: the sun was shining heating up to 25 degrees and my Garmin died 5 minutes prior to the start. I had to run the 26.2 miles blind - not knowing what pace I was running at...
I ended up running a 3:11:33 marathon (a 5 minutes PB) and I learnt so much during this race. Here my personal lessons learnt:
1. Racing in the heat.
With temperatures reaching 25 degrees, I knew that keeping cool would be key. My tactics was to grab two waters at every station. One to drink and one to pour over me. I took my time with drinking and ran a couple of hundred meters with the cup to make sure to take as much fluids on as possible. I was happy that I had decided to have a high5 aqua as every second gel as that gave me additional hydration. Further more I had given my friend Julie extra bottles and a sponge which she handed me along the route. The sponge saved my life on the last miles as I could soak it again at water stations and use it to cool me down.
I had practiced my fuelling strategy on all of my long runs. I thought about slightly increasing my intervals for my gels as I had stomach problems on one of my runs. But thankfully my coach Jordan convinced me to stick with what had worked in the last marathon: one gel 30min before start and then one every 4 miles with the addition of a caffein bullet for the last 5km. I had: Before start: Maurten, 4miles: High5 aqua, 8miles: Maurten, 12miles: High5 aqua caffein, 16miles: Maurten, 20miles: High5 aqua, 22miles: Maurten, 23miles: caffein bullet. Have to say, it was spot on. At no point I felt tired or empty, I was full of energy throughout the race. And yes, I carried the gels in true Jordan style my bra. My learning: don’t adjust your fuelling strategy because of one bad long run. Stick to what you have practiced.
3. Running without a watch.
Well, that was neither intended not very enjoyable. But it taught me a lot. My watch died shortly before the start and just wouldn’t connect to the satellite anymore. So I had no information on what pace I was running. In order to have a reference point, I started with the 3:15 pacers. They confirmed that they were going to run an even pace throughout the race, so running with them gave me an idea for a baseline. After 10k, I sped up a little. Every now and then I asked fellow runners at what pace they were doing just to get an idea of my own speed. There were a couple of hills and I took them steady and let go on the downhills to make up some time. I tried to calculate splits in the beginning but realised that it only made me weary so I just focused on gradually speeding up throughout the race. I had written down my goal pace for 4 sections of the race on my hand. Next time, I would add the times I‘d need to get to each 10km to help me as orientation in case my watch dares to play tricks on me again.
4. Negative splits.
I had discussed my race strategy with my coach beforehand. And even though I didn’t go for my gold goal in the end, I tried to stick to what I know works best for me: take it easy in the first 10km (I tend to run slower then my goal marathon pace) and then gradually speed up. I usually plan my pacing on runnersconnect.net/coach-corner/marathon-race-strategy. Although I couldn’t control my pace, I tried to stick to the philosophy. I picked up the pace consciously after 10k and after the half marathon. After 20miles, I said out loud: that’s the warmup done, gave my legs a pep talk and started to race. The last two km I was joined by another runner and we pushed each other through the final stretch, shouting, motivating and racing each other. I love the feeling when I can increase speed in the second half because I didn’t go all out in the beginning. I was only overtaken by one person on the second half and that gave me a huge push.
5. Believe in yourself.
I won’t lie, I didn’t have a lot of confidence going into the race. I had been ill in the week leading up to the marathon and the temperatures scared the hell out of me. When then my watch gave up on me, I nearly burst in tears. But then I remembered all the training runs I did. Throughout the race I told myself: you‘ve done long runs in the summer heat, you‘ve practiced your nutrition, you‘ve run miles and miles at marathon pace, your body KNOWS this, all the training prepared it for this moment. I visualised all the tough runs and realised how much better I felt than during those. This gave me the confidence I needed.
My splits (freestyle, without watch) and results:
10-20km 45:07 (some downhills)
2nd in my age group