St. Vit Marathon 2002

Marathon: St. Vit (Near Besançon), October 6, 2002.

What a total disaster that race was! But I learnt so much from it. The race started at 10am. 70 runners only. It was raining and the temperature was 8 deg. C (45 deg. F). It was a 21K loop that we did twice. I did my first lap in 1h37  minutes. My second one took 2h18. Total time was 3:55. I was very cold and very bonked.

But to be fair, I knew that something like this might very well happen. It started 3 months before the race with what is still to be confirmed as a Metatarsal stress fracture in my right foot. It was after my second 3 hour run of the season on the way to the 4 hour stuff. Only it was with some new shoes that some guru convinced me were better for me. And to make it worse I was working on my technique to land on the forefoot and keep my feet parallel to the motion. If you can visualize the motion, it means that my big toe's Metatarsal was doing close to nothing and the smaller ones were getting hammered. Now in hindsight I wonder why we have one bigger than the others. Could it be that it's because it's supposed to work more? Also, since then I looked at pictures of the best marathon runners. They do tend to run with feet at an angle. So it was wrong for me to try to make them go parallel.

Unfortunately, this little technique mishap seriously affected my training. I had to stop running for 3 weeks and when I tried to get back in the training plan I felt that I could not take the risk to do any run longer than 2 hours. So I thought that doing 2 1h30 runs on Sunday was like doing one 3h run. The last long run (2 weeks before the marathon) I even did 1 2h run followed 3-4 hours later by a half marathon race with 30 min warm up. Hopefully I thought, that is like a 4 hour run. Well, it is not. Another bad consequence of all this is that I did not do long enough runs to train my stomach to manage the eating and drinking.

And just to make it a little worse, 4 days before the marathon I was limping. Some hip muscle that did not like stretching...

Despite all this, when I started the race I planned on a 4:30/K pace (7:14 min/ mile) and to see what happens. My hip muscle did not bother me (I did a nice 20 min warm up in warm clothes), neither did my bad foot (I was using an orthopedic sole). I started a little faster than planned (4:27 instead of 4:40 for the 1st 2 Ks). I felt good, doing small strides, trying to be as economic and relaxed as possible. 

The running course was very nice. We went through a little village and along the river Doubs. It was mostly very small country roads. Virtually no hills, just two bridges.

For some reason after my 2 first Ks of warmup I could not get below 4:36. I made 2 mistakes: first I started running with somebody and chatted. I should have stayed by myself. He was not running fast enough. Second I had a glass of coke and ate too much in a short time (GU gel+Pain d'épice). My stomach never recovered. I could not eat anymore after that and felt like puking after K20.

As I completed the first loop I knew that I was in trouble. I thought that maybe I should give up. But then I decided that I would finish the distance even if that meant walking and puking for 20 kilometers. At K25 I was having some serious muscle twitching in both hamstrings. I thought that I would either cramp or tear a muscle. It felt really bad. That is when I started doing some walking breaks. 

My legs were totally shot by K30. 12 Kilometers to go... I would start running like a snail for half a kilometer and walk some more. I thought that maybe I would get through this and start feeling a little better. I started getting really cold because I was not going fast enough to maintain enough body heat. At that point I had forgotten all about my big toe nail that had come loose at K15 and was traveling in my sock. That nail was only attached to the toe on its right edge at the start of the race; I had hurt it previously.

Runners that were passing by encouraged me: "come on, try to stay with us". Between K35 and K36 I did manage this but had to fall back again. When walking I tried to walk as fast as possible. I did 1K of just walking to see how fast I could go compared to running. It was K38, I did 10:59. Then I run the next K (K39) and did 6:27, my  best split since K30. I was laughing, I was going to finish this. It was not so hard. I could even finish below 4 hours. At K40 we had the last food and drink stop. They did not want to get wet giving me something so I just carried on. I could hear the people at the finish line. At that point I felt a little better. I managed to run the last 2K without a walking break. I was getting a lot of encouragement. To one group I asked for a shortcut but they did not know any. To another I asked if any taxi came to pick me up to the finish line. 

Km Split Total
1 4:29 4:29
2 4:32 9:01
3 4:36 13:37
4 4:39 18:16
5 4:36 22:52
6 ? ?
7 ? ?
8 ? ?
9 18:20 41:12
10 4:35 45:47
11 ?
12 9:13 55:00
13 4:32 59:32
14 4:39 1:04:11
15 4:31 1:08:42
16 4:28 1:13:10
17 4:36 1:17:46
18 4:42 1:22:28
19 4:48 1:27:16
20 4:42 1:31:58
21 5:22 1:37:20
22 ? ?
23 ? ?
24 14:42 1:52:02
25 5:15 1:57:17
26 ? ?
27 10:58 2:08:15
28 5:19 2:13:34
29 5:16 2:18:50
30 6:45 2:25:35
31 7:42 2:33:17
32 6:22 2:39:39
33 8:25 2:48:04
34 6:38 2:54:42
35 6:41 3:01:23
36 8:23 3:09:46
36 5:57 3:15:43
38 10:59 3:26:42
39 6:27 3:33:09
40 7:09 3:40:18
41 7:13 3:47:31
42 7:32 3:55:03
Then I got to the stadium. We had one loop to do on the track. It turned out to be easy because some 8 year old kids were practicing racing 400m. I could keep up with them and enjoyed it. Then it was over. Job done. Lessons learnt:
  • Do weight training, especially on the legs, abs and back.
  • Be very careful with new shoes.
  • Start the weight 1-2 months before the running season.
  • Long runs (3 hours or more) are essential for marathon training.
  • Run other marathons before the big marathon race. This is for the legs but also to get used to the logistics and managing time and food.
  • Two 2h runs in one day equals one 2.5h-3h run at best.
  • A slow 3h run is too easy compared to a fast 3h run. Slow does not train the muscles for fast. There is a world of difference.
  • Speed during long runs is crucial too: a slow long run is a lot less work than a long run approaching racing speed. One needs to be careful with injuries there. Do only part of the long run with speed and give it plenty of rest afterwards to repair the damage. I will experiment with this next season, focussing on quality rather than quantity. Maybe it's better to run less often but nail the legs more each time.
  • Do plenty of racing. It's fun and there's only one way to learn to run fast. That is to run fast.
  • It's OK to run with the feet at an angle
  • No more coke (even if I saw a rider in the Tour de France carrying a can)
  • Need to train the stomach: eat and during long runs, even if could do without.
  • During the race, don't eat too much at once.
  • During the race, run alone if you are racing for time.


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