I look up at the timing board at the Finish Line and see 3:13 and some change. Knowing that I crossed the starting line 1 min after the gun went off 3 hours earlier, I knew I had beaten my best marathon time by almost 10 min! How was this possible? Well it boiled down to 3 things:
– A good training plan (the first I found that suited my needs) .
– A great running group to run with
– A friend that wrote in his blog that he wants to beat me.
The training plan: Ever heard of FIRST? The Furman Institute of Running and Scientific Training. I probably would never have, as I am not a runner and I do not read any running magazine like Runners World. It is my friend and fierce competitor who suggested it to me. “The Less is More” training plan. Clearly something for me. It is basically a 3-run-a-week plan, but the sessions are tough regardless whether it is intervals, tempo and long. This training plan pushed me to complete five 32km runs (at a increasing tempo but still below marathon pace). This has in my view been the key to manage my negative splits and build marathon specific endurance.
The training group: I sadly have a track record of training mostly solo. I don’t like it, but so far I did not find a group that suited my needs and with whom I could harmonize well. This group I met (all dads bringing their children to the same international school in Wassenaar), was not only a group with a matching pace, but also with a good chemistry. It became “nearly” fun to wake up 2 times a week at 05:30 to compete our sessions in the dark. The weather in The Netherlands does not motivate me to go out. Without them I would never have trained as hard..and I would never have gone to Prague to run the marathon either… Sunday’s performance was all thanks to them.
The friend that wanted to beat me: Richard (alias The Silverback) is a Runner with a big R. In his view there is no other sport that is greater than running. Triathlon is a diluted version as technology comes in the way..For him running is pure, simple and addicitive. After coming back from knee surgery, his mind was set to recover strength, speed and endurance. We saw him pushing himself over the months, sometimes to the point where I thought he would not make it to the start of our marathon. But came May 15th, he was as ready as one could be. We ran 32 km together, like we always did during our training sessions; starting slow and progressively picking up the pace to ensure negative splits. We did nothing else on that day. The aid station after km32 marked the point where I left my friend – The Silverback behind me. I did not slow down to pick up my drinks and came out first out of the aid station. Usually richard would catch-up and we would run side by side until the next aid station (every 5km), but I did not see him this time. I looked ahead to see, ifIi had missed him passing me, but no. I did not look back and picked up the pace by around 10 sec per km. My legs felt good and I knew I could do the fastest 10 km of this marathon (I did them in less than 44min) – The question I will never be able to answer is whether I kept too much in the tank before the last quarter of the race).
Start number: 1167 – CROTTAZ ALAIN
I am paricularly happy about the negative splits results. 1:37:47 for the first 21km and 1:34:50 for the second half-marathon. 3 min faster! Needless to stay that I felt great for the entire course until km41 where my heart reate was clearly in the red and my system felt like an engine without oil. But I was so happy to have improved my running in the last 6 months that I clenched my teeth and motored my way to the finish chute. True joy at the finish line. I waited about 2 min to see Richard crossing the finish line in 3:14:27. He was over the moon. We both finished under the qualifying time limit to participate to the Boston Marathon. In the US they call such a result a BQ (Boston Qualifier). I have until September to think whether I will get a plane ticket to run over in Boston or not. It could be really fun and motivate me to further improve my marathon time.
I loved that race, not only because I performed well, but first and foremost because I was there with Richard, Joel & Jim with whom we shared so much (trash talk) during our training sessions. Jim did not run on that week-end due to sustained foot injuries. It was hard for us, but even harder for him. He supported us the best he could, hiding his own disappointment and shouting at us during the course the we were looking good. We all knew it was a lie, but it did work wonders… Joel, did run after having recovered from his injuries. But he raced without have run for 7 weeks…His time is not important, but he can start writing books now. “how to run a marathon without training” or “training for a marathon is overrated”….or… “A week-end to remember”.