Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Milano Marathon

After all the mistakes I made leading up to and during Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes (my first marathon), I brought Run Less. Run Faster and followed their training program. Although the program was designed to last 16 weeks, I only had 7 weeks until the Milano Marathon. Again, my preparation wasn’t ideal, but I figured that I completed Marathon des Alpes- Maritimes after just 4 training runs, so I should be in a much better condition after 7 weeks of training.  

I really enjoyed the book and agreed with a lot of the points it made. Each week I completed 3 runs and 2 cross training workouts. The runs are designed to work together to improve endurance, lactate-threshold, running pace and leg speed. The cross training sessions are non weight bearing activities (rowing, cycling, swimming) that increased cardiovascular strength, while allowing the muscles used in running time to repair for the next run.

I found the first weeks training easy to complete, but my legs felt fatigued after, especially when lying in bed. I really enjoyed this feeling, as to me, it means the training is doing something. I found the book really inspiring and believed in the program. As I was short on time and felt I had a massive point to prove after the disappointment of my first marathon, I wanted to run Milano as quick as possible.  To do this I skipped several pace increases each week. I was able to complete all three runs, but my body felt the increase and ached more than usual. I also went on an epic cycle with Rob. I used the cycle as a cross training session, but I don’t think the program designers thought anyone would be stupid enough to go on a 60k cycle, that climbed over a 1000m, after already completing 4 hours of running that week!

3 weeks before the marathon my knee tweaked. I think the combination of increasing the pace of my runs too quickly and the cycle, put too much stress on my body and I broke! It was a weird sensation. I can only describe it as a short sharp pain that stopped me dead in my tracks. The pain didn’t hurt as such, but made running impossible. That evening, I was devastated and thought I wouldn’t be able to run the marathon. I wanted to txt a chiropractor that I had been seeing in England to see if he thought I should put the marathon on hold. Rob tried to reason with me and told me that I’ve come to far to quit. He advised not to txt the chiropractor as his response would be professional and probably scare me into not running. He said that I should rest for a few days, then try and run again and see what happened. I liked Rob’s solution as it meant the marathon was still a possibility.

Before my knee tweaked I was training for a 3hr 42 min finish. I decided to lower the pace of my runs
to a 3:45 finish and cut the cross training from the program. My knees didn’t feel right, but survived the first two runs. The final run of the week was 21k at marathon pace.  I completed the run, but it was a challenge and I doubted whether I could continue at that pace for another 21k. After trying to run my first marathon too fast, I didn’t want to make the same mistake again. I took the time from my 21k run, and using the marathon time predictor, found my target finish time of 3:52:19.

I don’t know how to describe how I felt in the days leading to the marathon. I was confident in my strategy and believed I could manage my revised time, but was worried that my knee wouldn’t last the distance. Putting the problems with my knee aside, I felt strong, fit and believed that in the time I had to train, I couldn’t have prepared much better.

I really enjoyed the Milano Marathon and thought it was a much better run than Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes. It seemed like more people came to support the runners and I enjoyed the banter between the runners and the crowd. I didn’t understand what they were saying, but it created a good atmosphere and was good to be part of. From the start of the marathon my body ached from all the training, and I couldn’t help but focus on my knees. After about 10k the pain in my knees was more intermittent than constant, which seemed promising. Around 18k, my left hip started to feel tight and sore and as the run went on, the pain got worse. I didn’t mind this, as it took my focus away from my knees. Apart from my body aching, I felt strong and fit. So strong that instead of sticking to my 5:30 /km marathon pace, I ran the first 10 to 15k at approximately 5:25 /km. I knew I should have stuck to my plan, but I felt good and thought I could keep it up.

Around 27k, I could feel most of the muscles in my thigh getting heavy and tight. The ones that flex the knee and hip felt particularly heavy, whist the outer muscles felt as if they were imploding. The last 15k were hard, but nothing compared to the struggle of Marathon des Alpes. As my pace gradually declined, I thought of how confident I had felt after a good weeks training and how I believed I could run a faster pace. I laughed at the difference between looking at finish times in a book and actually running them. For the final kilometer, I gave it everything I had. I lifted my chest, moved my arms with purpose and could feel myself grimacing. The final 250m was probably the best I’ve experienced running. You’ve done it, I thought. Well done. The emotions I experienced were immense. I was able to soak up the atmosphere, take a good look around and cross the finish line in 3:57:31, with my arms in the air and feeling very proud of myself.

Shortly after finishing, I heard Pippa and Rob call. They had come to Milan to support me during the marathon. I really appreciated them making the effort, as I felt a little sad watching other runners celebrating with their family or friends after Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes. This time round I had run a sub 4, and had friends to share the moment with.