Finally the 23rd of October came and with it the marathon of Toulouse, an event I planned to run as much as 8 months ago. An event I wrote about twice before in this blog, when I announced that I would run it and on the 23rd of October to publish the funds we raised for the charity I ran for, “Vaincre la mucoviscidose”.
To set the stage, I must say that in January I only had the objective of running some 10km races along the year and subscribing to a half marathon, not necessarily to be run in 2011. But then, on February I started thinking of actually going for a full marathon before year-end. I locked on the Toulouse marathon.
Time went by, and I took part in many races along the year, went from casual running to running a lot, to engaging myself in a formal training plan for the marathon… and to subscribe myself with a friend for an ultramarathon which we completed back in September, a month ago.
In September I completed the half marathon of Toulouse in 1h42’30”, my personal best time ever in the distance, ending with very good feelings. With that reference in mind, and taking into account a “running calculator” that I had been checking from time to time, I had in mind a marathon pace of 5’08″/km for the marathon… that would make a 3h36′ marathon. 24 minutes down from my best time 10 years ago.
One week after the half marathon, a friend and I took part in the 100km of Millau, more than 15 hours of racing. A great experience as I described in the post about it, but it brought some collateral damage in the form of a peroneal tendonitis that hasn’t been healed a month afterwards. During the last 30 days I only ran 3 days: One test prior to the race “Ronde des foies gras”, that race and short test run prior to the marathon.
Knowing that the injure wasn’t yet healed and that I hadn’t trained in a month, I decided to ease a little with the pace for the race: I set the objective in 5’20″/km, that would make a 3h45′ marathon…
Before leaving my home I put a special surgical bandage to strengthen the ankle that had given trouble in the last month. I put some anti inflammatory cream around and took a couple of analgesic pills. Ready for the race.
The marathon started very close to my place so I went to the starting lane jogging, as a warm up exercise. I got acquainted with the departing blocks by times and left my bag to the organization. I started with the group of 3h45′ as was my objective.
The first ~9km went through the centre of Toulouse, already with lots of people cheering in some parts of the city, especially in my neighbourhood, Saint Cyprien, despite of the early departure time.
After the first 10km, and feeling well, I decided to go a bit faster and I went ahead of the 3h45′ group, running by my own, finding another pack of runners going at about 5’10″/km. Everything went fine until km 19 more or less, then I started feeling some stiffnes in the right leg.
The pain wasn’t anymore restricted to the ankle but went up to the outer part of the knee. I managed to keep pace for about 2 kilometres until km 22. From then on, it proved impossible. The leg was not responding. Time was increasing between one kilometre and the next. 5’30”, then 5’50”, 6’30”, 7’00″… You may see the evolution in the following link with the performance along the race recorded by my Garmin GPS.
From that point around km 22 till the end there were some challenges. The first one was the running itself; it was increasingly difficult to move the right leg, but I knew that if I stopped for a few metres walking to calm down the pain it would only get worse, cool down and would be even harder to start again. Another challenge was to defeat the bad mood coming from the fact of knowing that I wouldn’t make the 3h45′ marathon that I aimed at, but would make a time somewhat worse, probably much worse. A final challenge was to get used to the idea of another 17km of pain while running, making some numbers in my mind at some point and figuring out that “ok, it’ll be at most about 1h40′ more of running with this pain, I can handle it”. If I took something from Millau, it was the mind management and coping with pain while running. This time it was less of a challenge.
At some point between km 25 and 27 I was overtaken by the 3h45′ group. One of the guys who lead it told me to try to follow them at the back of the pack. Impossible. I knew they were running at 5’20”, I was wandering at 5’40” by then and worsening. They were like a plane for me.
Later on, in the kilometre 33 I met my friend Juan, who was visiting me in Toulouse during the weekend. He would run the last kilometres together with me. That proved an invaluable help in the form of cheering, small talk, holding some drinks and finally making lots of pictures and videos that you may see below.
By then we were re-entering the city centre and the streets were filled by people cheering the runners. The bibs we carried had our names printed on them. This made people cheering you by your name “Allez, Javier! Courage!”. That was great. If you just had enough strength to run and look at them to thank for it…
By the kilometre 36 more or less I was overtaken by the 4h00 group. I already knew they would pass me, as I was seeing at every moment the times I was making and I had an idea of what final time I could manage. Again, the 4-hour group was like a plane for me, impossible to jump on it. They came at less than 6’/km while I was running at about 7′ by then. But it was only about 6 km to go, at most 40 more minutes. The marathon was almost finished.
I managed my way through the last kilometres seeing that in the end I wouldn’t be above 4h15′, that cheered me up a bit, and when I crossed the 41km line I made a small calculation: if I increased pace I could still be below 4h10′ official time, so I did.
During the next kilometre I increased the pace but still saving some strength to allow my self a last sprint from Wilson square to Capitol, where the finish lane was placed. By then the crowd was almost carrying you, pain was barely felt, the sight was locked on the “Arrivée” sign and the clock below… 4h09’35″… 36″… 37″…
Few more metres of sprint and crossing the line at 4h09’53” (4h08’31” net time), just below the 3rd objective, 25 minutes more than the original 3h45′, almost 10 minutes more than a sub-4-hour marathon. My second best time in a marathon.
On the plus side: I completed again a marathon, 10 years after the last one. The objective from February was accomplished. I could run the whole of it despite the injure and subsequent pain.
Nevertheless, I finished with a bit of bitterness from not having been able to meet my 3h45′ objective, nor the sub-4h one… This teaches me a lesson for the future: when you run a marathon being injured, far from making personal best times, you’ll most probably end up suffering a lot. A lot. After all a marathon is what it is for a reason, and one should never underestimate it. Lesson learned. Now it’s time to finally fully recover from the injure; 2012 will be another season.