Last Sunday 13th April, I completed Rotterdam marathon together with Jaime, Serna and Manuel. In a race preview post I wrote that I arrived to this marathon a bit short of training, having completed just about 2/3 of the training plan. In the weeks prior to the race I had asked my brother what pace he intended to start with. Having in mind the lack of thorough training, I thought of starting at a pace slightly below 5’20” per km but not below 5′. That rhythm, if sustained through the end, would allow a new personal best (at that point 3h45’35”, achieved in Paris, April 2012).
Jaime and I started the race together, departing from the box “E”. We ran together 15 kilometres, pacing each other, ensuring we would not run too fast or too slow. At km. 15 Jaime said he wanted to soften the pace a little and since then I ran alone. My intention up to then was just to try to sustain low 5’s until km. 25, just before the climb of the Erasmus bridge back to the city centre. I thought that climb would take its toll and wanted to arrive to it with some time cushion, climb it relaxed and see if after it I could go back to a similar pace.
Just when we crossed the bridge I saw that I had not slowed down but the pace was still at 5 minutes per km. This encouraged me. I took the second energetic gel bag and ate it (I consumed the first one at km. 15) and told to myself “let’s try to run a few more kilometres at 5′, one at a time”.
… and those were the best 10 kilometres of my race, from 25 to 35, where I employed less than 50′ and enjoyed it a lot. I was overtaking runners, very focused on my own pace, breathing correctly, drinking at every supply post, eating another energy gel bar at km. 33, refreshing myself with sponges…
At some point, seeing that I was maintaining paces of 5′ and that I had only a cumulative 1’30” over the time for 3h30′, I thought that would be possible. However, at km. 36 I started feeling stiffer. The running was less smooth. Nevertheless, I told again to myself “let’s try to clock kilometres at about 5’20” “, and so I did with the exception of km. 41, but offset with 42. The last 500 metres I sprinted to try to clock a time under 3h35′, which I did: 3h34’52”, a new personal best time in marathon.
From the marathons I have completed in these last 3 years, Rotterdam marathon does not have the best scenery (Rome, Paris), nor is the flattest (Berlin), or the one with the best start (Rome) or finish (Athens, Berlin)… but it has been in Rotterdam where I have enjoyed the most running, where I have had the best feelings and the best race management.
One take away for me of this marathon is something which I had read often: don’t give all out from start, keep something for the second half. After the race, I have made the numbers and the comparison: Rotterdam and Paris (my previous PB) have been the slowest 2 marathons till the half marathon.
In Rotterdam, the starting at pace above 5′ was not intended in order to keep faster paces for the second half. I wish I had had such confidence and good strategy from the outset. No, we started at those paces in order to see if we could be between 3h40′ and 3h45′. But I take the lesson for the future, for the 12th marathon…