Author: Frédéric Gabry
After Stockholm Marathon, I felt like I needed a goal for 2015. Namely, beat my marathon PB, which had been stagnating for the last 2 years, and 7 marathons in the same 2:44-2:50 range. Hence I decided to choose an autumn marathon and train seriously for it. Münster Marathon quickly came up as an obvious choice, exactly 14 weeks after Stockholm Marathon. Let’s see how it went!
The idea was to follow a 12-week program, and therefore I could enjoy a welcome rest after Stockholm Marathon before starting running “hard” again. I did not really run (max 30km) the week after Stockholm Marathon and tried to increase the mileage the week thereafter (around 80km) to not have a too brutal start. The good thing for me a priori was that I really really like to run, or do any kind of sports, in the summer so running every day became natural and easy pretty quickly.
I will not develop too much on the specifics of the program since it is pretty boring and it was not much of a structured program in the end. My idea was to have around 3 quality runs ( including 1 interval running, 1 threshold pace running and one long run) every week, and fill the rest of the week with slow runs at 4:40ish pace. After the first interval run which was too boring/tough/tiring/useless/… (choose the correct answer), I decided to drop that kind of training and just go for “threshold pace” as my toughest training. I also had to make a choice whether running 50 or 100km in the middle of the training program, but in any case I tried to increase the distance in my long runs to be able to face that long long run 4 weeks before the marathon. In the end I probably didn’t have enough long runs as usual, but on the other hand that 50km race really helped me during the marathon (spoilers…).
I ran three races on my way to Münster Marathon. The first one, at the end of week 2, was a 10 km run in the Bois de Boulogne, in which many colleagues were participating. Unfortunately, Axelle was in Paris the night before, and we ended up visiting her friend’s wine bar/restaurant until 4am which was, um, not optimal, for a 9am start. Anyway I manage to finish in 35:03, 10th in the race which was well enough on that day (I went home for a tactical nap afterwards).
July came and went pretty easily, then a successful Stockholm Ultra, followed by a well-deserved week of holidays in Hyeres…
The next week-end however (i.e. one week after Stockholm 50km) was the last race of the training program, Midnattsloppet. I had no idea about my shape and how I had recovered from the Ultra, though I had good sensations in the climb running we did with Dennis in France. It turned out I was in very good shape, as I managed to stay all the race with runners I usually cannot keep up with. Without looking at the Garmin, I knew it was going to be a decent time. And it was! 33:31, 13th of the race, very unexpected and very satisfied with it evidently. 3 weeks before the marathon, Midnattsloppet gave me some confidence about managing to beat my PB, and more importantly, get under 2h40min.
The last three weeks before the race were uneventful, except for a recurrent cough which was worrying me more and more. To summarize the training those are my weekly kilometers for the 12 weeks leading up to the marathon: 104-113-116-117-79-113(Portugal)-124-84(Ultra)-109-76-100-84(marathon week).
Before the race
The week before the race, I decided to do the carbo loading plan where you basically don’t eat carbs on Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday and eat only carbs on Thursday-Friday-Saturday. I was probably a very unpleasant person from Tuesday evening to Thursday morning, but as the race approached I was feeling better and better from the carb loading, and now the race would tell if such a fueling strategy would make sense. However my cough was getting worse, up to the point where I had to inhale hot salted water, head under a towel, twice a day. Even on the night before the marathon, after a last tempo run on the Münster canal… As always, short night, bread and honey at 7am, and it was time to go for a run!
I was feeling pretty ok in the warm-up, in spite of the (relative) coldness of the day, around 12 degrees at the start, and more annoyingly the wind. After a last stop (or was it?) at the portable toilet and a few warm-up sprints , it was time to rush to the start. I placed myself behind the Kenyan women runners (one of which gave an hilariously silent interview to a poor German journalist, who gave up at some point), as I had seen the night before that they were usually around 2:40 on that marathon. BANG, here we go! After a few hectometers following the Kenyans, I realized that they are themselves following Roger Konigs, the 2h30 pacer for the race. Uh oh. On the one hand, the pace seemed strangely “doable”. On the other hand, I knew that it was 99.9% sure that it was only an impression, and that I would explode if I kept up with them. So, for once, I decided to let it go pretty early on a marathon and slowed down to what seemed an “easy” pace.
On another note, approximately 3 seconds after the BANG, I realized that I had to go to the bathroom… Soooo, after a tactical pause in the Münster promenade at km6, my marathon was really starting, with soon the first energy gel at km 8. We had made with Merle a plan for gels roughly every 8km (turned out to be 8-16-23-32-39), which worked out perfectly.
From km 12, I was accompanied by two irish runners (1 man and 1 woman) as well as a German woman. The pace and concord in the group was very good, as the irishman was pacing the Irish woman, while we two were so far happy to follow. We were also sharing gels and exchanging a few words. I felt that the key to succeeding at this marathon was to stay in this very group, so I hanged on. For the next 10kms it was a pretty even pace outside Münster (unfortunately followed by a distinct cow dung smell every now and then), and I was trying to figure out who the strongest was in the group since I could only follow so far, until I realized around km28 that it was probably me! Indeed the pace was feeling slow, as the irish woman could not keep up with her pacer while the German runner was dropping a few meters every now and then, only to come back. That’s when I decided to go on alone, as it was clear that we could not help each other in the group any longer. Surprisingly, only the German runner could follow me for the next few kms! I tried to keep an even pace to see if we could go together for a while, but noticing her difficulties, I went on alone. I was actually feeling stronger kilometer after kilometer, and soon I was already at km 34 without any feeling of the dreaded marathon wall. I was picking up runners, muttering some kind words as I passed them, clapping some kids hands when I had the opportunity.
The only “strange” portion of this marathon (apart from the slightly annoying cobbles in the first 10 kms) was around 35kms in a residential area, where kids were, how to put it, a little bit annoying. Some were racing/sprinting me, others in kids’ scooters/bikes, the worst came at some point when one kid handed me a glass of water with a huge smile on his face, which I of course accepted (I was thirsty at that point) only to realize the glass was empty while a whole bunch of kids started laughing at me… Hmmmmm, OK, not even mad. Aaaaanyway, at km39, I picked up the last Dextrose for the final 3 kms (Merle had to sprint as we did not manage to coordinate that move), and I was finally going to check my watch to see what was up. Okay, so according to my maths at that point, I was under 2h40 if I could keep 4pace until the end. So I accelerated as I had no idea about my pace at that point. At km40, I did a pace check: 3:36. So this looked very good and that gave me wings to keep on until the finish. The atmosphere close to the finish was absolutely fantastic (all along the race actually, but at the final km even more so) , and I sprinted up to a 2:38:34 final time!
Obviously very happy with that race with a new PB, 12th position in the race and finally a negative split marathon! Here are my splits kilometer by kilometer, some key events described in this post are easily recognizable… :
Now is the time for a new challenge. So, what’s next? I haven’t decided yet, but it will probably be for 2016.
Here is a race recap (in German). I’m visible for a total of 1/3 of a second. Many pictures and reports are also available on the race webpage.