The trip to Berlin began with a tweak to the travel arrangements from last year. Rather than trek to Liverpool, Manchester or East Midlands we were able to take advantage of the new Fly Be flight from Doncaster to Berlin, this gave us a full day on Friday to get to the expo and chill out before the race. It was so much easier going to an airport so close and dramatically reduced journey times at both ends, the bags were ready before we got off the plane! Perfect.
We headed to the newly re-located expo and fought our way through the crazy souvenir buyers who were frantically creating a scene more like the Boxing Day sales at Macy’s! The rest of Friday and Saturday involved eating, resting and analysing my niggles. We did squeeze in a bit of sight-seeing, leaving me wanting to go back to Berlin to “do it” properly. Such an amazing place.
Here’s how things panned out:
Saturday 24th September, 12.06
I’m sat in the beautiful Berlin sunshine with one hell of a view, I couldn’t be in a more pleasant environment the day before a big race. Internally I’m struggling with quite a dilemma; last Monday I woke up the day after my last session with an acute achilles pain. My immediate reaction was to text Bud, who very kindly rang me and confirmed what I suspected, I had to withdraw from the marathon, it just wasn’t worth it.
Some niggles and injuries you can get away with, but an achilles problem could stick around for a very long time and it certainly wouldn’t survive a marathon. I’ve written and re-written this blog no less than 4 times in recent days; I don’t wish to rain negativity on anyone’s day. On the flip-side, when I set out to write a blog I hoped in the long run to tackle many of the difficult aspects of running- I’ve experienced and overcome numerous long term illnesses and injuries and I’d like to share my experiences in the hope that they may help others. That said, no-one needs to hear me moan…
Running means the world to me, it offered a way out of a slippery slope 10 years ago where I was dealing with a challenging time in my life. I need it in my life or the worry is that things could slip, this was the main motivation for me to decide immediately that I was not running the marathon. I need to be running over the winter and our club enters the XC season with the very exciting prospect of competing at a national level.
But, talking to many people there was a consensus that with my best ever training block in the bank…I should try! So I booked in for an emergency massage (during which my calf was butchered-in a good way), Hatti also provided her healing hands and I managed a pain free run on Thursday after 3 days off. During this time I also caught a cold from our little one, a sign that the odds were stacked against me!
With the trip already paid, I left for Berlin with the last men standing in our group after a pretty disastrous marathon campaign for team Hallamshire! Tom Jenkins who was my best man would now be completing his final competitive race, sadly only aiming to finish after lady luck struck him down very early in his training. Mike Sprot joined us who has survived his training and hopes to run his pb close. Next year he will complete 10 marathons in 10 days to fundraise for Brathay Trust and Neurocare, charities close to his heart (read more here).
I did a run on the Friday and the calf held up, albeit feeling a little tight- but I felt shite from the head cold and generally very sluggish…not feeling like a man who had run 35 miles in 7 days!! I then ran easy the following morning for a few miles, again feeling sluggish and wondering how I could get up to marathon pace for even three miles!
After much deliberation, I decided to give it a whirl. I would dearly love to know what that training was worth and as many people have pointed out there are few opportunities to run a fast marathon. I’m not going to put my calf on the line though…I’ve got some really exciting plans for the coming season and I’d love to see them through…lets see what happens…
Sunday 25th September, 12.06
I find myself writing the entry I hoped I wouldn’t have to write, although I’ve just seen the result of fellow blogger Stuart Spencer; who has seen the fruits of his considerable labour to a fine new pb and I’m chuffed to bits for him! It seems most other people who we would be later meeting had also had great runs, so plenty of positivity to enjoy later…
My race went a little differently. After waking up feeling very under the weather and feeling pretty tired and lousy yesterday, I woke up this morning feeling AMAZING. My calf felt good, I felt energetic and really excited, the only slight concern was that my pre-race poo (s) wasn’t nearly as fruitful as one would hope.
This year I made a point of starting the race on the right hand side of the dual carriageway, it seems to lead to a better line around the round-a-bout and sets you for the first right hand corner. I was amazed how many slower runners were ahead of me but quickly negotiated past them and settled into a rhythm. This rhythm saw me at 5.21 pace and continued for the first 3 miles, it felt like a jog.
“This is it!!” I thought, “its gonna happen for me today! This was all fate allowing a taper I wouldn’t dare to write into the training plan.” My silent target (I said I didn’t have one, but we all do) was 2.22 for this race. Although 5.20 pace would be a dream come true, I decided to back off to target pace.
This saw me settle into a nice group who I shared leading with an American/ Canadian guy. The group contained people of many nationalities including a lead Kenyan woman (for a short time, but she dropped off after a few surges), a Canadian and a couple of Germans. I love pack running at these races and it was a real pleasure. It wasn’t as organised as the group we were in last year and I had a go at orchestrating some co-ordination of efforts which was short-lived; spoiled by every water station which was chaotic, but essential as it was a warm morning.
Things were going smoothly save for a few dropped seconds at the odd water station, I felt completely injury free and into my stride until mile 10, where I felt my calf for the first time. In fact my glut and hamstring also contracted a little (I’ve felt this issue to be neural all along), I backed off to around 5.29/30 pace to give it a chance and at half way I re-assessed my situation and felt it was best to step off the course. There was no way things would survive another half marathon. I felt ok doing this until a guy from the pack (the American/Canadian) shouted “Dave, NOOO!!” I almost guiltily jumped back in at this point, but I’m happy with my call.
I hate dropping out of races, I hate it. But I’m also not afraid to do it. The only time I would ever put my body on the line would be in a Yorkshire/Northern/England or GB vest (not that I’ve earned such an honour), or the Hallamshire vest in one of our big team races. Sitting here now, I’m pleased with my decision, my calf/achilles is sore but it will heal. Had I continued it would be a definite and probably significant injury, and my time probably would have been slower than my pb.
As I said earlier, keeping some consistency in my running is more important than any one race, I’ve got some exciting stuff planned and I’d love to see it through. I feel pretty philosophical now, but I was totally gutted when I first realised an injury was in the midst. What really made me relax was my skype last night to my daughter who normally just pokes the screen and walks off disinterested (normally to wee on the floor somewhere), this time we had a proper conversation. A magical moment that helped me to rationalise that there is more to life than running; which brings me to my final points.
What have I learned?
This block has taught me a lot about myself running-wise. I always felt, being injury prone that 100 mile weeks were out of my reach, I’ve done the odd one or two, albeit with caution. To string 6 together back to back has been a real eye opener. Although I got injured at the end of it, I can’t really blame the training; I genuinely think it was just bad luck with a number of potential contributing factors.
The key has been in good planning and although I sailed close to the wind a few times I’m happy with what I did. I need to now put this into a XC and mountain running context to try and achieve my goals in these areas of the sport.
To be honest, the biggest thing I’ve learned is that maybe my goals are too lofty, I haven’t really achieved many of them. I often get frustrated at not being an “evergreen” runner, I can have some stinking races or I can run out of my skin, often following no rhyme or reason. This drives me bonkers. I do put a lot of pressure on myself at times, yet this year I haven’t (I didn’t feel pressured in this build up- I loved it) and it has led to some real positives.
My first Yorkshire vest ranks as my all time favourite as I tried for 20 years to earn the bloody thing, but to run for England was a complete honour. It didn’t go well, but I will always cherish it. What I need to now do is to continue daring to dream, but trust the process without pushing too hard and that’s the plan, after a few more beers and some time off…
The rest of the day was spent enjoying some german beer and food with a large group of people; all of whom experienced personal triumph. We had guys out with us who had enjoyed breaking 3 hours for the first time, running 2hrs 31 from a 5 week build-up, finishing 3rd V45 overall, running close to pbs and running great times from ZERO running in the last 4 weeks. A very enjoyable day in a great city!
Thanks for reading my blog; I’m sorry it wasn’t a fruitful training block that would be of use to people in the future! I have to say though, if you are considering Berlin marathon jump in with both feet, it is an amazing city and the weather is always conducive to great marathon racing and good city exploring! Also, don’t be afraid to challenge your limits in training, but be smart!
I don’t know if I’ll blog again as you tend to feel a bit of a dickhead when you go on about your training and subsequently drop out of the race! But I did have a few things I’d love to write about, so you never know!