On Sunday I ran my first marathon of the year. It could be considered a qualifying marathon for The Comrades Marathon, but by virtue of having finished Comrades 2011, I am already qualified.
This was my qualifying marathon last year and I had such different feelings when I lined up to start this year. The pressure that I had placed on myself then to qualify was huge - I had messed up in my first marathon and this felt like Do-or-Die. This year, my goal was to beat last years time and ideally to get a better enough time to improve my seeding batch
Seeding is as follows for Comrades:
Given last years finishing time of 11:43, I am seeded in H. I would need to run my marathon in a time of 4:20-4:30 to get a G seeding. I was aiming to finish close to 4:30. I have signed up to run for charity and i am aiming to raise R5000. Once I have achieved this, I will get charity seeding CC but it is a psychological thing to know that i have qualified off G rather than H. (if you would like to contribute to Pinkdrive, you can donate here)
I have been sickly for the past 3 weeks and my training hadn't gone as well as I would have liked, so I changed my marathon formula. In the past, I have run for 9 minutes and walked for 1 minute. I investigated other options and came across a very useful site, Coachdino. Here I calculated that I could run 7 / walk 1 at a comfortable pace and finish close to 4:30. I set my Garmin accordingly and printed out a pace wristband here.
I was feeling fairly confident on the morning of the race. Alan fetched me at 4:15, for an hours drive and a 6am start. All was well at the start - and off we went. This marathon is a popular one for qualifying and we told there was a record field of 4000 people (I think this was for the 5, 10, 21,1 and 42,2km, because there wasn't much congestion at the start).
It is a lovely route thru the suburbs of Vereeniging and eventually along the Vaal river. There are lovely houses and an estate with Springboks running around. The watering points are fantastic and a number of households along the way leave out their garden sprinklers and we can run thru the water and cool down. There was the usual Coke and water to drink as well as Cream Soda and many tables had chocolates and jelly babies and biscuits and chips. I never think that i am hungry but when I see the goodies I take something to nibble and I enjoy it.
I ran really comfortably and was happy with my progress - I kept my average pace at 6:29 up until the 30km mark. Then the wheels came off. My left foot felt as if was cramping and got really sore. By 35kms I was thinking that I am going to need to get a lift to the finish cos I could not go on like that. Somebody running next to me said to his running buddy "From here on it is all in the head" and I kept that mantra going in my head. I figured that I still had time on my side and I could run a little and walk a little and still make the 5 hour cut-off. I also took an anti-inflammatory tablet which might have helped by the last 2 Kms when I was running almost all the way. I finished in a time of 4:46 - 3 minutes faster than last year and considering the pain I was in, a very good time indeed.
I walked backed to the car, feeling fine, the pain of earlier not there (likely numbed by medication) and had a happy drive home. Alan had surprised himself and run a 3:29:30 marathon and also felt good.
I was feeling really proud of myself when I got home - I had finished a marathon and my last 3 weeks of training hadn't gone well; I had set a marathon PB; I had overcome the pain and not quit!
A long bath, lots to eat and a cup of tea and off to rest on the bed. A couple of hours later, I got up and my foot was the size of a melon! Swollen and blue all over, including underneath. I could barely put it on the floor, never mind actually walk on it.
I have been taking anti-inflammatory meds, rubbing my foot with arnica cream and massaging my legs with The Stick. I have been keeping it elevated as much as possible and I have iced it a couple of times (there are conflicting views on whether hot or cold is best). And, I am grateful I drive an automatic car because changing gears with a clutch would not be an option!
Today is now day 3 post marathon and while it is still swollen and I am still limping, my foot is getting better. I will be seeing a physio this evening and hopefully will get some diagnosis and identify the cause.
And even tho' this is the result, I would do it again. I am thrilled that I ran a marathon, it feels like such a huge achievement and a small price to pay. My confidence is up and even if I have to take a few weeks off now to let this foot get fixed, I am sure I can keep my fitness levels up and my mind in check for further distances.