Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The medal – what medal – Espoo Ranta Maraton 2014 [by Michael]

In 2014 after a long break in my hobby running career due to an injury I started to train for my Marathon number 7. To keep things simple I did aim for the Espoo Ranta Marathon which is a Marathon that has a nice scenec route along the shoreline of Espoo. While the route has a lot of ups and downs as well as limited audience it is a nice run. Additionally it was the first time my two boys then 4 and 7 were able to cheer for their old father and experience the atmosphere of a City Marathon.

So, I got to work. I got my old running books from the basement for motivation, downloaded a training plan from my favorite Marathon training page and bought new shoes. While I had run my best Marathon years back in Berlin with 3:10:24 I re-started from square one as I had lost all my running training related ability and gained “a couple of kilos”. So, at the starting point I was not much more than the average running starting to build for the next 42,195 km.

Slowly I did build my training regime trying to do the impossible of combining my work (60+h per week), my family (2 boys – 4 and 7) and my running regime. I would run at night, early mornings and during lunch breaks. I did run alone for 2 hours on Sunday afternoon while the family was having coffee and cake. But I managed to stick with my training plan (more or less with some “flexibility”). I lost weight combining my running with a low-carb diet and gained muscles. I felt good … mostly.

The great thing was to see how the kids reacted. That they started to see running and sports as a part of the everyday routine and as something that just was there. At times it was hard to put on the running gear and get out when the kids wanted to play or spend quality time with their dad. At the same time I did know that I would be a much better father once I had finished my run. Getting out was easier on days when the sun was still up in the sky and the weather was good. It was harder but not less fun when it was raining “cats and dogs” and I got back to our cottage soaking wet.

All along I did read “Runner’s World”, “Runner’s High” and other motivational literature that kept me grounded with the global running community and kept me honest with my training regime.

So, day by day the race got closer and I realized that the trainings I skipped and the runs I shortened have been taking their toll. Instead of going for 3:30 I reduced my target to 3:45 knowing that the route was not as flat as Berlin had been years before. And then, some days before the race, looking through the old medals from gloriously (or less gloriously) completed Marathon’s I made a promise to my boys. I told them that this time I will win the Marathon Finisher medal for them. A promise that would cost me dearly on race day, but more about that later.

And then race day came and I was again standing at the starting line. There’s no way to explain someone who has never run a road race how you feel the moment you line up. The excitement, the questions that race through your head: did I train enough, will I make it, careful – don’t go out too fast ….

I met friends that were running the same Marathon and we made jokes to kill time and to beat the nerves. Then we lined up. My friends in the back of the field. Me somewhere closer to the front.

km 1 – Feeling Happy and motivated
Right after the starting gun went off I was actually …. leading the field. Only for some moments but it felt incredible. This is how the elite runners must feel circling the course. No one in front of you than the police bike showing the path. The feet (still) feel light and running feels natural. I was motivated, I was well prepared and I was “in the groove”.

km 15 – realizing the wave pattern
Ok, by now I realized Espoo is not as flat as I had expected. Constant rolling “hills” made it difficult to keep the pace and stay “in rhythm”. Why hadn’t I trained on the route itself? It would have prepared me better. My quads started feeling tense but I still passed runners that were slower than me. At the same time the first runners came from the back to overtake me and my fellow runners. It was km 15 and for the first time it crossed my mind that I was hardly 1/3 through the race. I took some water and my first power gel to make sure I kept my energy. After km 10 there were less people around and me and the other runners got used to the rhythm of our own feet on the pavement.

km 21 – Half-marathon still going strong
That was easier than I thought. Half the way done and still going …. up straight. Entering back into territory that has some spectator. Water, energy drink, bananas and cucumbers. Feeling 1st signs of my knee acting up again but at this point in time I can still ignore it. My thoughts go back to the promise I made to the boys about “winning” a medal for them and how this makes me …. finish whatever it takes.

km 30 – kids are waiting
At km 30 the boys are waiting for me with signs shouting and clapping. It felt good not only because they were waiting at a drink stand. Gave me power for at least another …. 100 m.

km 35 – Feeling the injury acting up
Almost there, almost there …. oh no, the knee is making problems again. Feeling my knee starting to hurt and the old injury acting up again. I realize from now on it will be a very hard race to the Finish.

km 36,5 – What am I doing here
Me knee hurts more with every step I am taking. Some volunteers are trying to talk me into getting medical attention but I will Finish the race. I made a promise and I have all intentions of keeping it.

km 37,4 – why did I promise my sons the medal
When I started this thing I did know how hard it could be, it will be. Why did I have to promise my boys to come home with another medal. The interesting thing about running and completing a Marathon (at least for me) is that the minute you cross the Finnish line you forget about the pain and you feel like you could do everything. So, whenever someone asks if it was hard, the natural reaction is … no, it was fun. But was it?

km 40 – Getting out the last bit of motivation
The shoreline is beautiful. Not that I would notice it anymore or care for that matter. I just want to sit down, be done, get the medal, get home and lay down.

km 41 – now it’s almost over
The final kilometer. Pain, pride, I feel like …. I could break down right there and …. sleep.

km 42,195 – I did it, who cares about the time, I got the Medal for the boys
I did it. I was always sure, not doubt in my mind that I would make it. I feel strong and actually it wasn’t that hard ….. really? Anyway I got my medal and I survived.

Now almost two years after re-starting my career as Marathon runner I feel good that I made it, that I continued and did beat the pain and adversity. If you would ask my boys where the medal from the Marathon is, they wouldn’t be able to answer. They do not care and to be honest the medal is not what running a Marathon is about. It’s about beating your own inner resistance. It’s about going beyond the point that you had stopped short of every time before.

Not sure who said it but it’s so true “The pain goes, the pride stays” and I believe it’s the same for many sportspeople that the accomplishments you achieve in sports translate to our everyday experience and approach in Life.

Off to the next race.

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