Race day. Here is how it went.
We were both awake and up by 8h so we went for breakfast. Some corn flakes, some sandwiches and some bacon, but nothing special or new that could potentially upset the stomach. After that we went back to the room to change into our running clothes and to pack our gear. Water bottle, t-shirts, MP3 player, gels & power bars, registration number… By 9h30 we were out the door and heading for the subway station. On schedule.
We arrived at the starting area around 10h15 and sat around for a little while before we changed into our t-shirt & shorts (there was quite a lot of wind so it was kinda chilly). We had to be in our starting zone by 11h15 so we left shortly there after. Things were starting to get real. We handed in our bags, checked our gear and went to zone F.
My original plan was run with the pace-group that ran 3h45. A ‘pace-group’ is a group led by a runner who is hired by the organization to run the marathon in exactly that time (a running with lots of experience who has run multiple marathon and who ran those much faster). But as we left for our starting area, we found out that there was not going to be a 3h45 group in our starting zone. Hmmm. I’m not very good at running a continuous pace, let alone run that pace for 42k. But we also received a paper bracelet which had the times for 2/3k for the pace group so I was just going to use that as a guide.
20 minutes until race time. The starting area was getting crowded and Pieter headed off to his pace group. 11h30. We heard the starting shot for the first group. Our zone would start 10 minutes later. A final check. Is my chip secure? Are my shoe laces tight enough but not too tight? Is my waist-bag comfortable? Is my phone secure? 3 minutes to go.
Bang! And off we went. The first 2/3k of a race are always difficult, there’s a ton of people around, all going in the same direction but all at a different pace, so you have to find your way through the crowd until you find room to run at a pace that fits you.
The course itself started with tour through and around the city and after 18k we were back where we started. Then we ran to nature reserve/park, were we ran 10k. This is where I hit my first wall, just after 20k. My legs started feeling heavy and my head wasn’t cooperating anymore. I pushed through until I reached the next water station and walked for about 100 meters, talking my time to drink and to eat something. Before I started running again, I also took out my MP3-players so that I could listen to some music to distract me. Started running again and things were going better. 40 seconds behind schedule but that was no biggie.
After 30k, we are out of the park and in the city again, back along the same route we ran during the first part of the marathon. This is where things started to get tough. My legs got heavy and my calf’s started to hurt. Again I took my time to drink and to eat every water stop and I kept going (although at a slower pace, the 3h45 target was out of reach)
During the race, there was a water & energy-drink station every 3k, with some kind of food every other station (a banana, some energy bar, hot soup, a cola). Before the race we also received a sponge and there were water tanks by the road into which one could submerge the sponge and use it as a refreshment. I didn’t stop at the first ¾ water stops, since I had enough water with me for last an hour or 2. After that I started taking 1 energy drink and 1 water every stop. Drinking from a paper cup while running is really hard so I took my time and walk for 15m every stop.
At 33k, we crossed the bridge for the second time. A very steep climb, killer on the calf’s. Over the crest of the bridge, downhill.
Here I saw 2 people by the road which I knew. To make a long story short: Pieter had a photoshoot on Friday evening with a Belgian couple living in Stockholm (Griet and Tist). We had a good time on Friday and they were going come down to cheers us on. As I was running somewhere between k 35 and 36, I spotted Tist’s jacket and a placed myself on the left side of the group. We high-fived and they cheered, after which Tist sprinted by us with his camera to take a picture of me. Although it might not sound like a lot, it really lifted my spirit and got me going again. As we passed the 37k sign, we turned left at City hall and headed back into the city. Almost.
Those last 5k were really hard. My legs were heavy and started to cramp up. Walk for 20m, drink some water and smack myself in the head to keep going. Come on. 39k. So close I can feel it and yet to 40k mark seemed so so far away. Just after the 41k mark, we turned up the street from which you could see the roof of the Olympic stadium. The crowd in the street got bigger and people were cheering us on, time to put away the mp3 player and fully take in the moments to come. We reached the corner of the stadium and turned left and immediately right again, heading straight for it and crossing the 42k mark. Entering the stadium where we had to run ¾ of a lap to the finish. Seeing the finish and realizing that I did it. 100 meters to go. Turning the corner, running straight for the finish. For those 20 seconds, the pain is gone and I’m just running. 4 hours, 3 minutes and 2 seconds. Happy. Amazing.
After the finish we all received a bottle of water and our medal and were guided to the other part of the station where our bags were. After receiving my finisher’s t-shirt and a plastic bag with some food in it, I picked up my bags and put on my track pants and jacket as it was kinda chilly.
This is also the first time I was able to check my phone to see a ton of messages from friends via Twitter and Facebook. They had been following time updates on the website and had ‘cheered’ me on along the way. I was moved to receive so much support from all of you, thank you so very much!
After that, I waited for Pieter to finish (which he did at 4h50min, great job my friend!) and we sat around some more, only then fully realizing it was ‘over’ and that we did it.
More to come later, 1000 words is enough for now. :)