So I ran the Brussels Marathon yesterday, here's the whole story:
That's something a couple of people have asked me in the weeks leading up to the race. Brussels isn't known for being a beautiful or easy race, so why did I pick it? Rewind back about 4 months, Pieter and I had just finished our first marathon in Stockholm and it was the evening after the race. With the adrenaline still racing through my head, I thought "I want to do this again!". And the only race that didn't need loads of planning and travel would be one that's close to home. Brussels it was. So right there and then, I entered the race. No way back from there.
About the race:In the October 2011 issue of Runner's world NL, the race in Brussels is described as follows:
"Beautiful start (Jubelpark) and finish (Grote Markt) but the only thing that runners really remember is the Tervurenlaan."
"If you're looking for an easy race or if you're trying to set a personal record, don't choose Brussels"
We arrived in Brussels around 8 AM, changed into our running gear and sat around waiting until we were allowed to enter the starting lane. I was in the 3h59 section, with the 3h45 pace-runners right in front of me. Just after 9 the starting gun went off and off we went. We passed 3 tunnels along the Louizalaan in the first 5k and exiting those was a good wake-up call for what was yet to come. Up until the half of the race, I was able to keep up with the 3h45 pace group but when we hit the park in Tervuren around 24k my hamstrings started cramping up and that forced me to slow it down a notch. By kilometer 30, the soles of my feet started hurting like hell, it felt like I had a huge blister on both. A switched between running and biting through the pain and running slower and the back of my feet. This was when I was heading up the Tervurenlaan, a long slowly rising stroke that never seemed to end. At 37h, the 4h pace ground passed me. I was able to keep up for another 5 minutes but had to let them go after that. When we crested the end of the Tervurenlaan and saw the Jubelpark in the distance, spirits got lifted again, almost there, just hang in there. Passing under the arches at the Jubelpark, the speaker cheered us on: "only 2 more miles to go, all downhill from here!". Well, I know that wasn't true? we still had to go up the Wetstraat. Yeah, that didn't go very well. By then, my hamstrings were so cramped up that they were hard as stone. And both my feet were killing me with every step. As I arrived at the top of the Westraat, the 4h15 pace runner passed me. From there it truly was only downhill, only 1 more to go. I pushed myself a little faster for the final stretch and crossed the finish at 4h15m27s.
All things considering, I think it went pretty well. The weather was really hot for this time of year (27° C and very sunny, Indian summer my sweet patootie), I had been sick the week before the race (a nasty flu virus that kept me in bed for 3 days) and my overall preparations could have been better. In comparison, in the 4 months leading up to Stockholm I ran considerably less.
The numbers: In the 4 months leading up to Stockholm I ran (not including the marathon itself) 553k, averaging to 138k per month. From June to October, I ran 300k at an average of 75k each month. This probably caused the pain in my feet as they weren't used to taking such a beating anymore. A lesson learned.
All in all, I'm very happy with the result. It was a great experience and I'm ready for some more :) (more on that soon ;))