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Spring Marathon Round-up

There’s nothing like putting pen to paper (or whatever it is you have to do these day’s to register for events) in November /December time to get you training through the long winter days!

In the SRAC camp several club members signed up to run in three different events with the prospect of the warmth of Spring to finally get to strip down to a club vest and shorts. All the training miles through driving winds, lashing rain, negotiate iced over pavements and the intake of frosty air to the lungs while maxing efforts on the hill reps are all the more easy with the tantalising target of a marathon when Spring hopefully will have sprung!

The biggest group of SRACers had opted to convene in the warmth of another new venue (if not exactly one of the populist over subscribed world marathons) in the Slovak capital Bratislava. The Bratislava marathoners were, Gerald Kalchauer based in Linz, Austria, Corina Rahmann and Ludger Schuren both based in Hamburg and Sy homeboy Ross Munro. As ever the club received a single London Marathon club entry and it was taken up by Andrew Joyce, who did most of his training in and around a place called Cambuslang near Glasgow. Andrew complemented his training through the winter with the SRAC teams at winter cross-country events. Featuring prominently in the team performances was, “legs of steel”, Jonny Pritchard who had entered one of the world six classic city races – The Boston Marathon!

Ludger, Gerald, Ross, Tony & Jim
Ludger, Gerald, Ross, Tony & Jim

Bratislava (photo album)

The club outing was further bolstered by Jim Bruce and Tony Robson running the half and support crew of Gunter Fuchs whose plans to run the marathon were scuppered due to a long term cold. Cheer leaders and food station support was done by Mary Munro and Fiona Bruce!

On 22nd March after 3 – 4 months of race preparation the group met at the Ibis Hotel, a great place to stay in Bratislava’s old Town, clean, comfortable serving a good breakfast as well as being very reasonably priced! Good job by Gunter & Ludger organising this and an encore of late applause for finding probably the only hotel with a micro brewery and restaurant right across the street!

The only surprise in the days leading up to the race was that Northern Europe seemed to be plummeting into a deep freeze and could possible affect race plans. (Certainly as far as what to wear on the day!)

Day 2: Registration and time to check out kit and sample products of one kind and another at the Race Expo. Oh and most importantly the excitement of picking up race numbers, chip and goody bag! (See photos on Picasa Web Album)

Final preparation was the last meal before the big day – stay safe, eh? Nae local fried or spicy cuisine. Who would ever think of having Wiener Schnitzel, which you’ve never had before the night before the race you’ve prepared all winter for, eh? (Not a word from you Wul MacRury!)

On saying goodnight to everyone, the reality that it didn’t look like the weather was going to warm up any by the morning of the race was hitting home hard! Mmmm, that was not in the script and I had thought these miles were left long behind in January or February!

Day3: Open the curtains – OH NO! It’s snowing! Gerald says it is minus 3°, but only light flutters of snow, doesn’t look likely to lie. But full length tights, long sleeve top and vest hat and gloves (the whole distance) required.

There’s always a sort of buzz lining up at the start of a race being only one of a few that haven’t got a Scooby Doo of what on earth the PA announcer is saying as you nervously check your watch. But then! Something recognisable (even in Slovak) a count down to ten, the starting hooter was only 9 seconds away!

As the we got under way there was a mass start of marathoners, half marathoners and marathon relay teams (maybe ½ m relay teams – didn’t see too many at the finish). What ever a pretty big entry with the SRAC red vests hooped in gold mixed throughout the field. Gerald and Ross set off ahead of Ludger and Corina, Jim some where between the Hamburgers with Tony the Tank running leisurely and taking in the views!

The route was fairly flat, but two laps and only one semi-stiff climb up to the top of the Old Town, which we ran through in descending the hill before doing the second out and back of 2k (x 2) along the wide Danube. The first out and back to the north of the city through a typical former communist housing area was 2 ½ miles out and back (5m total x 2). On these out and backs the wind was against you one way and on the turn it was a relief to ease of the fight into the wind which further chilled the - 3° chill!

Coming through half way it was really uplifting to be greeted by the SRAC cheer leader ladies and take some gels on board.

Gerald & Ross Half Way!
Gerald & Ross Half Way!

The Beast (the full 26.2 if you’re not acquainted) can do all sorts of weird things to you and all of a sudden after knocking out real regular splits the temperature and wind chill effects started to make their contribution to the race at 34k! Gerald slowed some till the finish, but at 40.5k he was out of my sights and putting in a strong finish for those that had by now completed the half and the support crew behind cameras and giving big vocal support. Though it’s been rumoured that Gerald may have been more vocal than the cheer leaders, he’s that kind of guy – a real gem. If you’ve not run with him, try and hook up for a few miles during this year’s HEB3, he’s doing all 5! Some going from the SRAC man from Linz!

Gerald lead team SRAC home as 18th MV40, 66th place overall in 3:12:29. Next in and smashing 5 minutes off the club MV50 record as 11th MV50, in a time of 3:17:00 was Ross in 96 overall.

Ludger placed 23rd MV50 and 204th overall clocking 3:33:52, but this was just a mid race preparation run for an ultra marathon back in Germany, he and Corina were training for! If I’d been spectating I’d have been happy to brace the biting Bratislava chill to cheer the smiling Corina for her 4:35:51 that bagged her a great 16th FV40 and 57th woman overall placing!

London

After making his debut at the distance at “our own” Callanish Stones marathon in 2009, Andrew decided to have a real good go at the best marathon in the world (well according to the BBC , Brendan and Steve) ! Luckily the only other SRAC interest was from Andy McMahon, who’d let Andrew have it as he’d used it previously. Now just a small matter of training, could he match the mega mileage of “Legs of Steel” JP?

To be fair training didn’t go so well between nursing a knee injury through attempts to run big miles, but Andrew did eventually get a good 7 – 9 weeks in and ran a solid 77minutes in Alloa half. But would he be able to replicate this kind of time over double the distance to hit his target time of 2hrs 45 and set a new club record?

Omens hoever did not augur well for Andrew en route to the race though! Doing the right thing he packed his running kit (club gear) but managed leave the bag on the train from the airport into London, ahhh!

Mr Joyce takes up the yarn;

So, on to the Expo in a stinking mood, I purchased all the necessities. Picked up my number/chip without really checking closely which I was to regret once at the hotel where I discovered I was expected to line up in pen 9 (ie. at the back beside the folk dressed as a rhino). This did not help my mood.

I had always just presumed I would be in pen 1 (put predicted time of 2:40 when entering). It was too late to return to the Expo to try and resolve and I decided not to bother going on the Saturday and waste further nervous energy as apparently it gets very busy on the Saturday. Not having done London before I wasn't sure how easy it would be to promote myself into another pen, but I was going to have to give it a go! Then, to round off the day, there was a fire alarm at the hotel at 2am on the Saturday morning! So 45mins outside waiting for the Fire Brigade to confirm there was no fire. Again, this did not help my mood.

Andrew trying a smile in the replacement kit!
Andrew trying a smile in the replacement kit!

Saturday was much less uneventful. Had a 20min jog in my new shoes, felt fine and hoped they would stay like that for 26 miles. Rest of the day, ate well, drank well, tried to get some sleep to make up for the night before, and tried to regain some of my pre-travel positivity.

Race day morning, I also went for the porridge/bananas combo. Got to the start, visited the loo a couple of times then went to scope out the starting pen situation. It was still quiet at this point, so I decided to just go and talk to the marshal who was letting people into pen 1. I
explained the situation but she was having none of it. I resorted to begging her not to send me to pen 9 and she eventually called over someone who I presume was a head marshal of some sort but he was even less favourable. To be fair, they were only doing their job, but I didn't really see it that way at the time. So, off I trotted to pen 2 where I expected the same outcome, however this time the marshal simply stepped aside and let me in. A bit bizarre as I presume he would have had the same instructions as the previous marshals, but anyway I was in, and in the end it only took me about 20secs to get over the start line so not too bad at all.


The race itself... Slow first mile (6:31) due to the congestion but I felt good once I got a bit of breathing room, mile splits were pretty consistent 6 - 6:10's and I still felt comfortable going through halfway in 1:21 - pretty much bang on schedule. After mile 14 though, it started to feel much harder to maintain an even pace, and by about mile 17 I was really struggling. The next 8/9 miles were horrible. My quads were burning, my arms were heavy, everything felt knackered! I was shuffling rather than running and on more than one occasion thought about quitting. The Embankment seemed to go on for ever and I was sure Big Ben was getting further away! Apparently 300 people overtook me in the last 7km :-(. I finally reached The Mall and I think I managed to raise a wee smile when I saw I would be sub-3 (2:58:08) as I thought that at one point that I was going to miss that.

Having had a couple of days to reflect, I can now laugh at losing my bag/the fire alarm etc! I don't think they had any great effect on my performance. The main issue was more likely not having the experience to accept that my training had not been adequate, and that I should have therefore set a more realistic target. Maybe I should have aimed for 2:50 and I wouldn't have blown up quite so badly if I'd gone through halfway in 1:25?

Watch this space Andrew is going to run a stormer some time soon!

Boston & Lochaber

Circumstances changed Jonny’s plans for Boston and conveniently Lochaber (much closer at hand though not one of the world’s top 6 city marathons) was the day before and a quick switch of race arranged. Boston as we all know was became a scene of havoc as lunatics caused needless loss of life as the good of all creed together came to know the strength of the human spirit by way of the endurance test we all know now as, the marathon. As the great Zatopek said, “If you want to win a race try the 100 meter. If you want to win an experience try the marathon." Yes Emil, so how about Hamburg 2/5/13 SRACers?

Jonny’s Lochaber didn’t end like he started(or wanted), but that’s often the story of the Beast. But the law of averages will work out -  there’s no way anything but a totally acceptable 26.2 is on the Pritchard horizon. Want to know how to push in training? Have yourself a run with “Legs of Steel”!

…… the club’s marathon story runs and runs …. and for next year you can be part of it at the club trip to Hamburg early May or The Pentland Wind Farm Callanish Stones Marathon August 2014!