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BSR virtual marathon relay

Date: 20.06.2020 Time: 33:37 (2:41 team) Distance: 8.44km (marathon)

In lieu of any real races this spring & summer the local running group in Berlin set up a ‘Marathon as a Team Relay’ race. The idea was that in terms of 3, 4 or 5 you’d run a marathon distance between you over the weekend. 

The team was composed of Andy, Dan, Dan, Thomas and myself. Dan #2 wasn’t actually back in Berlin at the time, so he did his leg earlier in the morning elsewhere. But the four of us who were present decided Tempelhof Airport was the best place to get a flat, uninterrupted course. I have always loved running at Tempelhof (an old airport that has been repurposed as a park), since you can still run along the runways and airplane taxi areas. 

Of course we still found a way for Dan #2 to join us…

We had found a neat course that went along the north runway and around the top half of the park, which was almost exactly 4.22km. Thomas started, running a solo lap. I then joined in for his second lap, and when Thomas was done, Andy joined for my second lap. I then finished and Dan joined Andy for his final lap. Dan finished with a solo lap, but all of us ran together for the final 200m. 

The only major problem we faced was the wind. There was a fairly strong wind giving a lovely boost when running along the runway, but resulting in a strong headwind when coming back along the edge of the park. 

Thomas’ first lap was a great start, hitting 16:15 for 4.22k. I then joined him and we managed a 16:20 lap. The Andy & I did our lap in 15:15, then Andy & Dan hit 15:20. Dan managed 16:00 on his solo lap. Overall it was a really strong performance from everyone.

The tactic of these ‘overlapped’ loops worked well because we were able to get the most out of each runner. I was able to push Thomas when I felt fresh & he was digging deep, then Andy did the same for me when he was fresh and I was tired.

Great to see Dan giving it his all!

In terms of my own running I am a lot less fit than I was a few months ago. When the spring race season got wiped out I decided to reset and aim for something in the autumn. On top of that I am still trying to regain the fitness I lost during my two weeks of quarantine. I was amazed at how much fitness I lost when I couldn’t leave the flat for two weeks.

My own performance aside, it was great to see the progress Dan has made in the last few months. Dan was entered into the London Marathon, and has deferred his entry to 2021. He was aiming for sub3 in London this year, but after an impressive training block recently he’s already in 2:50 shape. If he can keep building over the next 9 months he’s got a good shot at 2:45.

Will he do it?

Josh S Kiel marathon
Kiel Marathon 2020

Date: 22.02.2020 Time: 2:36:25

A race on the northern coast of Germany in February was always going to be at risk of bad weather scuppering a fast time or PB attempt. Despite six good weeks of training leading into this there was nothing I could do about high wind and heavy rain on the day. My preparations for this event went well; I was in good shape, had a successful taper (although maybe I could have run a little more in the last few days) and felt confident that I could give it my all in pursuit of a PB.  

The Kiel marathon is hardly a big event. There were only a few hundred competitors in the marathon (plus runners in the half marathon and 10k events). That worked very well on the day. I was able to arrive just an hour before the start to collect my number and use the toilet without a queue. Caro was even able to walk with me right up to the start line to take my jacket at the last minute. It was all very relaxed and well organised. Only the wind and rain dampened the mood. 

Ever the optimist I set out hoping that the weather would improve, or the course would be protected from the wind, or that the wind would be a direct tailwind going north and headwind going south, so would lose and gain in equal amounts. In the end the blustery conditions meant I lost more than I gained in the wind, and the rain made for a slippery road surface. 

There’s not too much to say about the two and a half hours I was actually running for. I was just a few seconds off my target pace on the first & seconds laps, but midway through the third lap it became clear that I would not be getting a PB. At that point I gave it all I had, accepting I would struggle to hold sub 4 min/km. It was really tough to run into the wind at points. 

Running entirely alone for a whole marathon was a new experience for me. Right from the start I was on my own, which made for a lonely few hours in the rain. The one thing this race was missing was a few more guys around my speed to run with and motivate each other. Maybe next year I can find a friend or two to run together. Anyone fancy a trip to Kiel in February 2021? 

In the lead up to Kiel I was a little worried about the fact it’s a lapped course. In the past I’ve found that things can get a bit messy when a thin course is being shared by runners of different speeds. In the end it wasn’t a problem though, there was plenty of space and I had a bike in front of me doing a good job of asking runners to keep to the right.

It was interesting to see how few people were wearing Nike’s Vaporfly shoes. Out of the ~2,000 runners across 10k, half marathon and marathon events I only saw two or three people wearing them. Given how prolific they’ve been recently it was refreshing to not see them on the start line. Having said that I will probably get a pair at some point…

There was a stall selling tea, cake, pasta, hot wine and soup after the race; which Caro & I looked at enviously on account of not having brought any cash with us. The medal ceremony was lighthearted and fun – the 3L glass of Erdinger Alkoholfrei was a nice prize which I ended up sharing with some of the volunteers. 

Having had a few days to reflect, I can see that I set off too fast. If I’d started slower I probably could have finished nearer 2:30, but I don’t think I would do it differently given another shot. Even though the chance of the weather improving during the race was very slim, there was still a chance that the wind would die down. So, in a theoretical world where I had chosen to ease off the pace and the weather did improve I would be kicking myself now for not taking the risk.

This is a race I’d recommend for sure, and I might even come back next year. The four lap, flat course with few corners was not particularly interesting, but it has the potential to be very fast. The efficient organisation made for a smooth race day experience.