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.