My feet felt like I was walking on needles. My knees were protesting with all their might. I had just taken my last gel. The drums of the band tried to elevate my mood. And then I saw the gate of Chinatown. This meant I was at the 35k point of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The pain in my feet didn’t seem that important anymore. With only 7k to go I knew: I will finish 4 marathons this year. I could smell that finish line in Grant park, Chicago.
I vividly remember the doubts I had at the start of my first ever marathon the TCS New York City marathon in November 2017. Could I do this? How would my body hold up? Did I put in enough training hours? The first 14k went by quickly. The excitement of the public and the event kept me out of my head and I felt fine. The second 14k went by and no wall, no unwanted bowel action, no cramps, no headaches, no injury. At the 28k point I realised: the last 14 k I will manage too. Was it easy? Of course not! But that hardly is the point of running a marathon is it, now. Did it hurt? Hell, yes! My calves were screaming at me to stop when I reached Central Park and the parcours meandered upwards and more upwards like forever. Every curve I was sure I should see the finish and then I had another corner to conquer. I almost cried when I saw my daughter at the 40k point: “I can’t stop! If I stop now I won’t be moving. Not ever again!”. I was so tired, every fiber of my body was angry at me. But the burst of energy you get from crossing that finish line is priceless. I can do it. I did it. 42,2K – 26.1Mile. My 50 year old body can do so much more than I would ever had given it credit for. My training worked. My plan did its work.
Running has helped me through 1 year of menopause already. I don’t have hot flashes, y’all. Whenever I sweat, I will swear on my mothers life it’s because I’ve ran a long run the day before. Tummy aches are easily dismissible, especially when the pain in your calves makes you think you won’t ever run again and 1,5 year of training is blowing in the wind. I’m convinced that I’m healthier because of my running. I’ve taken more care with my food intake, I read labels. I sleep better. I take rest, whenever my heart rate indicates rest is more important than mileage. Big plus: the adjustments in my diet also diminished some of my menopause related complaints.
I got hit hard by the post marathon blues. There is only solution: sign up for the next ones.
But then, after New York, the post marathon blues hit me. Hard! I couldn’t get myself to go out running. My goal had gone. I had trained, eaten, slept for a long time with but one purpose: run that 26,1 mile. And now that I’ve accomplished that, there was one big nothing. Even though I knew I loved running, I felt better after running, I apparently needed a goal to keep on training. So, when a friend told me her running partner dropped out of the Liverpool marathon, I didn’t need much convincing. I signed up for the Rock & Roll Marathon of Liverpool and started my 100 day plan again.
This time I put 419 kilometer on the counter. For New York I trained a total of 361 kilometer. I didn’t regret my choice! Liverpool Rock & Roll Marathon has a wonderful parcours. I will advise them to tone it down a bit on the hill part (I’m from lowlands, totally unfit to run hills!), but around the Everton Stadium, through the belly of the Liverpool stadium, finish and start at the Albert Dock and a turning point on Penny lane. It’s a parcours for sightseeing and taking lots and lots of pictures. You’ll never walk alone was never so appropriate. It was warm, 28 C. So much hotter than expected and certainly nothing we were trained for. It was only May. Together with the hills, it made for a long struggle. It didn’t leave me any space for a personal best. But who cares? I had fun with the bands along the route. I went easy on the hill parts, walking for some distances, I was afraid to blow out my calves. And still I ran 5h37! I bested my NYC time. Only by 3 minutes, but still!
The hills of Liverpool were killing. But who cares about time? I had fun!
Berlin, September 2018 was everything I expected from it. Again I had worked with my 100 day program of Sportrusten. It had proven itself and guided me to 2 finished marathons already, so why change it? The BMW Berlin Marathon is a beautiful marathon, the people were out in force cheering, the parcours was flat, the finish at the Brandenburg Tor was epic. The weather worked in our favor and Eliud Kipchoge ran an historical world record of 2:01:19. A day for the books. It was just: I had trained hard to run a sub5. And I was truly disappointed when I didn’t make it. I felt my training deserved a better time. I had run 465 kilometer during my 100 day schedule. I felt stupid for falling in that time trap. Instead of enjoying the race and enjoying every mile I had put myself under pressure. Pressure I didn’t need. Completely insane. I didn’t run for time. Or money. Or fame. I ran because it made me feel good! For my health, mental and physical. So no reason to dwell in that feeling of failure. I hadn’t failed. I had just ran my best marathon ever.
I hadn’t failed! I had just ran my best marathon ever!
And here I was, having Chicago in my near future! The night after Berlin I decided that the Bank of America Chicago Marathon should be all about fun. Time should not be important. Chicago had to become the 26 mile block party that NYC was for me. The marathon was only three weeks after Berlin. I could not expect my body to give anymore than it had already given, anything extra was a bonus. Chicago weather can be capricious, to say the least. Stormy, windy, rainy or unbearable hot. I’ve seen it all in my 7 days in town. 28C and 8C. The weather was all over the place. But on marathon day it put on its best behavior. 17 Celsius and almost no wind. Perfect running weather. Even a little rain, but that was always preferable to the 28 degrees and 96% humidity of the day before. And although my legs felt really heavy at 35 kilometers, with 7k to go I just knew: I’m going to make it. I don’t care if I have to crawl. My knees were already angry with me for putting them through this so soon after Berlin. My feet were longing for a massage. On the upside: no blisters, no chafing, no injuries. Not yet anyway. That last 7k were hard. But I finished in 5h07. 33 minutes faster than my time in New York 11 months earlier.
A lot of people, mainly non runners, confronted me that it was unhealthy to run more than 2 marathons a year. And here I ran 4 in 11 months. Every marathon faster than the one before. It is do able. But it does require training, good food plan, discipline, adjustment of tempo and most important of all: listen to your body. Take rest whenever you need it. Visit a doctor if you want to be sure everything is alright. And don’t expect to finish them all in 3 or even 4 hours. The demands that time will ask from your body will be too much.
There is a big difference between a recreational runner like me or an elite runner. The historical 2:01 of Eliud Kipchoge is incredibly demanding on his body. I can’t even imagine how he feels after a performance like that. Of course he can’t do more than 2 in a year. But me? I take 5+hours to run a marathon and I don’t ache at all next day. After the Bank of America Chicago Marathon I walked 20 kilometer through town. After the Rock&Roll Marathon I walked down the airplane stairs without any creaking of the knees or any pain in my quads. It’s not that I could run another marathon! But I will be fit enough to run a couple of miles within a week.
After 4 marathons, I can honestly say my body reached its limits. I know I said I wished I could run NY in November, but I couldn’t run another marathon if my life depended on it.
If the last miles in Chicago told me anything, it was that my body reached its limits with 4 marathons in 11 month. My knees were protesting too hard, my feet felt if they were tortured by 100 needles at the same time. Still, I felt victorious crossing that finish line. I had run 4 marathons in 11 months. And every one faster than the last one. I am a beginner runner. A 50+ runner. I learned so much this past year. About my body, my possibilities, my food plan, my water intake, heart rate, fitness, mental health, going when the going gets tough, my cycle disturbing the whole plan. I’ve read so many running books, watched countless documentaries, tried so many recipes. And I am convinced I can do better. That sub 5 is possible. But it will have to wait till next year. My body has had enough with making miles.
TCS New York City Marathon – November 2017: 5h40
km in training: 361k
Dag in cycle: 2
Rock & Roll Marathon Liverpool – May 2018 – 5h37
km in training 419k
Day in cycle: 29
BMW Berlin Marathon – September 2018- 5h15
km in training 465k
Day in cycle: 29
Bank of America Marathon Chicago October 2018 – 5h07
km in training 521k (this includes the Berlin Marathon)
Day in cycle: 20