Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Maratón de Sevilla 2012 / Seville Marathon 2012

Without wanting to sound like I'm blowing my own trumpet, I'd say that if I was asked in one of those typical job interview situations what my greatest strength was, I'd probably say that it is my determination. (Of course, they usually ask you what your greatest weakness is and there is always a way to make a weakness sound like a strength, like the classic "I'm a perfectionist". In the same way, being sheer bloody-minded has it's downsides too.)

The Marathon is not really my bag, my cup of tea, my "thing". You can see that just by looking at me. I've got the frame of a sprinter, not a long distance runner. I have more explosive power than endurance. I weigh too much. But I have a tendency to plug away at things I am (relatively) bad at, the idea being that it will help me be even better at the things I am much better at. In my Maths degree I found functional analysis baffling so I took the advanced course (which I struggled even more to understand) and, in the end, I got my best scores on the functional analysis paper.

After my first Marathon I said "Never again"; the second one was a complete surprise running the second half 7 minutes faster than the first; the third was again a disappointment (not counting the Ironman Marathon). There seems to be a oscillatory pattern developing here. I've come to realize that I needn't expect a complete meltdown (like in my first Marathon) nor is it realistic to expect that I will fly to the finish line without a hitch along the way. A friend summarized it in the best way I have seen:

"Running a Marathon is about enjoying X kilometers and suffering the last 42.195 - X kilometers as little as possible; training for a Marathon is about maximizing that X"

Unlike the last Marathon I ran (in Valencia), I am not going into this one expecting that I won't have to fight like a demon at some point (hopefully close to the end). I may lose a minute or two but, as my experience in Valencia showed me, once the finish line was psychologically in view, I was able to increase my speed again. They say the Marathon is 90% mental and this is what they mean by it. I didn't hit a wall - or at least not a hypoglycemic wall - but the central governor in my brain simply decided that enough was enough and that I had better have a good reason to say otherwise. That time I didn't, not until I realized that I was still able to get a personal best time even if it was no longer possible to break the three hour barrier. This time I want to make sure I have a damn good reason and be ready to state my case when the time comes to negotiate. I've come across several accounts of Marathons which don't appear to tell much of a story when you look at the splits - perhaps the second half was only a couple of minutes slower than the first half - but when you read the chronicle, you realize that most people have to struggle at some point. Arguably, if you don't then you simply didn't run it fast enough. The trick is to judge it exquisitely so that the struggle is one that you can win.

So I'm ready to fight! I'm also in the best shape I have been in for a while. My training has gone perfectly and I have surprised myself at how fast I have managed to run my series and some of my long runs. I have also learned that I will have to concentrate very hard to make sure my running technique is good for as long as possible and that I am keeping good pace. If I let my mind wander then I will become less efficient and I will start to run more slowly without even realizing. Where I am not going to invest my mental energy is in calculating how many gels I need to take in the carbo-loading phase (I am just going to eat lots of pasta) or how many salt tablets I am going to need (I'll just drink lots of Aquarius).

This Marathon is going to be mental.

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