WURZBURG MARATHON 13/05/18
Richard and I run Wurzburg in Southern Germany for
a few reasons. My sister lives not so far away in Heidelberg so we can
go and stay with her afterwards. Sadly her lovely husband Bruno has passed
away recently after a long battle with prostate cancer. I've already been
over twice earlier in the year. I get on great with my sister and although
she will be going through a time of grief she is a strong independent
minded person and I know we are going to have an enjoyable time together.
I am going to be there for just over a week and Richard is staying on
with us for a few days.
But first Wurzburg. It's about an hour's train ride from Frankfurt Airport
and we are staying at the G Hotel which turns out to be an ideal place
and is twenty minutes walk from the start. We register the day before
and wander around the touristy old town centre before heading back to
the hotel to rest and eat. It's not really quite an old town as in common
with a lot of German cities it was bombed heavily in the war. The old
town has been rebuilt in a close copy of the original.
By the time we get to the start line on the Monday morning we are in pretty
good shape. We've been for a short loosening run in the woods the day
before and I've repeated it early in the morning to get my system moving.
That's worked and I'm also feeling nicely hydrated and have had the right
sort of light breakfast. The only downside is it is unusually hot for
the time of year and also very humid. There are thunderstorms due which
should clear all this up and we are hoping they will arrive early in the
One of the reasons we are doing this marathon is we are hoping for a Boston
qualifying time. As most of you will know Boston is the United State's
oldest and most iconic marathon and entry is by qualifying time only.
I've comfortably been inside the time every year recently but we now have
to try and achieve it for the 2019 version which we have set our sights
Because of our age difference the qualifying standards are 3.55 for me
and 3.40 for Richard. However because it is oversubscribed nowadays, particularly
since the 2013 bombing, in practice we need to be well inside this. Richard
is targetting 3.35 and I am looking at 3.50. Last year at London I ran
3.46.47 so a repeat of that would do. My build up has been pretty good
and I hope I have recovered from last year's anaemia.
The start is outside the Congress Centrum in a narrow street and the atmosphere
is good amongst the marathon and half marathon runners who are going off
together. We are going to do two laps and there is going to be a 10K relay
of some kind joining from another place on the route later on.
We are off to the strains of We Are The Champions and ACDC's Rock n Roll
After a left turn across the river bridge there is a bit of a downhill
to the first mile '7.46' announces Richard. Oh dear. I've decided before
the start not to go with Richard but see if I am brave enough to hold
back over the first half and try and go for a negative split. I want to
run about 1.52.30 for the first half rather than my usual close to 1.45,
after which I usually try and fail to hang on.
I deliberately drop back away from Richard and the 3.30 pacer after a
few miles and all is well for the next while apart from the already increasing
heat and stifling humidity. The thunderstorms are holding back and watching
us slowly melt. I pour water over my back, front and head at every one
of the plentiful and well stocked drink stations but already it is much
harder than it should be. Am I over-trained? Stressed about my mum? Challenged
by the conditions? Or just old! The usual mental battle has begun too
early really. We are out amongst the suburbs and some countryside along
the river. It is - well flattish but undulating and on the incline up
to one of the bridges I am beginning to struggle. Then we are into the
old town but there is a big loop around the city centre with faster runners
coming back the other way on one of the main streets.. This is common
in city marathons and has already happened on a couple of out and back
sections. There are always runners ahead and behind me and of course it
feels better to be coming back on the faster side of the road.
The loop seems endless but the live bands are great and there is the most
support here. Finally I am back running along the final stretch of river
to the Congress Centrum where we full marathon runners are directed around
an intricate little route away from the cheers of the half marathon finish
and back out onto the bridge for lap two. I miss the halfway marker but
there has been a 20K timing mat and I work out I am bang on schedule at
around 1.52. The trouble is I am working way too hard and the downhill
section at the start of the second lap doesn't have nearly the positive
effect it had at the start. The thunderstorms continue to laugh at us
from the sidelines. I see the first runner being wheeled into an ambulance
after only 10K and there are going to be a lot more casualties. It is
turning into a major sufferfest.
The second lap grinds on and I am back in the rural undulating section.
The half marathon has finished but there are a few runners alongside me
who I don't expect to see at this pace in a marathon. It is only now I
realise the 10K relay runners are mixed in and I notice some differently
labelled bib numbers.
I've gone over to desperation at the aid stations and I'm quaffing the
deadly Coca Cola. I know it's taking money out of the energy bank that
I don't have but I need the cash. The 3.45 pacers go past me and I can't
begin to hang with them, it's slipping away from me. This is when it gets
so psychologically hard. I'm taking some walk breaks but they are short
and I quickly kick back into the death shuffle. The atmosphere is stifling.
But - this is what I signed up for, these are the tough ones that test
us. I worry about letting Richard down, he is a hell of a tough cookie
and I'm sure he is going to be on track. After all - he broke his all
time 10K PB at a Race to the Sun event in the Olympic Park an month or
so ago. That record was from 2009! It was an outstanding performance to
break it nine years later. I'm not sure if he has done enough long runs
in his training for this marathon though.
We are back in the centre. I wonder if I'll see Richard coming the other
way on the two way section. There's no sign of him but it is only short.
The loop however goes on forever. Finally I am back on the tram tracks
on the Schonbornstrasse. I'm not paying too much attention to my watch
but there is another kilometre marker up ahead. I sort of know it is 40K
but maybe I have miscounted and it is 41K. Some fantasy. It is the 40K
point of course and my watch shows 3.44 plus. I've failed, even if I could
hold my old 5 min/km marathon pace I'd be too close to the 3.55 qualifying
time to get into Boston. Last year it was 3 minutes 23 seconds inside.
Anyway it is academic because I can't run that pace at this point. Finally
I am turning up into the short curved street we started from and the finish
line arrives. 3.58.43. Richard is in the crowd just beyond the finish
line. I shake my head ruefully. He shakes his I don't know if this
is for his performance or mine. It is his 3.52.30. At least we
have both failed together. I am staggering and weaving a bit and we head
into the sports hall to collect our drop bags, nip to the loo, have something
to drink and eat and sit down. I go for some kind of flat apple pastry
and some water. We sit in the strong sunshine on a bench outside staring
into space and dissecting the race. We've both been beaten by the conditions
and maybe there wasn't much we could have done. Richard tells me one of
the pacers collapsed and was carried off. It is a deflating walk back
to the hotel but it's another marathon completed and we've given what
We have a lie down on our beds and a quiet evening eating in the hotel.
But tomorrow is another day and we head for Heidelberg and spend a lovely
few days with my sister, eating nice food, wandering around the town and
taking a gorgeous boat trip up the Neckar river.
Richard goes back to London on the Thursday and I head out for my first
run along the river the next day. Saturday I get the train into Mannheim
early to run my first parkrun abroad before spending a wonderful afternoon
with Jacqueline wandering around the markets, window shopping the amazing
cake shops and sitting outside a Turkish cafe eating aubergine bake.
Smiling through the death shuffle.
You can get a sense of the humidity from my soaked
singlet and shorts. No I haven't wee'd myself!