Frankfurt am Main Marathon 2017

The heaven complained about my pace. The punishment was a heavy rain that appeared from nowhere at the 35th kilometre. As the heavy wind and extra stiff legs were not enough, water pouring down from the sky annoyed me a little more.

Frankfurt-Marathon_Marathon-News_c168ae954c_-1111I signed up for the Frankfurt’s marathon as a must. I worked in Frankfurt for two years and it was a call-back down the memory lane.  Shops, bars, a few worthy sightseeing places Frankfurt has, the colleagues from work, friendships built and acquaintances that came and gone from my life with the speed of contemporary life. Places like Bockenheim, Gallus, Messe, Westend, Skyscrapers in the financial district, Sachenshausen, Kennedy Alle and  Niederrad  turned into flat circle that closed the marathon track and the two-year period of my life. It was my first and last long-term contract outside my beloved country and similar to a marathon experience it was not easy for me. It was a struggle, an experience well beyond the comfort zone. But the money was earned, experiences gained, friendships built; so in the end, the period has been marked as successful.

The marathon is the oldest in Germany.  The 36th instance of it does not make it feel like the oldest, but the organizers claim it is. I trust them. Who wouldn’t trust the Germans, right? The very first marathon in 1981 has been attended by the famous Emil Zatopek, the winner of the 3 gold medals on the Olympics in Helsinki, 1952. Reportedly, he signed up for the marathon race on the Olympics in the last minute and won. Very good choice, indeed.

At the start of the marathon it was extremely windy. I was a bit skeptical if I dressed up correctly, with the tights and two light shirts. I had something for around my neck, but that was pretty much all.  I was anxious to start and was not ready to wait 45 minutes for the start in the block. Well, I couldn’t start the race, so I had to be patient.

FFM 42km

When the race started, my one and only goal was to keep my pace at a normal level. The huge mass pushed forward and I couldn’t and couldn’t run with my inner pace. I had to intentionally lower the pace every 50 meters. The speed increased also to one minute per kilometre faster than I was ready to run. And the struggle to keep the steady pace continued to the 10th kilometre.

At 10th I started to think about my family and friends who supposed to wait for me somewhere after the 12th kilometre. We agreed that I keep to the right of the running horde. They were six of them so I noticed them quickly in the distance. The cameras and the phones were up, but I liked the most my daughter’s poster. “Go daddy” was written in colourful letters. I gave the high-five to a friend and his family, a hug to my daughter and a kiss to my partner. I was happy. The next few kilometres I was flying. The meet-up boosted my mind and the legs. I thought I can do it better than initially expected.

Wrong. Of course. When I was approaching the mid of the race, I was already tired. Legs were stiff and the signs with the track  distances have been further and further between each other in my mind. I got a carbo-hydrate gel at one station and I was tempted to swallow it down. I resisted. For a while. After 20 minutes or so, I took it. I hadn’t felt much of a difference. I was not lacking energy, something else was probably wrong. Before the race I felt a light pain in my back, which disappeared after I warmed up, but the mind and the asphalt had not forgotten about it. My posture was not perfect due to the subconscious fear and the asphalt did the rest. However, the problem was not the back but really really stiff legs. As I was not relaxed enough, my arms movement were wrong. Simply wrong. If I tried to stretched them, I felt the pain. I drank enough, this is, a cup at every water stand that were aligned along the rest precisely at every 5 kilometres. So, it had to be the posture. I tried to relax the arms and the body, but it was probably too late.

At 34th kilometre my guys cheered for me again. I was glad to see them.  I didn’t care about the result anymore. I stopped for a bit and asked my friend to take picture with my daughter. Daughter was a bit surprised due to the crowd and seeing her father running out of nowhere. But she was proud or at least that how I wanted her to feel. We kissed. And I run further. The flying period at this stage lasted only few hundred meters.

Last few kilometres were a pure struggle. It started to rain and I was sick of everything. I just wanted to finish the race. Luckily, we were back in the city and I tried to recall the places I’ve been and the people I met. I passed the building I worked in, the bars I’ve been to. I tried to remember the feelings I had when I lived in Frankfurt. Step by step, I approached the Messe arena, where the last 195 meters were. In the arena the crowd and atmosphere were amazing. Cheerleaders accompanied us for the last meters and finally, finally the last step. Game over.

Second time this year. Proud.

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Polar M400 – review

The Polar M400 sport’s watch has been my running companion since August 2015. I’ve run with it 2000+ kilometres, thus, my opinion is worth something. Right? Let’s give it a go!

s-l300The Polar M400 is a robust and resilient sport’s watch. It will not disappoint you in any weather condition, i.e. it is w
ater resistant and the display is pretty decent in sunny weather.  It looks heavy and big, which it is, but the size is outweighed by the reliability (including battery) and the absence of tiny problems and scratches.  What you see is what you get, and more.

I bought the watch for its GPS. The possibility to track your speed in real time helps a lot to keep your pace reasonable and steady. By syncing your data to Polar’s web site (Polar Flow), you can analyse (and brag about) your routes on the map. I like to check the distance and the elevation I ran. It helps me analyzing the form and provides the necessary motivation by seeing the progress.

Battery is good; with GPS it holds ca 6 hours, without it a week or more. I can’t really say as I’ve always used it with the GPS switched on. The charger comes with the micro USB connector, what makes it universal and easy to use.

Having the Polar’s product, all trainings logs are stored online. So you can throw away the paper notebooks you were told to keep. Polar often adds new functionalities, so everyone can find something for him/her. But to be frank, you don’t need much, training logs, heart rate, cadence, speed, maps, etc.  If you’re training for marathon, you can check your weekly distance and progress. I am bit doubtful about other functionalities like running index, recovery status, VO2max (measured by being still for 5 minutes?) , etc.  I didn’t really trust the information, it seemed overly cautious. It takes a lot of time to calibrate the information for your specific needs/goals. I ran a marathon and I still don’t really know what to think about the numbers.

Value for money is perfect. I really appreciate what I got for the money (ca 150 Euros), so I am not in a hurry to replace the Polar M400. Today, it is still a good bargain and a very good choice for a serious runner.

The look and feel seems rough, but on the other side, it gives the honest feeling. It provides exactly what you need, without any flashy (and thus less optimal) features. You don’t need anything more if you would like to run a marathon.

A sport’s watch cannot provide you with motivation and consistency needed to run long distance runs, but if you have these most important features, a sport’s watch will show you the (sometimes enormous) gaps you need to fill, in order to achieve the desired goal.

Istrian Marathon 2017

“From now on, it’s only downhill and the flat path!” one of the organizer’s staff screamed in an attempt to cheer me up. The official poster on a stand showed the 33rd kilometre. The body craved for rest, but my mind felt marvellous. I felt I can keep the pace and achieve a better than expected milestone.

logo_4IMIstrian marathon is organized in April and is the first of the big running events in Slovenia, Europe. The specialty of the Istrian marathon is the track that goes along the Adriatic Sea.  The runners can enjoy the sound of the nearby sea along the 21 kilometres; the rest goes via the hills with vineyards, olive trees and the Mediterranean flora. The small towns and the crowd along the track provide an unique atmosphere. It’s not an easy marathon for a first-timer as a runner must face 315 meters of elevation.

My partner and my daughter waited for me at 17th kilometre at the tourist resort where we stayed for the weekend. Only few hundred meters away they should wait for me at 29th kilometre (the track went from one town to another and back), but I was too pessimistic about my speed and came too quickly to the meeting point, so we missed. It was a pity; it’s always nice to have somebody cheering for you also after 21st kilometre when fatigue hijacks your body.

Istrski maraton 42km trasa

Shortly after the 33 kilometres came the tunnel.  As it was colder inside, I wanted to speed up bit and run faster to achieve better result. I swung my arms, leaned slightly forward, but, you guessed it, body did not follow. It was the famous 30km+ hell. It wasn’t a typical running wall that I read about  in the books and internet. My body was exhausted and some parts of it started to ache. First real pain came from the shoulders. I didn’t know why? It felt like my arms were loose and would fall off the shoulders. Like the muscles that kept arms to shoulders were stretched and could not quite do their work. It took few kilometres before the problem became minor. But only because another problem got bigger. My back started to hurt badly. My running technique is far from perfect, but I blame the blisters that appeared out of nowhere in the middle of my sole (never got one in my 16-week trainings programme). I started to feel the blister somewhere around the 22nd kilometre. I thought I got a small stone in the right shoe or that the sock wrinkled in some funny way. But a short stop did not reveal anything like that. I had lived with the pain surprisingly easy; nevertheless, it probably affected my running pose. Consequently, I (probably) stepped on my heels too much and little by little my back had to bore more than it could stand.  Since the back “cracked”, I had felt every step I made. I had 6 more kilometres to the run.

I felt like stopping. I wanted to drop out. But my pride didn’t allow me.

I signed up for my first marathon in the beginning of December 2016 and since then my only focus in my free time was running. I rarely went out for a drink; all I was thinking about was how to pass the 42.195 kilometre mark. I read books, watched YouTube videos, read the blogs and other internet posts, and  I was testing and following the marathon training programs, i.e. Polar’s and Marathon Austria’s. I sticked with the latter. You can imagine I started to talk about the marathon at work to my colleagues and to my friends. There was nothing else to talk about. If I didn’t mention the marathon in the conversation, they reminded me about it. It became a known thing. He is going to his first marathon, what an achievement in the making. Wow. People wished me well, they were proud, they had a few envious laughs, but overall, the feeling was good. And myself, I felt stressed, obligated to actually run it. There was no way back.

The 16-week training programme didn’t go perfectly well. I had lots of stress at work, there was a cold winter in Slovenia, and I needed to do few business trips. Somehow, I had managed to do close to what was prescribed, until one day, I got a bit sick. It should pass quickly, but I had to return to work after two days and instead of being out of training for a week, I was confined to warm places for three full weeks. I just could not do anything besides the 8-hour workday. I was devastated. So much effort, and in such bad conditions. Snow, rain, and freezing temperatures, you name it.  All in vain? I already considered skipping the event, when I spoke to experienced runner. He advised me to test my readiness by running three half-marathons in three consecutive days. “The challenge accepted!” I said and actually ran all three! I felt nice, tired, but not too exhausted. After the third run, I just stretched, showered, and went out to the park with my daughter.  “So, let’s do this!” I encouraged myself and decided that after all, I will take part!

But at 36 kilometres all the above did not mean much. The longest run I did was the 30 kilometres long run before the 3 week pause. It was an unknown territory. I questioned myself whether the pain is something a well trained and seasoned runner would persist or he/she would do the only wise thing and stop. I was confused, but that didn’t help much, I had to decide. I let my pride and unbelievable wish to finish lead me forward.

4 kilometres before the end a lady caught me and started a conversation. We exchanged few sentenced and ran together. It felt good to have somebody alongside. She complained about fatigue. I wanted to walk, but she was much older and she ran proudly. So, so did me. I admit if I was alone, I would walk a good portion of the last few kilometres. We slowed down to a walking pace only at the last two water stations. It was her first marathon also. I admired her even more, when she told me; she worked hard at her garden for several hours the day before the race. I was  – according to the plan – relaxing by the pool.

Few hundred meters before the finish line I heard my name. I looked around and I saw my sister and her husband in the audience. Their kids were with them, waiting patiently for me. I asked him to take some pictures, what he did with a smile on his face. I turned to my running companion and asked her if we run together through the finish line. They organizers announced our names, when we ran hugged over the shoulders over the finish line.

The emotions were unbelievable. All the work paid off. The achieved milestone was so big, I will be proud of it the whole life.

A Marathon Finisher!