It’s been quite a busy week, but I’m lucky that I wrote this whole blog post on a notepad on my flight back to Bucharest.
I traveled to Madrid 6 days before the marathon. It crossed my mind it would be nice to spend a couple of days just walking around.
My timing was alright, but the weather was not as I hoped. I had a bad feeling when, just a couple of minutes before landing, I saw some snowy mountains. I knew that the short pants I had in my backpack will be useless.
I’m not a big fan of planning everything in the slightest detail. On the contrary. I was so distracted when I bought my tickets, that I didn’t notice the return flight and the marathon were on the same date. To catch that flight I had to cross the finish line and run all the way to the airport. But I managed to changed the flight for the next day.
Anyway. I got to Madrid on a warm evening, and it started raining in the next morning. The whole week I could’ve sworn that I was in England, instead of Spain. I traveled light. Not so many clothes in my luggage. Not for cold weather at least, and I had just the running shoes with me. There goes my sightseeing time.
Running in the rain
I managed to go for a run. At first, I wanted to go for a light 4-5k, but, since from my starting point to the Gate of Alcala and back were just 8k, I decided to run that, at a comfortable pace. No harm with that, but it had to rain. And it was a cold one. Rather than getting a cold, I kept jumping around at the red lights and raised the pace. When I finished, my knees sent signals it was too soon after the Chisinau Marathon to run like this.
Now I was worried. Maybe it was too much to run 3 marathons on consecutive weekends. Add the way my legs felt, and the bad weather. So far, this is not a happy story. But, somehow, it has a happy ending. Kind of. Or, at least, a couple of lessons to learn.
Sunday. A perfect one.
Slightly cold at 7 30 AM when all the metros were filled with runners heading to Retiro Park. Finally. No clouds on Madrid’s sky. No clouds hovering above my head either. Everything was set, runners in their sectors, plenty of them were still trying to find their spot, and I was one of the confused guys. Had no idea where I should be, but just a couple of minutes before the start, I was in my sector and started warming up.
I had a good feeling about it. More than 33.000 runners. This was quite a scenery to see. The event limits were 15.000 for the marathon, 12.000 for the half, and another 7.000 for the 10k. At any given moment there were runners to be passed by, to pace your rhythm with, or to pass.
On the speakers, the announcer was saying something in Spanish that I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t focus on that. Group after group we crossed the start line. This was it. I entered the “zone” quite fast and I went with the flow. My goal was to enjoy the ride and to finish the marathon. Somewhere inside, there was a very optimistic plan to reach the 3h 30min pacemaker and to “honor” this journey to Madrid with a PB.
Km after km, the running crowd was still so dense. Without any gadgets to distract my attention, I tried to focus and handle my excitement. For a while, I managed to find an anchor point to focus at. The shoes. Look at all those shoes. Tens of thousands of shoes, running. Kilometers of asphalt being covered every second. The street was a rainbow of shoes. On the downhills and the uphills of Madrid, there was no way of seeing where the crowd ends. Such a joy to be a part of this.
I was in a good shape. Soon I passed the 4hr pacemaker and a while after I saw the next one, the 3h 45min.
In 5 days I visited just a bit of Madrid, but this 42km was going throughout the city, without passing through the same place twice. Plenty of things to see on the go.
When you know that it’s too soon
I was still in the zone for a while. Everything went smooth. Until I got curious to find out what was the time and the distance I covered. Shortly after this moment I saw a board.17 km…Oooops. I was thinking that I ran about 21. It seems that I got carried away. Some sprints here and there, a pace far from being uniform, strong on the uphills and fast on the downhills, but my legs were still fine.
We passed the 21km gate and I saw the 3h 30min pacer. It was too soon and my scumbag brain set me up. I was more worried than excited because I planned it all wrong when I managed to injure my right leg. I was only 200m behind my goal, and I had to stay there for less than two hours. Easier said than done, if all of a sudden an agonizing pain strikes you.
I tried to suck it up and endure. “Turn pain into a friend, and you’ll never run alone”, they say. Yeah right. What nobody told me is that this “friend” turns out to be such a cunt.
Several meters later I was just walking. I don’t know what was more painful. Whatever was wrong with my ankle, or seeing again all those runners passing me.
There’s always a way. Probably
15k left to run. I managed to start running again by changing the stride of my right leg. I was now using the front part. It wasn’t fast, but at least it was running, it didn’t hurt as much, and soon I managed to keep the pace with some runners. Everything else was going fine, but not for long.
Km 30. When walking can be more painful than running
“The marathon starts now”. I heard a runner saying it Spanish. This one I understood, and I knew he was right. Sadly, I played all my moves wrong, and I had no cards left to play. I returned to my initial goal to enjoy the ride. A slow pace and run all the way to the finish line no matter what. There was no other way either. I tried walking a couple of meters at a water point. Painful idea.
For the last kilometers, I tried to find another anchor point. It was very hard to focus on something else. If in the first half of the marathon, I couldn’t see too many km signs, now every km was marked. 33, 34, 35…just a couple of them more. I was running slow. So many were now passing by. Smart guys who saved enough resources for the last part.
Besides the 3h 45min pacemaker, who just passed me, the view was quite nice, though.
“Animo, animo, animo”. I never saw so many people cheering.
Seeing the finish line, felt so good. Every time is different, but still it’s one of the best feelings ever. So good, that I managed somehow to ignore everything else, and my corpse sprinted quite smoothly the last hundred meters.
Even though I feel bad for the arrogant approach I had for the first part of the marathon, it was awesome to see a running event of this size. Such a big crowd doing something beautiful. Runners, volunteers, people of Madrid, everybody who was there. I was happy to be a part of it.
Maybe, if I played it right, I would had finished under 3h 30min. I crossed the finish line in 3:45:28. But I did a good job in the first half. My fastest 21k so far, 1:43:25.
There’s always a next time.
To be continued…