Thanks everyone that supported me for the Zurich Marathon either in my preparation, along the course yesterday or online from overseas. Special thanks go to Jamaica who has been tremendously supportive in every aspect of my life. Here is my race experience as it unfolded yesterday:
Zurich, 8.30AM, 10’000 competitors on the start line, 0 degress celcius, 60,8kg body weight. Goals for the race: win a medal at the Swiss Championships, run the European Championship qualifier of 2:24 for the Swiss Team, improve my PB of 2:23.01 and try to go under 2:20 if everything works out perfectly.
I get a good start and head off with the top guys. After 500m I find my personal pacemaker from Kenya, Issac Cheruyiot. His job (paid by the race organiser) is to lead me to 30km in 1hour 40min (3:20 pace). There is a 3:05 pacemaker at the front and 3:15 pacemaker with the two top Swiss runners just ahead of me.
After a few faster k’s, we settle into that 3:20 pace and roll the first 10k lap around Zurich in an easy 33:02. I have time to spot my family and friends in the crowd and wave to them before we leave Zurich city. First problem occurs pretty soon as a nasty blister develops on my right heel. My Marathon race shoes, ASICS Tarther are very light and I have only used them in training twice. I am paying for this now but don’t pay too much attention as I know the pain will soon be covered by much bigger pain elsewhere. We roll along lake Zurich into a slight head wind and Issac is doing a fantastic job at keeping the pace consistently between 3:16 and 3:24. We pass halfway mark at 1:10.15 in 16th possition, still on target to run sub 2:20 if the wind turns to our favour.
I grab my personal drink bottle from the tables every few k’s and start eating energy gels. At the turning point at 25km, just when I grab my bottle, Issac suddenly moves right and our legs tangle, both almost going to ground, but luckily we are still up and Issac can grab his bottle in a very acrobatic fashion.
My hopes vanish instantly as we run back into a stronger headwind then before and my legs start tyring at 26k already. I move up to Issac and ask him if he can pace me to 35km and offer him 100 Swiss Francs, he asks HOW MUCH? and I make that double 200 SFr. He says 500. I drop back to grab my next bottle and energy gel while trying to keep on his heels. At 28km both my quads start cramping and I don’t know how I will run another third of the distance. I remember some of my hardest training runs I have done in the hills of the Brisbane forest park and the tough marathon pace runs I have been doing in West End over the last few months.
At 29km, I move next to Issac again and start negotiating; 300 SFr, his answer: NO, I say 400 GO GO GO! We get to the 30km mark and he keeps working to my relief. At 31km he says TIRED, drops out of the race and vomits on the side of the road. He has given everything to pace me that far in tough conditions and has done a absolute fantastic job (international marathon pace running must be one of the toughest profession out there next to being a Sherpa in the Himalayas).
I put my head down and start working hard by myself, knowing I need to keep the pace up despite head wind, 0°C and crampy legs. Despite digging deep for energy, I hit a low at 34km and my pace starts dropping by 10-15 secondes. I start calculating how much time I can lose per km over the next 10km in order to still run a PB. Impossible calculaton when your brain is running out of oxygen.
I enter Zurich city and the wind drops between the buildings, the crowd starts growing and my spirit begins lifting. I pass a tired Ethopian runner that has gonne out too hard and is paying much more then me for in these cold conditions. With 4km to go, I pass my fanclub and the entire crowd is cheering my name and my pace is back to 3:20 again. Then I pass another two Africans around the 40km mark and believe in myself that I can still make a top10 place here despite pain throughout my body, which is showing all over my face. I get to the last km ’Flame Rouge’ banner and start hitting the pace hard at 3:07 now. I recognise my parents, sister and her family along the course which gives me another kick of much needed adrenalin. Last corner, but still I have a few hundred meters to run. I check my watch again and realise I only have 1 minute left for a PB, so I start sprinting despite terrible pain. I see the clock counting 2:22.45… 46… 47 and I recognise Jamaica behind the line with some photographers. I fall into her arms, completely exhausted…
I am happy with my gutsy run, 9th place, 3rd Swiss and new PB of 2:22.55. Also it is only a six second PB, but it means a lot to me after a six month injury break last year and only three month of serious training. Bearly able to move, I hobble the 50m over to the Elite change container to find some dry and warm clothes. Issac walks in, I hug him and thank him for his great pacing job, I give him 100 SFr for the extra 1km he has worked for me.
The winning time of the race was a new amazing race record of 2:07.44 by Ethopian runner Tadesse Abraham, who is living in Switzerland .
I find my friends and family and we try to get warm in the finish tent and stomach some food. The presentation of the top three Swiss follows and I am very proud to be up there with Micheal and Christian, two very experienced martahon runners.
I am currently ranked 4th in Switzerland behind those two guys and defending European Champion Viktor Röthlin. With the European Championship qualifier time being 2:24, I have already one foot in the door to the Swiss team, but know I need to further improve over the coming 12 months to secure my spot. There are aleast another 20 Swiss runners currently trying to run under 2:24. For me, it’s first a few days holiday with Jamaica and 4-6 weeks recovery before I start preparing for my next marathon in Melbourne in October.