Arakawa Marathon is a little run of 21.1 km south along the banks of the Ara kawa (river), turn around and run 21.1 km back. It is a very wide open flood plain and if there is ever any wind about, you can be sure you will find it at Arakawa. So it was with some trepidation that I monitored the weather forecast for today starting about six days ago. It first said, fine, cool (1-9 degrees C), and wind of 26 km/h. Yikes, that's strong! About three days ago the wind prediction was for 6 km/h. Yippeee!! But by yesterday it sprang back up to around 20 km/h. Bugger! The whistling around the windows of our apartment last night confirmed that we could look forward to a challenging race.
Well, the one thing the forecast got right was that that it was fine and sunny and cool (if not cold). But for large sections of the course the wind was more like 30 km/h. It was behind us for the first 21.1 km and in our face for the second. After I turned around I thought about that Eric Bogle song as I felt like it was trying to blow me right back to Australia.
In the end I was happy with my race. I ran pretty much to plan and didn't let myself go too fast when the wind was at my back. Although I was going to run 4:20+ in the first half, the tailwind made it very easy to just cruise along at 4:15-4:20/km. So that's what I did, and resisted all temptations to "try and pick up a few minutes". I consciously decided to try and hold something in reserve to deal with the wind. And that seemed to pay off to some extent. After the turn, on tiring legs, I slowed of course, and my legs fatigued just as much as in faster marathons, but I managed to hold a pace of under 4:40, and many splits of under 4:30, until 33 km. Then it was more like 4:4o to 4:50 for most of the next 9 km. I felt quite calm and accepting of this and was actually feeling reasonably strong. I thought that without the wind I could have easily been holding sub 4:20/km pace.
In the last 5 km I realized that the only realistic goal was to come in with a net time under 3:10. I should add the wind had dropped off a bit by this time, but of course it had done a job on the legs by then. I was still happy enough with the way I was moving, though, and was passing heaps of people and rarely getting passed.
At the one km to go marker my watch said 3:05:34...I'd have to run a 4:26 or better final km to get under 3:10. Since I'd been moving along at about 4:50/km at that stage, I almost gave it up as lost, but quickly decided, well, it is not really out of the question. It is just like running one hard interval on the track, dig in and see what you can do. So dig in I did and gradually fought through my leg pain to get some form back and pull out a 4:28 for the last km and 4:05 per km for the last 200 m to squeeze out a 3:09:54 (net time, net time!). Cheer squad Jaynie at the end said I looked like I was really strong in that last couple hundred meters. Little did she know I was a shot duck! I really paid later for that hard finish too, with lots and lots of cramping in my calves and feet.
Despite it being my slowest marathon in seven outings, net or gross, I am actually quite happy with the result under the conditions.
Satohi went extremely well. She has set very high goals for herself and finds it dificult to feel satisfied when she doesn't meet them. This marathon she would have really liked to have gone under 3:20 and has ultimate designs on a 3:15:xx (or better), though her standing PB was about 3:28. Despite the nasty wind, she ran 3:25:xx to lower her PB by 2 minutes. She would have surely run under 3:20 if it hadn't been for the wind. So that's a real shame, but even the fact she PB'd was quite extraordinary under the circumstances (which includes that she has struggled for the last couple of weeks with a sore ankle). Like all of us she suffered into the wind, but fought hard and had far more even splits than the rest of us in the race. Otsukaresama Satohi-san!