Sunday, March 18, 2007

Arakawa Marathon

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!


Tesso said...

Wow Steve, that's fantastic! You've backed up extremely well. How do you do it? Hmmm, maybe the secret is in your other blog :-)

Big congrats to Satohi too.

That run has to give you so much confidence for the next marathon. Sub 3 for sure. Speaking of the next marathon do you have one in mind yet?

PS Knowing what you were about to face made Carol and I feel like we were doing nothing yesterday with our piddly little half marathon :) By the way she had a great run, no doubt she'll email you about it.

Rachel said...

That's a great effort especially in the wind. It was only the other day I was complaining about running 4k into a head wind let alone 21.1k! It must be a great feeling to know you can pull out a hard last km at the end of a marathon too. Mentally tough alright!

Scott said...

Hey Steve

I woke up yesterday morning too with my windows rattling and I thought "you poor bastard".

I also did my long run yesterday, strangly enough, along a river and when the wind was pushing against me I was thinking "Jesus, glad I'm not doing a marathon today."

Anyway you delt extremely well with it and I can know now just how good of a runner you are.

Great finish, great race. Not hitting the wall and backing up so soon after Tokyo with such a good time must give you confidence.

Give my regards to Tesso and Clairie in Canberra.

2P said...

Mate - nice work. It is a pretty tough gig to have to run the back half of a marathon into the wind.

Well done.

Ewen said...

You should be happy with that Steve. Especially as a last minute decision so soon after Tokyo.

Satohi should be pleased too. Not easy running 'uphill' for the second half of a marathon.

When the wind blows you and the delegation back to Australia next year for Six Foot, you needn't worry. It's always calm in the valleys and mountains :)

Clairie said...

Fantastic news Steve! So Glad you were happy with your race. The conditions sound appalling and there is no way I would like to have been in your situation.

You did a great job and the best thing is that the whole way you were feeling good mentally - the fact that you were in control of your pacing and knew what you could do and was able to adjust accordingly when the damage from the weather was evident.

Many others would have gone out hard and died or simply had a lot of walk breaks in the second half (yep that would be me!!)

So well done and I hope NOW you will seriously consider some recovery for a few weeks at least.

No speedwork, no long long long runs.
Just simple running for simple enjoyment.

Ingo said...

Hats off to you Steve! Your story makes me wonder now if there's a marathon at all early in the year around Tokyo which qualifies for a PB course...

Christian said...

congratulations to both of you! wind against runners for the second half is really evil... but you both did it, great! see you soon.

mpluss said...


I guess you are petty pleased with being able to lift like that at the end.

I did not realise all you marathons are so tight intems of time.

Well done.