Here is my report on the Munich Marathon. My time was a less than stellar 4 hours 34 minutes 39 seconds. It was my slowest marathon, beating out my 4:29 in Berlin back in 1994. But the important thing is that I finished. As a fellow runner once said, "A last place finish is better than being the first DNF." No, I wasn't last and made the time limit by about 1.5 hours. I'm going to divide this report into 3 sections: pre-race, during the race, and post-race.
Pre-Race: I should have turned around and gone home as soon as I saw the black cat that I almost ran over on my street. Even though I'm generally not a superstitious person (except for the requirement to wear something black on race day), that set the tone. Then there was the ordeal of getting my number, taking my bag to the storage area, and then walking to the starting area. Someone obviously had a sadistic streak when deciding where all of those things should be. At most races everything is in one area, or at least close by. Not for the marathon. The number pickup was about a 10-minute walk from my car. Then it was another 10-15 minute walk to the stadium, where the bag pickup area was. I posed for a couple of pre-race photos, stripped off my extra layers of clothing, then walked about 1.5 kilometers (almost a mile for the metrically challenged) to the start. I was tired before I even started running!
Murphy's Law of racing was in effect. The Porta-Potty line that you're standing in is always the slowest. I saw some Porta-Potties on the way to the starting line and decided to take advantage of them. I got in what looked to be the shortest line. But all of the other lines seemed to move faster. It always seems to happen that I get stuck behind all of the runners with digestive issues.
There were a couple of guys dressed up as bottles of Erdinger alcohol-free beer, which is one of the marathon's sponsors. They planned to run the race dressed like that because their numbers were pinned to the costumes. In the start corral I chatted with two guys from Ireland who had run a marathon about 5 weeks previously. They were lamenting how the Irish football (soccer) team is "rubbish," especially after their 6-1 drubbing by Germany earlier in the week. There were announcements about the number of countries represented in the marathon (59) as well as the number of tons of bananas and apples and thousands of liters of sports drink and water.
The weather was perfect for a long race. It was about 10 C (50F) at the start, though it felt cooler due to a chilly breeze. The sun came out and it warmed up to about 14-15 C (57-59 F) in the afternoon.I was surprised by the number of people wearing tights and long sleeves. I would have died of heat stroke if I was dressed that way.
During the Race: The race wasn't really very memorable and I felt out of sorts almost from the beginning. At around the 7 km mark I talked to an American who was living in Munich. He and his companion (I don't know if she was his wife, girlfriend, or just a friend) were running their first marathons. The other thing that was memorable was at around the 35 or 36 km mark. There was a group of men in an apartment above the course. They were singing the FC Bayern theme song (FC Bayern, Stern des Sudens...). For those who don't follow German football (soccer), FC Bayern is the First Division team from Munich.
I was actually doing quite well through the first 25 km, with a time of 2:06 and change at the half-marathon mark. It was somewhere between 27 and 28 km when my left calf decided to cramp. I stopped to stretch it, but that made it worse. So I walked. But when I walked the toes on my right foot would cramp up. The only way to loosen them up was to run. I was still able to run at a slower pace most of the way. But after about 30 km I did a lot of walking. As I got toward 37 km, I started figuring out how long it would take me to walk that distance and if I could make it before the time limit. But I was able to get in some running. Just before I got to the tunnel that leads into the Olympic stadium, I was able to run all the way to the finish line. Somehow I was able to block out the pain in my calf and keep going to the finish line. It was a big relief to finish. The strange things was during training I had some minor soreness in my left Achilles tendon after my long runs. A little ice would fix it. I never had problems with my calf or toes cramping during training, so these cramps were very odd. My Achilles tendon was perfectly fine during the race. Go figure.
After the Race: The finishers' medal was nice. It was shaped like a gingerbread heart and said, "G'schafft," which loosely translates as, "Done" or "completed."
After the race I drank a cup of sport drink and had a banana. The sport drink tasted better during the race, when I mixed it with water. I also grabbed two pretzels to eat in the car on the drive home.
The Olympic stadium has changed. Instead of the nice, springy track there was pavement until the last 50 meters. The infield was also covered in Astroturf instead of natural grass. One good change is that the steps had been renovated. Instead of metal steps with spikes, they were smooth concrete. But it was still a Herculean effort to get up them to get to the bag check area. Did I mention that the race organizers have a sadistic streak?
On the way to get my bag, I saw someone wearing the best t-shirt. On the back of the shirt it said (in English), "If you can read this, that means I'm not last." I thought of my late running partner Bill, who used to tell me that if there was no last place finisher, a race would never be over.
Now it's time to rest and put some ice on my sore right knee. Tomorrow I have an appointment with my masseuse. She will definitely be earning her money. Soon it will be time to think about ski season. As it gets toward spring, I will decide which races I plan to do next year.