Previously on The Morning Coffee Run….
No Plan, Increasing Heat, Little Sleep and the small matter of the Copenhagen Marathon to run.
It wasn’t until mile six that I realised I had made a horrible mistake pushing my pace up. It wasn’t the tiredness or my body groaning under the mismanaged miles but the sun glaring down. Heat is something you can’t train for, only train through. The weather in the UK hadn’t even got close to the 26 degrees I was now running in and my body was not enjoying the new experience. I thought I should slow but with the knowledge that my aim to go sub five hours would slip away and that it was only going to get hotter I naively pressed on. Distracted by the beautiful route, with it’s open roads and spacious fuelling stations, the next few miles sailed by as I blissfully ignored the hot heat that sunk into my skin. I had never visited Copenhagen before and having only visited the Expo and airport the day before the race I was in tourist mode which occupied my mind. Staring in awe of the stunning architecture only to realise you’re about to crash into a barrier, however, is perhaps why I should have paid more attention to the job in hand.
Mile ten is when my body began to complain in earnest with the inevitable phantom pang I always seem to get during races. It will be a pain I have never experienced before in training; London it was back pain, Silverstone it was a numb foot and Copenhagen it was all about the nipples. I imagined the pictures, my shirt turned into a horrific bloody tie-dye, all the laughing. Turned out it was nothing but the safety pin I used to attach m number to my shirt rubbing against my nipple plaster. Who says running isn’t glamorous….
After the phantom pang, however, came the hard hitting reality of a difficult race. At about mile four I decided that I could run under five hours but running with the five hour pacers was too crowded so I pushed on and didn’t look back. At mile sixteen they overtook me. Demoralised I began to consider walking, stopping, quitting. Demons crept in through the holes fatigue had cracked in my resolve. The wall. To everyone the wall is different but to me it was a barrage of thoughts, deafening doubt. I began to walk.
As I limped to the next aid station I learnt that more than anything you need people to harden your resolve to finish. A British man named Malc, noticing my lacklustre approach to the aid station struck up a conversation. He encouraged me to eat the bananas provided by the aid station and to run with him for a few miles. He shared his story of running 80 marathons and of how you shouldn’t live races by the minutes and miles but by the experience you have during them. Targets and PBs aren’t crucial for the everyday runner. It was because of him and his kind words that I even finished the Copenhagen Marathon and I hope one day to return the favour to another runner in need of morale CPR. He stopped to walk but pushed me to keep going, the end nearly in sight.
I picked up my pace and pushed onwards and at mile twenty two I began to do the maths, realising that I could in fact finish under the five hour window at my current pace. But as I passed countless people who had collapsed due to heat exhaustion my sensible side won out and I slowed. Every quarter of a mile there would be another runner down and a crew of spectators and marshals caring for them. The heat slowing them to a weary stop.
I finished the marathon four minutes over my five hour aim, I had the right to feel dismayed at myself for not pushing but instead I felt proud. Proud of my second marathon medal, of finishing thirteen minutes faster than London but most of all proud of the fact that I pushed through my first marathon wall.
As I found my friends I learnt that my fellow runners had also struggled with the heat and as we lay on the grass past the finish line enjoying our free beer we swapped stories of our miles conquered and sunburns gained.
The next day the flight back gave me time to process everything. The idea of being a marathon tourist seemed a crazy idea at first and in a way it was. Going up or down stairs, getting up from chairs and even standing still for too long the next day all involve highly inappropriate noises and bizarre leg movements that scared most people into moving to the other side of the road. Yet, there is huge logic to it. It is a great way to see a city; to see it’s people as they cheer you on and it’s architecture as you pass by. You see parts you would never normally see and the people greet you with such warmth because you choose to run their streets.
The sense of achievement of crossing a finishing line in a whole new country has made Copenhagen very special to me and it’s medal hangs in pride of place. It has been an experience I will not quickly forget, a city I will hurry back to visit and a group of friends I will run with again.
Miles Left to Run: 600
NEXT RACE: San Francisco Marathon 31st July
Three Song Playlist
James Blake – Retrograde
Bastille – Good Grief
Daniel Hart – Love More