Saturday, August 15, 2009

Helsinki City Marathon

Today I had scheduled my 10th Helsinki City Marathon. I thought it would be fantastic if I could improve my course record here.

I've run this race more often than any other, because it
  • is my home town marathon,
  • is the second largest marathon (6 thousand runners) in Scandinavia after Stockholm (18 thousand runners),
  • has enough aid stations with water and Gatorade every 2-3 km
  • great audience support most of the way (considering we are in Finland)

Still, it isn't my favourite marathon (I'm not sure what is, but it ain't this one) for the following reasons:
  • late (3PM) start time - I'd rather run in the morning than wait all day just to run in the afternoon,
  • part of the course runs beside traffic and crosse - this is not called a city marathon for nothing,
  • cobblestone streets around 25K,
  • lots of little hills.
The weather forecast for the afternoon looked pretty good. I welcomed the chance of rain showers, as those would serve to cool me down. The august heat and humidity has almost always been a problem for me.

It never rained, although we saw big clouds. Mostly it was sunny and warm though.

The out and back seaside course with many nice park-like views is not particularly fast. It's a combination of many little things that tend to slow the runners down. Like sea breeze and twists and turns that break the rhythm. It's easy to find yourself slowing down in Helsinki.

Only three weeks after the Swiss Alpine K78, my goal today was simply to break my HCM PR time of 3 hours and 17 minutes. My nine previous Helsinki City Marathon finishes sorted by finish time are as follows:
  • 3:17:06 (1994)
  • 3:19:58 (2006)
  • 3:23:11 (2001)
  • 3:23:24 (2002)
  • 3:24:01 (1985 - my first marathon)
  • 3:26:58 (2000)
  • 3:28:48 (2003)
  • 3:47:31 (2007 - failed to fully recover from Swiss Alpine K78)
  • 3:52:56 (2005 - running with Nike Free shoes)
I started a bit fast to make sure I'd make it. My 10K split was 43:21, which erred a bit on the slow side.

The half marathon split was 1:33:35 - not great, but still on schedule and feeling ok.

A buddy who was aiming for a similar finish time as me catched me right after 25K. We talked for a while and I tried my best to stay with him but he dropped me (see photo below). Then I knew I was in big trouble. Apparently my legs had not recovered well enough from the Alps, and I hit the infamous wall.

My 30K time sucked big time already, 2:17:14, and I knew a new personal course record was not on the cards today. My pace felt ridiculously slow, but there was nothing I could do except keep shuffling forward. My legs were dead.

The last 12K was tough and painful. It always is of course, but not like this. I have never been so tired and felt so bad during any normal marathon. 5K before the finish someone shouted that I'm about 300th runner at that point, but I just didn't care anymore because there was no chance to reach my goal anymore. Runners were passing me left and right all the time.

I even failed to sprint at the very end - something that I've always been able to perform, every time. My final time was 3:26:11. I lost over 10 minutes to my buddy, who ran his marathon PR 3:15:17. With only a ten minutes faster time I would have reached my goal and probably been very happy too.

To end on a positive note, this was my sixth fastest time in Helsinki out of ten finishes. So it could have been worse, I guess. I placed 41st in M45 (446 finishers), and 360. overall (over 6,000 starters).

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