I did it! I ran my full 42,2 kilometers! (Actually it even said 42,52 in the end, and those extra 302 meters were not easy!) Those of you who have followed me from last year, may remember my so-so experience with the Tel Aviv marathon last winter. After a lot of forth and back it was postponed and then cancelled. I ended up getting together with a group of runners to just unofficially run our marathons anyway. And, well, it was not the experience I had looked forward to. It was really hot, I dehydrated, and let´s face it, – it was my first marathon. I finished it, but just barely, and I ended up walking much of the last 10 K. So, I took everything I learnt from there with me to my second marathon, – this time in Tiberias. And, let me tell you, – in comparison, – it was a WINNER EXPERIENCE!!!
I had trained in the months leading up, building up my milage. But really, last year, my training was even more focused with more speed training and cross training, so I may have been in better shape physically a year ago, but no doubt, with what I learnt last year, I was much stronger mentally this year.
The secret to success for me, was no doubt to start slow. I had divided the marathon into three equal parts, and the goal was to up my speed a little bit in each one. The first 14 kilometer I ran with the 4:15 pace group, and we ran a pretty even pace of 6 minutes per kilometers. I had a great time! It felt so easy! It was like I had all my energy still in the tank. So by the time we finished the first third of the marathon, it was like I had just done the warm-up, and was ready for the next 28, – which is just another long run! At that point I pulled apart from the group, and started passing runners ahead of me. It was much harder to keep a steady pace when not running with a pacing group, but on average I had a pace of 5:50 per kilometer for the second third of the marathon.
It was an out and back course, – we ran from Tiberias, around the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, to Kibbutz En Gev, where we turned around and came back. I think I was around the fifteen kilometer mark, when the first runners were coming back. They were the professional runners from Kenya and Ethiopia. We all called out encouraging messages to them as they ran by. But really, that was the big thing that was missing from this marathon, – there was hardly any crowd support! Now, I compare mostly to the Jerusalem Marathon arrangement, and here we have tons and tons of crowd support, which really means a lot to me. So, the few people that had come out in Tiberias, got a big “Toda” (Thank you) from me.
Because of the lack of encouragement along the course, I spontaneously took it upon myself to BE the crowd support. And with an out and back course, you have a chance to encourage all the runners, – first those who are ahead of you as they come back, and then the ones that come after you, after you yourself have turned around. I cheered everyone, and especially the women (there were only a little over 200 in total), and also the somewhat older people got heartfelt encouragement from me. Then there were those who started walking, – I just had to offer them some good words. And really, encouraging everyone, encouraged me too!
It was a flat course, which was very helpful for planned pacing. It is completely different from Jerusalem, where it is so much harder to plan a pace, because it all depends on if you are going up or down hill! The weather was almost as good as it could be, with a cover of clouds but not rain. The only weather challenge, was a bit of wind at this second third of the course, but it could have been worse, and there were even times when we had the wind in our backs.
There were very regular water stations, where they gave out small water bottles, so I always had a bottle in my hand, – along with the fuel I had brought with me, my energy Chumps and pretzels. (I am considering investing in a fuel-belt before my next marathon.) They were giving out fuel along the way too, but I did not want to try anything new on race day. The only thing I took from them other than water, was a banana at around kilometer 35. It was just perfect to get that then, as I was really sick of the energy Chumps, and the pretzels were dry and hard to swallow.
So, during the last third of the marathon, kilometer 29 – 42, I did not hold back anymore. I allowed myself to give it all. The feeling of control of my pace in this marathon, was part of what made it such a great experience. I had energy in the tank and was able to pace myself and speed up and down as I thought most helpful at the time. During this last third, I was still feeling quite strong, but here there was actually a little bit of hills (nothing compared to Jerusalem, but still a climb that you feel after having ran for over 3 hours…). So, on average, I was not able to increase my pace from the second third, like I had hoped to. But considering the elevation, I am happy that I was able to keep 5:50 also here.
It felt good to just keep on passing people. I would look up ahead and find a person I would tell myself to catch up with. Then when I got there, I would choose another one and so on. I was able to do this because I had started so slowly, so I was just catching up with the people who had ran a faster pace all along. But it is amazing what this does to you mentally. It is encouraging to feel that you are doing well, and so you feel stronger just as a result of it, and it helps you keep a positive attitude.
Obviously this last third of the marathon was the hardest one. No surprise there. People say the real marathon only starts at 32 kilometers, up until that point it is all just warm-up… I think it was around the 35 kilometer mark that I was starting to feel what is my biggest challenge when it comes to running, – my stomach. It was not happy with all the bouncing and pounding, in combination with being fed these energy chumps which is a sugary type of very concentrated energy and tastes something like wine gums. Then after 39.5 kilometers, I felt as though all of a sudden one of my toe-nails fell off, and it did not feel good. Later I found out it wasn’t quite as bad, but still it was disturbing along with this stomach issue which by this point was something that had to be balanced very carefully. Now you look around, and every runner is like a quiet zombie in a trance just focusing on this forward motion.
Every kilometer-mark was a very welcome sign. 40… 41…. By this time there was a bit of crowd support. I remember someone calling out that there was only 800 meters left, which helped me gather up the little bit of energy that was still to be found, and speed up so that this became my fastest speed of the whole marathon. I kept on looking for the finishing line, where was that red gate?? And then finally, I rounded a corner, and there it was! It felt wonderful to run underneath it, step on the right mats, lift my arms, smile to the cameras, – and be done! Running the whole thing and finishing strong, was my goal. The time was not outstanding by any means, but I am happy with my 4 hours and 10 minutes. I ran my race. For me, the way it worked out for me to run this race was the victory. (But for whoever is interested, I was the hundredth woman to finish, and came in number 46 in my age group, placing me in the first half in both groups.)
My dear husband who finished this marathon in less than 3 and a half hours (he is amazing, I know!), waited for me at the finish line. We got some pretty cool medals, in the shape of the Sea of Galilee. As we walked around a bit together afterwards, we were stopped by several people who said they had appreciated my encouragement. One asked what was my finishing time in the end, and upon hearing the answer, said that if I had not talked quite as much, I could probably have done it in less than 4 hours… Oh, well, that can be my excuse, then!
We all have our rewards that we look forward to as we finish our marathons, and my husband had been looking forward to a good, fresh Tiberias falafel, so here he is getting it:
I could not eat much, as my stomach was still settling. We got some good carbonated energy drinks, which was just right. And then, I was looking for a quality cup of coffee, which I found and enjoyed:
We drove on to Kfar Tavor, about a half hour drive from Tiberias (but longer this time, because of the traffic), where we stayed with some really good friends, who also had been taking care of our children as we ran the marathon. We had a very nice weekend with them, making this an absolutely perfect marathon weekend away.
I am so very thankful! … and I think I will sign up for the Jerusalem marathon coming up in about two months… 😉