Copenhagen Marathon

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen; friendly old girl of a town. So goes the song, and my experiences of the 2017 Copenhagen Marathon certaintly lived up to all the expectations.

Having arrived Friday evening, I spent Saturday on a few practical matters. There was the bib needing to be collected at the expo, and buying a nice running top at "special expo price" (yeah, right!). On the way there I passed the "Mini Marathon", a children's race, and watched the winner of the year 2011 (I.e., the six year olds) cross the finishing line of the 1 Km route in 4:41. Amazing time for that age, I don't think I could do it!

Back to the hotel to drop off bib and t-shirt (they handed out the participants shirts in the same tent as the bibs, rather than at the finishing line on the day), change into warmer clothes (fairly cold day) and then went to check the starting line to make sure I could find my way around on Sunday morning. With that done, and nothing else to spend my day on, I went back to the expo and pretended to not having been there before and this blagged myself another of the official t-shirts. I know. Naughty!

Sunday morning was a 6 AM start. Toilet, breakfast, toilet, water, toilet. Maybe that Greek meal Saturday night had been a bad idea, for my stomach wasn't doing too well. So I swallowed a diahorrea pill, some more water, and made my way to the start area early. I had expected the metro to be over crowded, but there were plenty of seats available. Located the porta loos, did what I had to do, and took another diahorrea pill. Getting slightly nervous about the tummy. Baggage drop was a breeze, very well organised, strolling around a bit, and then back in the loo queue which by now was getting long. Fortunately the pills had started to work by now!

The start gun was fired at 9:30 sharp. My ambition was a 5 hour run, and in all my training runs I've been having a walking and gel eating break every 5 Km, so the race plan was to run at 6:55/km or slightly faster, and then spend a minute every 5 km on nutrition. So I lined up with the 4:50 pacers (they would have to average 6:53 to hit their target), and about 15 minutes after the gun we crossed the start line.

I've had some problems with my new Garmin the last week after a firmware upgrade. It has occasionally lost the GPS signal, and both distance and pace has been off. So I had also brought my old watch, and was running with one on each wrist. Just before the first km marker new watch was showing a lap pace of 6:18/km and old watch was showing 6:32/km. Fortunately I had stuck closely to the "race pace" of 6:55 for all my runs in the last three weeks' taper, and the it seems it had worked to condition my legs to the expected pace, for the first lap time was 6:53. So while I continued to glance at the watches throughout the race, I ran mostly by feel and lap times at the km markers along the route. The 4:50 pacers were far ahead of me after a few km, they must have been building up a bit of a time reserve to use later.

The first water station came up already at 3.5 km (they were all spaced just over two miles apart) and I needed to pee. But told myself this was silly and ignored the need. A few km later we went through a park where several guys and a few girls were availing themselves of the cover afforded by some bushes. I did the same (sorry, I know...). Relieved, I managed to catch the 4:50 pacers around the 8 km mark, and followed them for the next two km until I had to stop for another wee. It was quickly becoming clear to me that with all these toilet stops I could not afford to also spend time on walking breaks, so I ate my gels while running and soon built up several minutes of "ahead" time.

A slight niggle in my Achilles had disappeared after the first two-three km, and by 10 I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I had found "the rhythm" where breathing was completely effortless, pacing was fully by feel (and the km split times showed that I was consistently a few seconds faster than needed). Having passed the national football stadium, the little mermaid and the royal palace earlier, we were now heading into fashionable Frederiksberg with beautiful buildings and wide tree lined roads. The half mara mark came up, and by now I had a full three minutes in the bank, and was starting to think that if I could continue without walking breaks and only minimal loo breaks, I might be able to beat my target by a full five minutes.

At around 30 km the route joined the same part as we had been running at the beginning. I was keeping an eye out for "my" bush as we went through the same park, but by now the park was full of families enjoying their picknicks. So I behaved!

Past the little mermaid again, past the royal palace again, somewhere around the 35-37 mark I began to feel really tired. Not really out of breath. Legs not really hurting. But just awfully tired and longing for the finish line. My pace had slipped below 7:10/km and I was eating into my ahead time. But there were still 4 minutes in the bank, so at 37 km I spent one of them on a walking break. And another walking break at 39 km. I could see that if all the calculations and timings were correct, I could afford a brief 100 m break now for each of the remaining km markers. But what if my timing was off despite the dual watches? What if my pace continued to drop? What if something suddenly started to hurt? It would be a bitch to spend my contingency too early and end up missing the target I had so far been on track for. So I pushed on. It was more of a shuffle than a run by now, but it wasn't a walk, and that was all that really mattered.

The start - and therefore also the finish - was on the island Amager. Islands means bridges. Bridges means uphill. And sure enough, with just over 1 km to go started the incline of Langebro (it means "long bridge" and was named thus for a reason!) it's actually quite a gentle incline on a normal day, but after 41 km nothing felt felt normal. I shuffled up the bridge and caught up with a runner and a couple of spectators that had decided to join in and help with the pacing to the finish line. One of the running spectators was explaining that "you have to really push here at the end, ignore the pain, you can easily gain 30 seconds or more". I know it was meant as encouragement and help, but couldn't help myself thinking "shut your trap, or go run 41 km and THEN sprout your amateur psychology, you wanker!" Of course I smiled politely and didn't say what I was thinking. Discretion and valour and all that stuff.

All bridges end with a decline. And sure enough, even Langebro has one. Down, around the bend and under the bridge, the 42 km marker coming up, I didn't have the energy to speed up perceptibly, but shuffled along to the finish line as best I could. And boom. 4:56:45. I was ecstatic and thrilled and relieved to slow down from a shuffling run to a shuffling walk.

Friendly volunteers were hanging medals over the runners' heads and offering "heat blankets" - that's how they were described in the pre race info pack, but in the real world they looked A LOT like the plastic bags we had been offered at the start, but back then they had been called "rain jackets". There were roses for the lady runners, finish line snapshots (sms'ed and email to your phone instantly). Water. Bananas and oranges (thank you, hope you don't mind if I take four), protein bars (yuck), yogurt, little custard filled buns with hot chocolate (thank you, I'll grab five) and last in the finishing area free alcohol free beer in pint glasses. I stopped counting after three.

It had been a great race. Plenty to look at throughout, tons of spectators encouraging the runners, even those of us coming around after they'd spent the best part of five hours or more cheering on complete strangers. It was a beautiful summer day, 20 degrees and sun from a clear blue sky. That might have helped with the spectator support, and in several of the neighbourhoods we ran through, it looked like impromptu neighbourhood parties had been arranged. I heard my name called out a few times, and I know now that twice it was by our very own Iben.

As large race's goes (just over 10,000 runners signed up, 8,172 finishers within the 6-hour cut off), it was spectacularly well arranged and executed. Everything ran like a clockwork. Professional, pleasant and fun. Oh, and did I mention I got in in under 5 hours? I'm chuffed and ever so proud!

36 Replies

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  • Interesting tag assigned to the post. I apologise for the TMI.

  • Congratulations Tomas! You did so well! Great run report and I especially like your inner thoughts to the finish line spectator trying to coach you!😊

    Bask in the glory of your sub 5hrs target reached in great style. Sounds like a good one to do! Are you planning no 3 yet??!!

  • Absolutely. It worked great to have a reason to train over winter, and I want the same for next winter. I'm contemplating either Paris or Edinburgh for spring 2018.

  • Thats great Tomas! you've got the marathon bug! :)

  • Well done Tomas, great write up, the bit near the end made me laugh....the 'helpful' run in to the finish advice....πŸ˜‚.....if you had the energy you probably would have happily strangled the person....πŸ˜‚

    I can't imagine being on my feet for that long, and all the training and determination that goes into the preparation, awesome, well done you! πŸ‘πŸ‘

    Mx

  • Thanks Madge. Maybe it was good I didn't have the energy lol

  • Congratulations on an excellent race! I'm so glad to finally see your report, Tomas.

    I like your thinking about having 4 minutes in the bank. And the info about the heat blankets - I've seen them in photos from other races, but have never seen an explanation. I think encountering a bridge called "Langebro" would be really tough on me mentally at any point, so extra well done!

  • To be honest, I expected them to be the foil type heat reflecting things that hill walkers use. But nope. Just plastic. Still, at least they'd stop the wind hitting the torso.

  • I can't believe you used the word 'wanker' πŸ˜† Awesome!! Great run, and report - I definitely would like to do this race! Huge congrats on beating your target, jolly well done!!! πŸ‘πŸ’ͺπŸƒπŸ˜˜

  • Thank you Abi. I typed up most of the report the day after withe adrenaline still in my veins. Otherwise I'd never dared use the W-word lol

  • Congratulations again, Tomas, on a perfect second marathon! And in less than 5 hours. Very well done!

    And thank you for a great report. I recognise my city. I never ran across Langebro - but have to try it sometime - I'm can imagine it feels loooong after 41 km :-)

    That tummy thing would have made me so nervous. I'm glad the meds did their magic.

    I was very exited just to be a spectator, I can imagine it must have been a rush to be running.

    Where is your next marathon going to be?

  • Thanks for the cheers Iben :) the tummy did bother me, so I'm glad modern medication can delay the issue, so to speak lol

    I'm in the ballot for London next year, but so is 386,049 other people lol. So it will probably be Paris in early April or Edinburgh in late May. I doubt either will have as awesome crowds as Copenhagen.

  • Wow, you are planning another one already. I was only joking :-)

    London would be an adventure, but if not, I would go for Edinburgh. Early April sounds like a lot of long winter runs :-)

  • If you get into London I will definitely come and cheer you. I love watching the marathon and used to live very near to the route. Hope you do get in :)

  • Cheers Ruth. I hope so too :) :)

  • Well done Tomas, a fantastic achievement. By the way, anti diarrhoea meds do make you absorb more fluid from your intestines so you may wee more. Mind you having frequent wee breaks is better than the other option! So pleased to hear it went well otherwise .

  • Thanks Doyle. I didn't know they did that. I was worried they might lead to constipation. But an extra wee stop is a cheap price to pay compared to the potential alternative.

  • Fantastic run report Tomas - inspiring and amusing in equal measures. I suspect that well meaning spectator at the last km point may provoked the same response from others runners and I bet they weren't all as polite as you! All your hard training obviously had you well prepared and your pacing was fab! Huge well done on that sub 5hr finish time πŸ₯‡πŸ˜€ and great that Iben was there to cheer you on too! Rest up well now and hope you recover well!πŸ™‚

  • Thanks Sandra. Knowing that there was a HU'er in the crowds was indeed a great feeling. I'm back to gently training shorter distances, and it feels lovely to not have to make every run a long one.

  • Neath her tavern light on this merry night ..... 😁 We had that one on a 78 so I grew up listening to that. πŸ˜ƒ

    I'll drink to you Tomas. Well done πŸ˜ƒ Good of Iben to turn up to cheer you on πŸ‘

    congratulations on the time by the way! πŸ˜ƒ

  • Thanks Miss W, and yes, it was very good of Iben. Hearing your name shouted gives a nice energy boost :)

  • Brilliant Tomas, just brilliant x

  • Thanks AM, much appreciated.

  • Congratulations - sounds like you had a great time - and ran a bbrilliant time too. Well done.

  • Thanks AR. Yes, it was brilliant all round. I'd do it again in a heart beat :)

  • FNtastic well done you!!!!! That is such a fab time I'm not surprised you are over the moon!!! I love your spectator comment replies and possible ones!!!! I know what you mean!! Enjoy the afterglow 😎

  • Thanks Ju-ju. You're so right about the afterglow, it's a great feeling isn't it, and it lasts a lot longer than the leg soreness :)

  • Many congratulations Tomas!! I am only just browsing around here and find out that you have just run another marathon. You ought to put something up on the C25k forum just as inspiration for new runners.

    I am impressed......I could never hack all that training.

  • Many thanks Ian. Of course you're right - the training is the real effort, and the final race is just the "icing on the cake". Very nice icing though :)

  • Great report! Congratulations, what a good time - well done, especially with those tummy troubles. I can't imagine running for that length of time!

  • Thanks Sue. It does sound like a very long time, but after a while I tend to switch off and forget about the distance :)

  • Well done great running and well done on getting under the 5hr mark you trained well and you get what you deserved (not the tummy issues)!

    Hope to see you in london! when we both get a ballot place hahahahahahhahahahaha!

  • Many thanks Ben. And yep, looking forward to see you in London (what are the chances? I was never that much of a betting man!)

  • Great race report Tomas only just saw it. So glad you overcame all the niggles that tried to scupper you. That bridge at the end sounds infinitely long it seems almost cruel to position it at the end. But I bet it was pretty spectacular to run across it knowing you're just about to complete a marathon. Absolutely amazing :)

  • Thanks Ruth, and yes, it did feel a teeny weeny itsy bitsy cruel, but I guess the good part was the fact that the very last bit was downhill from the bridge to help anyone with a bit of left-over energy do a nice sprint finish (in my dreams!)

  • No need to worry yourself about that mythical sprint finish. Sounds like you paced yourself to the max throughout so the fact you had nothing left over was probably a sign you'd run a pretty much perfect race :)

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