On the 2nd of October I took part in the Cologne Marathon. Over the last couple of years Lorna has taken part in various races in Europe with her brother/s and friends from Colchester. We decided Cologne would be good as they organise a half marathon and marathon on the same day so people could choose the distance they preferred. Initially Lorna and I were going to do the Marathon and Alex (Lorna’s brother) and Robbie were going to do the Half Marathon. As we hadn’t been doing long runs or specific marathon training since Paris Marathon Lorna opted for the half marathon. Due to the half marathon starting at 8:30am and the marathon at 10:00am the plan was for them to run and then grab food and BEER to cheer me round.
Unfortunately as the race neared Lorna picked up an injury and therefore made the sensible decision not to race. After all we have lots of other races coming up including the Boston Marathon in April. Having not trained specifically for the marathon I had mixed feelings about it. On one hand I was relaxed as I knew I wasn’t in PB shape but on the other hand I was nervous as I didn’t really know what pace to run at and still wanted to be relatively close to my personal best. Luckily over the last three or four weeks I made it to track on Tuesdays and managed to squeeze in a couple of decent long runs.
We travelled to Cologne early on the Saturday morning and headed straight to the expo to pick up our race numbers.
The expo was really well organised, despite arriving at what was supposed to be a peak time for pick up we walked straight up to the desk and had our numbers and bags to drop within a couple of minutes. Guess that’s German efficiency for you! We decided it was best to not hang around at the expo, after all we had a lot of running to do the following day so didn’t want to be on our feet for a long time. We then got the train into the city centre to drop stuff at the hotel. We stayed at the Hyatt hotel that is perfectly positioned for getting to and from the race start area.
Carb loading was next on the agenda, having had a large breakfast Lorna and I opted for a pretzel whilst Alex and Robbie went for some pasta and pizza. In the afternoon we relaxed in the hotel and had a nap, as we were all pretty knackered due to the flight out being at 7:40am. It wasn’t long before we were carb loading again, this time we went to Vapianos for more pasta and pizza. As we would have to be up around 6ish to get ready for the race we got an early night.
As I wasn’t aiming for a specific time I felt quite relaxed as the race start was nearing. It was good to have Lorna, Alex and Robbie there; maybe if I were racing on my own I would’ve been over thinking it. Lorna and I went with Alex and Robbie to drop their bags about half an hour before start time and then we headed to the bridge to find a good spot to cheer them on. Robbie was feeling good and I was excited to see what time he could run. He generally runs on track but had been training more specifically for this half. Being capable of a sub 5-minute mile I knew he would post a good time. Over the few weeks leading up to the race Alex had been struggling with a dodgy knee and therefore wasn’t too sure on how he’d feel. I obviously wanted Lorna to be running the race but due to her injury I was glad she decided not to run. If she had taken part I would’ve been worried about how she was getting on and thinking about it whilst running the marathon. Also it meant I could look forward to seeing her around the course and this would break the run up into chunks.
Having seen Robbie and Alex run past Lorna walked over the bridge and found other spots to cheer at whilst I headed back to the start area to get ready. Luckily at this point the sun was out so I was keeping nice and warm. I dropped my bag off and stripped down to my racing kit: AR Collective vest, Adidas Split Shorts, Runderwear, Stance socks and Adidas Adios Boost 3. Typically once I was just down to my racing kit the sun disappeared and it was cold and windy, it looked like a storm was brewing but luckily it passed and the conditions were ok.
On the start line I was feeling good and ready to go. My only worry was that my hips were feeling a little tight. On Thursday night I had done a run with The Running Works, Under Armour and Midnight Runners and was feeling sore from doing a few different exercises. In hindsight being in a taper week before a marathon I should have just done the running part. You live and learn I guess. After listening to some horrendous German “music” the countdown began and we were off. I struggled to get onto goal pace straight away as the road was rather narrow and I had positioned myself a little far back, somewhere between the 3:00 and 3:30 pacers. The first kilometre was around 4:40ish as opposed to my goal pace of 4:15 (equates to around 3 hours for the marathon) but once it thinned out I got onto pace and made up a few seconds per kilometre over the next five kilometres or so. I was feeling comfortable and my legs were loosening up. The weather was pretty much perfect, nice and cool and the odd bit of drizzle. After a few kilometres my watch was already out of sync with the kilometre markings on the road. I was 500m or so ahead of the markings really early on and knew the end total was going to be long. This was frustrating but meant that I would have to try and up my pace to counteract the extra distance. I’m not quite sure why there was a difference between my watch and the course; I was sticking pretty close to the racing (blue) line so maybe it was just the gps or something. I carried on at goal pace and was enjoying the route, it was nice and flat and Cologne is a really picturesque city.
I took my first gel after 11k/7 miles and was feeling good, having not done many long runs over the last few weeks due to having a cold etc I was having fun. I maintained my pace and went through the half marathon distance in 1:29:28. As the race was going on my legs were feeling better and better and the pace was feeling more comfortable. I carried on taking gels at regular intervals and felt well fuelled.
I made it to around 40k on target but by this point my legs were tightening and my pace was dropping. I was still only just over goal pace, frustratingly by my watch I went through the 42k distance in 2:57ish yet I knew I still had about a kilometre left to run. I wasn’t going to make sub 3 but despite my legs tightening I pushed on. I saw Lorna, Alex and Robbie with about 800m or so to go and despite Robbie briefly chasing me down the road I couldn’t up my pace or muster a sprint finish.
Similarly to how I finished London I was shuffling towards the finish line at damage limitation pace, I didn’t want to pull up. I crossed the line in 3:01:03. I was annoyed I hadn’t managed to go sub 3 again but I was happy I wasn’t that far off my PB (2:54 in London). The crowds were great along the last few kilometres, I was struggling so it was hard to really appreciate it and take it all in but overall it was a great race.
Robbie had run really well! He smashed his PB finishing the half in 1:24. Alex didn’t have such a great race finishing in 1:36 but considering the dodgy knee that’s still a good time. Robbie ran really well.
If you are looking for a flat, fast marathon or half marathon you cant go wrong with choosing to enter Cologne. I am hoping to run the marathon or half again in the near future. The trip was relatively cheap as well, which is always good when you’ve got lots lined up. After the race we went straight for food and drinks and over the Sunday and Monday we did some sightseeing. This included going to the Schokoladen Museum (Lindt chocolate museum) that was awesome, I felt like I’d earned some chocolate.
Overall it was a great weekend visiting Cologne and running the marathon. Its given me a good base to work off and now I’m looking forward to racing the Royal Parks Half Marathon as well as other races in the next few weeks. I am planning to race myself back into PB shape.
I hope everyone’s running has been going well, see a lot of you soon. Give me a shout if you see me at the Royal Parks Half.