Zurich Marathon 2017

A 20 minutes walk from our rented apartment in Zurich Old Town and I was at the start line. I was delighted to make it. Three years ago my international athletic ‘career’ got off to a false start when I had to pull out of the Rotterdam Marathon the day before the event. That didn’t matter anymore. It was an amazing morning in Zurich. There was the normal pre-race buzz and queues for the toilets but this was different. The sun was shining, the lake was glistening and the Alps were sufficiently far away to appreciate while maintaining a flat marathon course.

Three, Two, One, BBBBRRRR. We’re off. My race plan was to run the first 3 miles at 8:30 min/miles before settling into 8:00 min/miles. We headed around the Northern part of the lake, past the Opera House and looped back into the city for the first rendezvous with my team of young supporters. I was delighted to see them and three high fives later I was off.

The route headed back to the start line and then along the eastern shore of Lake Zurich. With the crowds and the city behind me I started to reflect on what was ahead. Before the race I’d decided I wasn’t going to run a marathon. I’d entered 4 x 6 miles with a bit extra at the end. I was coming to the end of the first 6 miles and all was good.

The race strategy was working well and the second 6 miles came and went. It was around the 16 mile mark when it started to get hard. Although I had no idea what it meant, I was encouraged by the crowds shouting “pop, pop, pop”. After regular checks on my Garmin I knew I was slowing down, my splits had dropped to 8:40 min/mile.

I was now heading into the last 6 miles (well 8 miles really) and was acutely aware that the next hour was going to be tough. The road was becoming littered with runners stretching out with cramp. I found out later that it was 22°C, although after 18 miles it felt much hotter. I reassessed my split times and decided to aim for 9 min/miles. The chiming Alpine cow bells, inflatable clapping hands and shouts of “pop, pop, pop” were keeping me going. Fifteen minutes later it was taking all of the effort I could muster to keep my splits below 10 min/mile.

By now I’m back in Zurich for a final lap around the city before the finish line. My team of supporters were there. I just about manged a smile/grimace and a thumbs-up and I was off.

The next two miles are a bit of a blur. I remember changing my running style every few minutes as I tried to work out the most efficient way to put one foot in front of another. At one point it felt like I was doing “The Loco-Motion” at a 1980’s school disco.

The finish line was in sight. I was delighted. Before the race I had been targeting 3:30's. However during the race there were times when I thought the wheels were going to completely fall off. I’d made it in a time of 3:46:58. An 8 minute PB. Pop Pop Pop!!!