δ minute read.

The idea

I ran a half-marathon (21 km or 13 miles) at 28th Zagreb marathon, a few days after my 42nd birthday. After the race, I’ve realized that it would be a cool project to run 42 km (26 miles) while I had 42 years. 42 km while 42. I even had a catchy name: 42@42. I had a year to prepare.

The history

I didn’t just decide to run a marathon. I’ve started running in 2002. I’ve ran my first half marathon in 2002 (01:59:48). I’ve ran my best half marathon in 2007 (01:45:25). That was also the last half-marathon before the break. I don’t have a perfect archive, but I’ve probably ran 9 half-marathons from 2002 to 2007.

In 2006 I won my only medal. (I do have other medals, but all of them are finisher medals, awarded to every participant that finishes the race.) I’ve participated in a year-long local running league and finished 25th. That’s how good I am at running. But, more importantly, I was third in my age group. So, I got a bronze medal. The only evidence I have is a post on my old blog (archived at archive.org). The post says the medal is a result of “persistence, bad results and weak competition”.

I’ve stopped running in 2007.

After a decade long pause, I’ve started running again in 2016. It took me a while to get back to half-marathons. I’ve ran my first half-marathon in 2019 (01:57:10). The fastest half-marathon was in 2020 (01:45:04). As far as I can tell from my records, that’s also my fastest half-marathon ever. Even faster than the one in 2007. (Take that, 13-year-younger-me!) I’ve ran 4 half-marathons after 2016.

The plan

I ran one half-marathon in 2019. The plan was to run two more half-marathons in 2020. After that, a marathon. Both half-marathons in 2020 were cancelled because of COVID-19. That didn’t stop me. I’ve ran them alone. One of them during 2020 Zagreb earthquake. That wasn’t part of the plan.

I wanted to run Wachau marathon in September 2020. It was cancelled because of COVID-19. Zagreb marathon was a couple of weeks later, in October 2020. That was not an ideal option, because it was on my 43rd birthday, so 42@42 could not happen. Anyway, it was also cancelled. So, I’ve decided to run alone on October 10, the last day when I was still 42.

The differences

In 2002 all I had was a digital watch. Running for hours was boring. I didn’t know anything about running. To prepare for the race, I would just run for an hour or two several days a week.

Today, I know a bit about running. Not much, but way more than in 2002. I have a running coach. (Highly recommended.) I have a running watch with GPS and heart rate monitor. It shows my speed, distance and heart rate. It’s amazing. It’s much easier to maintain pace when you know exactly how fast you’re going. I have a phone with wireless headphones. I usually listen to audio books while running. Sometimes podcasts. It is way more fun.

The equipment

The route

There are several bridges on the Sava river that divides Zagreb in two parts. From Podsusedski most (Podsused bridge) on the west to Domovinski most (Homeland bridge) on the east. I usually run on it’s riverbank. The plan was to run a loop from Jankomirski most (Jankomir bridge) to Domovinski most. Strava says it’s 44 km (27 miles), but I think the route builder tool made a few mistakes, so it should be about 42 km (26 miles). I ran all parts of the route while preparing for the race. I’ve never ran the entire route. I didn’t know that before I started running long distance - you don’t run the entire length of the race while training. The longest run before the race was 32 km (20 miles).

The training

Training for a marathon is a lot of running. How much? In 2020 (January - October) I’ve ran about 1800 km (1100 miles). It’s about 210 hours of running.

An extreme example is September 2020. It’s the only month in my life in which I’ve run more than 300 km (186 miles). I’ve ran 337 km (209 miles). That’s 11 km (7 miles) a day, on average.

I’ve read more than 160 books in 2020. Most of them are audio books. Most of them I’ve listened to while running.

The goal

I had several goals.

  • Finish the race. Even if I had to walk.
  • Finish the race. Running only. No walking.
  • Finish the race. In certain time. From a few minutes under 4 hours to 5 hours.

The race

I knew the race will take at least 4 hours. I wanted to listen to a good audio book. I’ve decided to listen to Foundation by Isaac Asimov. (About 8 hours.)

I was expecting the race to be easier. But, I made a typical beginner mistake. I’ve started too fast (5:30 min/km). It was able to keep the pace for the first 25 km. After that, I started to get tired and every kilometer I was slower and slower.

I’ve managed to complete the first two goals. I’ve finished the race and I didn’t walk at all. I wasn’t even close to the time I wanted to achieve.

My wife helped me a lot. She rode on a bike next to me. I didn’t have to carry a few liters of water in my backpack the whole time.

Recovery

I was expecting recovery after the race will take longer. The same day after the race, my legs were really tired. My knees complained seriously. I was expecting the next day will be even worse, but I was already feeling better. It did take me a few days to recover.

I rest two weeks after half-marathons, to avoid injury. I’ll do the same now.

The future

I plan to write an article. Working title is: You don’t want to run a marathon (and other running advice).

Do I plan to run a marathon again? I’m split between “I’m never doing this again” and “I have to do this again”.

If I ever run a marathon again, I’ll start seriously slower. Instead of 5:30 min/km, I’ll try something like 6:30 min/km. My average speed during the race was 6:46 min/km. I think I can maintain 6:30 min/km the entire race. (That’s what I thought about 5:30 min/km a few days ago.)