42k of friendship – Antwerp Marathon

“Fuck” must have been the first thing that went through my mind. Either that or “Shit”, when I felt a bolt of pain go through my left calf last Friday. Whichever it was, it was followed by thoughts of doom scenarios, “why me” ‘s and “why now” ‘s. “Maybe it’s in my head. Maybe it’s the nerves catching up”. But no such luck: I had to stop after 4k, probably the shortest run I’d done in over a year. Apply Reflex spray. Apply Flexum gel. Rest. Wait it out.

Things were better on Saturday, but I could feel it the whole day through. Why on earth had I done that interval workout on Friday? Why did I have to stress myself 3 days before a race? Well, I know the answer: because it’s just so much fun! 

Anyway, Sunday morning, wake up early, eat muesli and head to Greg. Meet up, measure the stresslevel (high) and head for Antwerp. Perfect parking spot, perfect weather, perfect timing, perfect everything!. Score a shirt. Meet up with friends. Test the Calf (not 100%, but feeling more stiff rather than strained now. I could shake that off running!

For the starting line now! A moment of silence for the Boston victims. They might have gotten us silent for a moment, but they’ll never keep us from running! A countdown and off we are! Slowly, the mass starts moving and we decide to stay closely behind the 3h30 (the goal for today) pacer group. They’re quickly running ahead of schedule so we decide to give them some leash. A last recapitulation of the plans: Keep the 3h30 pacers within sight until 20k, catch up with them before 30k and stick around for a bit. See how far we can get from there onwards.

In the meantime, I try to keep Greg relaxed and focussed: provide him with food and drinks, updates on our time & distance (“right on schedule, don’t worry about the 3h45 pacers catching up with us, they’re way ahead!”), check how he’s feeling. We catch up with the group a bit before halfway. Perfect! A plan was never executed to such perfection! We stick around an when one of the pacers tells the other one he’ll be taking whoever wants to do so along for a time around 3h25, Greg and I exchange a look and nod. “Let’s stick with this guy!”. But around 32-34k, we’re even running a bit ahead of that bunch. I tell Greg and ask how he’s feeling. Solid, so it seems. Let’s just not look at them too much then but take it easy, we both know the hardest part of the marathon is yet to come.

We hit the 36k marker. This is where it gets though. We manage to keep the pace steady though, but running has become working now. Not that it matters now, we’ve got the finish line within reach and we’re well ahead of schedule. 40k. The original plan to speed up and give everything in the last 2k will be for another day: a lot has already been given along the way, let’s just keep it steady!

We reach the finish somewhere around 3h23. WELL under the 3h30 Greg hoped for. Greg’s super happy, which makes me really happy. I’m glad I could help him reach this, even though he still had to do 99.99% of the work of course. And me? Well, I can look forward to de “Loop van Vlaanderen” with confidence now. The calf held it together nicely and the shape is obviously good. One or two short runs and then back to business!

And a big awkward hug at the end! haha!

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