What I learned by running the Schwarzwald Marathon 2015

Published 08-11-2015

I learned that you should never give up. Ever. Don’t care if you’re last. Just keep going. Crawl if you have to.

I arrived at the Schwarzwald Marathon signed up for two events. The first was the 10 km event on the Saturday, which I had promised to do with my sporty Black Forest ‘hexle’ friend. The second was the full marathon event on the Sunday. Looking back I probably took on more than I could chew, seeing as my marathon training plan had been nothing like it should have been (now that I’m a bit older and wiser, I know what a marathon plan looks like - and to be honest, I don’t think I had a plan to begin with!).

The 10 km was a fun run with the Wald Hexle, who despite being over the age of 60, ran like Wonder Woman. I definitely had my work cut out keeping up with her, as she put her foot on the pedal on the home sprint.

One of the main reasons for choosing the Schwarzwald Marathon was that it had advertised itself as being mostly on forest trail. Either my German had gotten worse since I had left, or the definition of forest trail was open to debate. The reality was more likely I’d just been completely spoiled by the amazing soft forest trails in Norway, of which there are an endless supply. What I experienced on that Sunday marathon day was mostly hard surface and bitumen.

True to race day form, it was a bitterly cold autumn morning with fog blanketing the whole route. In the afternoon, everything cleared up but by that time my race was already over.

I developed a case of the dreaded sore knee around the 21 km mark, and soon after started walking until the 28 km mark. For some reason or another, I was embarassed at being so slow, and the gods forbid, last. I felt guilty about the volunteers manning the first aid, drinks and timing stations, having to wait for me. (Since this race, I’ve read about women and their battle with the imposter syndrome.)

On that day this mindset definitely infected and derailed my belief that I could make it back to the start line and finish the race, even if I had to walk the entire way. I had nobody kicking me up the bum, or blasting me across the finish line. And while my knees hurt, I felt perfectly fine physically and mentally - not tired at all.

So basically, I could have continued. What stopped me, apart from my attitude? Nothing. The dumbest thing was to think that just because I couldn’t run anymore, the race was essentially over. Wrong.

It was my first marathon (a big deal when you’ve never done it before) and I had nothing to fall back on by way of experience or knowledge about what to expect and what to do when shit happened. Today I know there is a point to following a marathon plan.

What I learned by running the Schwarzwald Marathon 2015 was that I could have finished it, and that only my fears and faulty conclusions stopped me. There was about 14 km left to tackle, and now that I know how far that is, it’s a surprise to think I wasn’t even prepared to knuckle down and get on with it.

The moral of the story is: when you run, don’t think, just run - and don’t stop until you get to the end. And if you have to stop running, then walk. Take a break, anything, just don’t stop unless there’s something physically wrong with you.

In other words, it doesn’t matter how you get to the end, as long as you get there.

The 10 km took me 1:13:00, which was slower than the first 10 km I did but it was not about the race, it was about having a fun run with my dear friend.

The marathon took me 3:18:00 to reach the 25 km mark after 4 km of walking. Not sure what time I had after 29 km as I didn’t have a watch or timer.

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