Running a marathon is always a challenge. No matter if it's your first or if you are already experienced with it. It is a challenge for a lot of ultramarathoners, too. I haven't run an ultra yet, to tell you my real point of view, but the difficulty comes always from the way you treat and prepare each type of race.
Let me start with this simple example: people who know that I already run marathons think that participating in a 10 km race it's piece of cake for me. Well, it's not! The 10 km are a real pain in the ass (and not only!), because I always try to push the limits and to challenge my personal best. Do you think running 100m at top speed is easy? Try it and tell me how fast it was! World class athletes can do that under 10 seconds and they are surely not as fresh as ice when they reach the finish line ;)
The Marathon is for me the big challenge as an amateur runner. I am aware that without a proper training plan things may go wrong. Being able to run 5km at a pace around 4 min/km is fine, but continuing this way for 10, 20, 40 km is not possible, if the body and mind are not in shape to do it.
Usually I start my races with good energy and the desired pace, which I try to keep as long as possible. At some point I lose my pace and energy for 500 m or more, but after that I regain it and recuperate the lost time. Later on, I can feel the fatigue coming up. Depending on how motivated I am to go on, I force myself to keep the pace or I slow down in order to conserve my energy for the remaining distance until I cross the finish line. Of course, for the last 500 m or more I always try to increase the pace and finish with a sprint. Well, this time it was different.
I ran the Vienna City Marathon on the 13th of April with high hopes. My last plain marathon was 2 years ago at Barcelona, when I finished under 3h30'. I knew that there was a lot of space for improvement. I won't bother you with all the details. Let me just say that during the race I had stomach problems after 11 km, which made me take a stop at a toilette. After that, the leg aches started and later on groin pains and calf muscle cramps joint the pain. I stopped several times and decreased my pace considerably, at some point being able to run with just one foot. Of course, the cause was improper training and maybe some bad nutrition choices the days before. The interesting thing in this common marathon story is that I didn't feel tired in breathing and keeping a certain pace. It was just that my body and especially my legs didn't keep up with me. In other words, The Wall hit me in some way every 10 km!
I finished the race in 3h50'. At some point after the 30 km I felt that I was going for a Personal Worst (instead of a Personal Best)!! It did not happen. My PW still stands still at 3h58'. Now I am starting to wonder how it feels to run a marathon in more than 5 hours. I think it's harder, because you may feel that the marathon never comes to an end. You know it ends at 42.2 km, but when will you cross that finish line? Can your body resist or you may at any time stop and abandon the race? If one leg does not want to run anymore, can you still finish the race?
Now some words about the Vienna City Marathon: the Austrian National Anthem and The Donau Walzer at the start of the race, 41000+ participants at marathon, half marathon and relay, a little rainy, temperature about 13 C (perfect for a marathon), cool medal in star shape, enough refreshment points, beautiful castles and buildings, a lot of people and supporters on the route... music too! Not to forget: Erdinger alcohol-free beer at the end of the race! It is really a wonderful race, very well organised in an unique city (the #1 in world according to some studies)!!
I definitely recommend you to come and run here in 2015! I may be participating again in one of the races, so let me know! ;)