I knew from the outset that 2 marathons 4 weeks apart was not a clever idea. There was the worry that I would not have recovered enough from Connemara, but I still needed to be running long for Krakow! I took it easy the first week after Connemara and then went back to doing speed work and did a 16 miler the following week. I then tried to taper again.I had never been to Krakow, I had never been to Poland, so I was excited about the marathon and this new city.
We flew from Dublin on Friday (2 days before the race), plenty of time to relax. We had booked the Sheraton in Krakow right on the Wisla river. The day before the marathon is all about registration, hydration and relaxation. So after breakfast Dervilla, Ann (a friend from Cork) and I headed out to pick up the race numbers. Another friend, Kenneth was to arrive late on Saturday so we picked up his number. The registration process was quick and there was no expo so to speak. We had the rest of the day to sightsee, but not too much!
Sunday dawned wet and miserable! I never like to start a marathon in the rain, but today I had no choice. After a big bowl of porridge (we brought it with us) we had a taxi booked for 8.15am to take us to the race start. The race was due to start at 9.30am so we had plenty of time for the last minute obsessions like going to the toilet, are my laces tied to tight? Redo them again! More Vaseline! More deep heat! Redo laces again! Stop drinking the water!
Standing on the start line I remember having 2 thoughts, the first was that the announcements over the tannay could be important (they were all in Polish) and the second was that this was a very male dominated field! The gun fired and finally we were off.
The first 2 miles involved a loop around the park (missed that announcement) then past the start again before heading into the city. I totally enjoyed the next 4 miles, which involved a loop around the main square in Krakow, the buildings were magnificent. The race then made its way down along the banks of the Wisla river before we headed out into the suburbs of Krakow. The rain continued and at times, with an uneven road surface and large puddles of water, the running was not comfortable. The route was an out and back route so I got to see the in-line skating race pass me and then the marathon leaders.
I was delighted to see the leaders as I rarely do get to see them in a marathon. The halfway mark is always a significant point in a marathon. At 13.1 miles I was at 2 hours 3 minutes. I was feeling great. In the back of my mind was Val, you need to step up a bit if your want to break the 4 hours but there was still time enough....We headed back along the main road again and on to the banks of the Wisla river, rain still pouring down. At 18 miles I remember thinking, God I feel mighty!
Not long after I passed our hotel, now that was hard but I had a marathon to finish. I picked up my pace at 22.5 miles but it was a little too late. Back to the park again, the end was in sight. I joined in with the flow of runners on the home stretch. There were a lot of runners to be seen now. Was there another race finishing at the same time as the marathon? (Often happens). Anyway my end was in sight. On the run to the finish line my GPS was not reading 26 miles but 24 miles. What the ?, I sprinted to the line with 24 miles on my watch and 3.46 on the official clock.
I stood on the finish mat and started shouting in English that there was only 24 miles on my watch. I kept shouting until an official came to me and told me that we had to run another lap of the park (missed that announcement too). I started the watch and started running with the official running behind me shouting in Polish to clear a path, (I think that was what he was shouting) he put me on an outer road and I was off again. I got in step with a Polish man, after an initial few words which involved me saying I didn’t speak Polish, it was unspoken agreement that we were going to help each other to the finish. My second finish!
He did say at the 4 hour mark, “ 4 hours gone” Long run up to the line again and my Polish friend and I even attempted a sprint off. He had more in the tank than me but said “no after you”. So my Polish buddy and I crossed the line hand in hand, me for the second time but this time with 26.2 miles on the watch. The time was 4.05.
Big lessons that I learnt from the Krakow marathon was : 1. I didn’t take the race on earlier when I was feeling great. 2. The GPS watch is the single best piece of kit that I own. And 3. I always meet incredible people on my journey to the finish. What was also amazing was that out of our party of four, three of us had a double marathon finish. I have decided that I better brush up on my German before the Berlin marathon.
BRING IT ON!!