You can do allot in 48 hours. On Saturday I flew to the Danish capital for the 40th running of the city Marathon. It was a prize from last years international running challenge in Lanzarote. With entries for Berlin and Dublin later in the year, this was meant to be a warm-up marathon, just a run to gain a bit more experience over the distance. 

City aerial view over Copenhagen
City aerial view over Copenhagen, The Denmark. View from the bird’s flight

All last week I had been feeling a bit concerned that I wasn’t adequately prepared but kept thinking to myself how hard could it be? I ran out of steam just before halfway in the Terenure 5 mile and now in hindsight that was an indicator that I’m a bit burned out. You need to taper for a marathon or you’ll be found out.    

The flight from Dublin to Copenhagen on Saturday morning took a little over 2 hours. The city itself is only 15 minutes from the Airport by Metro. It’s a very quick door to door trip. Copenhagen deserves its reputation as the cultural capital of Northern Europe. A charming, company city where opulent palaces stand shoulder to shoulder modern architectural masterpieces and the self-proclaimed free-town of Christiania. Despite its regal past, the city remains a dynamic, modern city with much to offer. Is possible to see the majority of sites in 2-3 days, without running 42.2K.

City of Copenhagen lit up for Sportsworld

After checking into my pod-like hotel ‘WakeUp Copenhagen’ I went looking for the Expo and number collection. Not being a regular bus user since my college days It was a bit of an adventure travelling across the city on the A1 bus. At 3.30 PM I arrived at the correct bus stop. The Expo hall was pretty similar to Dublin, not too big and not too small. I picked up my grey race shirt courtesy of Nike and a nice white faux leather bag to put all my gear into. One nice feature at the Expo was a wall with the names of all 13000 runners. It took me a few minutes but I eventually found out that I was one of 3 Gareth’s taking part. Aside from a few gels I didn’t buy anything else at the expo. Denmark like all of Scandinavia is pretty expensive when compared to Dublin. 

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Expo entrance was easy to miss

Rather than get the bus back to the hotel I decided to walk back. A distance of around 5K in the sunshine with no cream on. This was the first foolish thing I did the day before the race but more on that later. The second was eating no lunch or breakfast and then feeling like I was starving. 

Back at the hotel, I had everything laid out, alarm set for 6.30 AM and was ready for bed at 10.30 PM on Saturday. Feeling pretty warm from the sun I was horsing the water and electrolytes into me. This was another bad idea as I actually drank too much, which kept me awake for half the night. 

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Wake Up Hotel

The alarm went off at 6.30 AM and after a quick bit of breakfast and a cold shower, I found myself walking the 1.5K to the start. The hotel I had was perfect for getting to the start. I’m someone who is always early. In this case, I was pointlessly early as all I did was start and sit around for another hour.

Pre warm-up

At 8.45 I started to do an easy jog and a few light strides. The actual start of the race was a bit weird. My watch said it was 9.20 yet the announcer insisted it was 9.30. I’d later find out that my Garmin was having a bit of a tantrum and telling me wrong pace numbers. The race had 13,000 entrants but it felt a lot smaller than Dublin.

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Started and finished in the same spot

You basically went to the area for the time you wanted to run with 3.00 hours being the fastest. I only went in at 9.25 and was able to get right up the front, just behind the elites. I should have gone a bit further back to force a slower staring pace
I wanted to run 2.36 or 2.37 so I decided to go out at 3.45 pace 2.38 and try to run faster in the 2nd half.

4K in to the race

After a couple of K of looking at my watch, I was getting a bit worried. What should be very easy was feeling fast. I backed off a bit and found myself running with a few guys from Sparta. A club I know well from all those trips to Lanzarote. By the time we got to the 5K, I was starting to get a bit panicky. There was just no bounce at all. In Dublin last October I was having chats and running a faster pace for 25K. Going through 5k in just over 18.15  it felt more like I had just run 16.15. I kept with that pace for another 3-4 K by which time the sun had come out and it was getting hot. With no water on board, I abandoned my sunnies at 9K as they were just too fogged up. 

At 10k the watch said 37 I made the call to back off again and just run at a comfortable pace. Unfortunately, 3.48s weren’t comfortable at all for the next 5k and I was starting to thing about walking back to the hotel. At 16k I passed my hotel and made the call to keep going and finish. It was around this part of the course that I started to get passed out. Every few minutes another lone runner or group would sail by. I would try and sit in to latch on but the legs had nothing to give. By the time I’d reached halfway, I’d probably lost 20 places. The halfway point came at 22.25 I on my watch which didn’t help at all. This 5k was probably the worst of the entire race, not the slowest but the toughest mentally. 

Nice views abounded

I started to take water and High 5 drinks onboard at every stop after this but the plastic cups made that difficult. At 25k I decided that I needed to stop at a few of the stations and actually drink. By this stage, my feet were hurting. Another mistake right there. I wore the same shoes ‘Adidas Sub 2.0’ that I’d worn for Dublin and raced in ever since. They were worn thin. Note to self ‘Wear almost new shoes next time’. 

I passed 5 of the elite runners. 3 men and 2 women around 30k. They were jogging it in. I always wonder if they need to finish to get paid? The next 18k was pretty painful. I can handle a tough last 10K  but not 28K. The original game plan was totally forgotten, this was survival moe thinking. Copenhagen is a city full of bikes. I was starting to feel the motion blur.

Girl on bike riding fast - motion blur
Girl on bike riding fast – motion blur

Starting to feel a bit light headed and constantly losing places the end seemed a long way away. Over the course of the final 10K, I saw my projected finish time go from 2.40 to 2.50, a crazy amount of time to lose, along with 50 places. It’s very tough when you slow to what is on any normal day a jog in the park. A pace I would run on a Sunday for 30K.

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The stylish good looking Danes know how to party

Once you get too far into the race you can’t stop and get your composure because you won’t get going again. The streets were lined with supporters the whole way. I lost count of the number of people that shouted my name, probably in the hundreds. The best-supported race I ever ran in Europe.  

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Much of the course was lined with supporters

When I reached 42.2K on my watch I’d just passed the 41k marker on the course.  The last 1.4K was probably the toughest of any race I’ve ever done. I was hurting in Dublin but it felt easier and I was chasing the clock. On Sunday I was trying to get over the line without walking or passing out.     The race finished with a 200m dash to get under 2.50 on the official race clock. A distance 43.68k on my watch. It took about 5 minutes to get my composure back. Dazed and confused,  I was a bit unsure if I’d taken a wrong turn or what? After speaking to some of the other runners they all had run allot further than expected. The true distance was in the low 43k range.  Hard to know when there is no line down the centre of the road. regardless of how things go, you do feel amazing after you get your breadth

Stumbling round the race finish area

The 22-24 degree temperatures for the last 2 hours of the race was quite literally, too hot to handle. I need to figure something out for Berlin as they also use cups and it will be hot. I also need a gel belt rather than carrying them, which always results in dropping a few. 

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The singlet I did my best to trade for

I walked back to the hotel after cheering on a few of the 3.30 runners coming in. In the afternoon after a quick detour to find my sunglasses, I spent my time touring the best spots in Copenhagen. I always find it hard to eat after a race so it was just liquids until dinner and a tasty red amber pale ale or two at 7PM.  

More election posters than Dublin

Overall it was a great experience in a fantastic city. The support was amazing, much better than Dublin. The course is flat but there is a lot of long drags. One plus is that the last 10K goes back over a section of the first 10, so you know what to expect. One gripe is that I don’t get the plastic cups. You need bottles for a marathon. Charge people extra to offset the damage to the environment if necessary. Cups are no use to anyone trying to run their fastest.

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Marathon course

If you are lucky to get an overcast day, it’s a PB course. They have a PB bell to ring for that. I didn’t hear it too much yesterday though. It was a bad end to the training block but I wasn’t too down, being happy with myself for finishing. Every marathon is a learning experience. Twice now I’ve jumped in unprepared and paid for the distance. The one positive here is that two years ago I was just breaking 3 hours, today a bad race was sub 2.50. My plan for a modest pace and last 10K burned up like myself, in warm the May Copenhagen sunshine. I’d love to go back next year and try again.

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A great city. Copenhagen!

Despite running better than I have done in years I’m not getting any PB’s. Something isn’t quite clicking or is missing. I now need to figure out what that thing is.  It’s a long long road to Berlin. There’s plenty of time to prepare. The next 6-7 weeks will be reduced mileage 80-100K week with two decent speed workouts.

Aside from the Dunshaughlin 10K in June, I don’t want to race anything over 5K until July. I’ll try to do the remaining Graded races and try to do the double again in the Leinster outdoors on June 2nd. I’m also going to India for two weeks in June which will be a nice forced break. 

As a type A obsessive runner I struggle with relaxing and taking a break but there comes a point in time when you know you have to.

I took the new Ron Hill Sportsworld club singlet for its first race and can report back that it’s the best one yet. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get any of the Danes to trade for one of theirs. I’ll try again in November.

Post race in a marathon you are left wishing everything could ever feel this real forever. Just don’t stop when your brain says when!

Tak for alt ( Thanks for everything)