A quote from my post last week ahead of the Mexico City Marathon;
“I’ll settle for anything under 3:25 but if the conditions are good and I’m feeling comfortable going into the last 10k, who knows.”
So, the question is, how did it actually go down on race day. First of all, the conditions were perfect. Overcast with a light spot of rain. And the crowds turned out in good numbers. The atmosphere was tremendous with virtually all of the 42+k lined with noisy spectators. People were cheering us on and handing out water as well as cola and sweets to boost the sugar levels. “Tu puedes”, ‘you can do it’ in Spanish, was the call of the day. The race numbers had the runners names printed on them so you’d also hear people calling out your name. I first got a taste for this type of reaction in my first Mexico City half marathon two years ago but this was nothing compared with Sunday. The Mexicans, like most Latin Americans, are mad for sport and the marathon seems to hold a particular place in their heart. And it was the Latin Americans who would win the day as Peruvians Raul Pacheco Mendoza and Gladys Tejeda won the men’s and lady’s competitions in 2:16:56 and a competition record of 2:37:34.
The start of the race was moved at the last minute from the Zocalo to the Almeda due to a teachers protest. This saved me five minutes walk in the morning but nonetheless I woke up late and missed breakfast. I reached the start just in time to hear the ladies race set off at 7:00 and grab a couple of bananas. The men’s race would start at 7:15. This gave me time to find my way to the end the first group of the staged start. As per usual in Mexico the staged start was a bit of a free-for-all since runners number tags were colour coded according to their age group but no-one was checking who joined which group. This suited me since I’m a few age groups back these days. About half the runners wore the pink and yellow race shirt. These actually looked quite smart despite the bold choice of colour. The colour was advertised as plumb but I’ve never seen a plumb that colour. Definitely pink in my eyes, but a nice quality running top none-the-less.
After the traditional verse of the Mexican national anthem the runners set-off with a lot of noise but not much movement. It took me just over two minutes to reach the start line but didn’t consider this too bad considering the sheer volume of runners taking part. The streets were quite narrow at the start but I resisted the temptation to weave and concentrated on holding a half decent racing line until the field thinned out a bit. After around three kilometres I was able to get down to the pace I hoped to hold throughout the race. Around the fourth kilometre we saw the leaders run past us in the opposite direction along Avenue de la Reforma. A cheer went up for the leaders then another for the leading Mexicans.
Up until the 5k I was running well but too fast. I also felt a slight ache in my legs that might have been a hangover from the last week’s half marathon. I reached the 5k at 21:44.09, definitely too fast but I was having difficulty pacing myself. If I fell away from my fast pace of 4:10 per k I would slip down past 4:45, which felt too slow. So, I decided to hold onto the fast pace rather than run at a speed that was uncomfortable. I knew my pace would eventually drop off but I hoped that I would have enough time saved up for a good finish. I held on until 10k (43:57.31) then 15k (1:06:23.33). At 20k in the Park of Chapultapec my pace started to drop a bit and I took some sugar and fluids. At this point I was looking good for a Boston qualifying time. But I could feel the fatigue setting in and I began to slow down. By the time I passed the Angel de la Independencia the second time on the Avenue de la Reforma at 26k I was starting to tire and realised that the dream of Boston qualification was over, at least for this year.
Snaking through the side-streets down toward the final long straight of Avenue Insurgentes and the last 5k I tried to pick myself up by taking a gel pack and then some cola, but nothing could stop the fatigue in my legs. Avenue Insurgentes, where we merged with the half marathon race, was agony. The 38th k was the low point completed in a dreadful 7 minutes and 6 seconds. I really needed to dig deep to get going again and was able to pick it up for the last 4k to manage what at least felt like a final sprint toward the stadium and over the line with a chip time of 3:32:32. So, I didn’t manage to get under 3:25 and the last 10k were anything but comfortable, but at least I finished, and I have to say it was a great experience. Even when I was reduced to a hobble, slurping from a bag of cola and cursing my swollen legs, I could feel the energy and determination from the runners around me. In the end it was this great surge of humanity that drove me on.
After finishing I received a cotton finishers shirt and a stylish finishers medal. They also handed out ice and I really felt the benefit rubbing it onto my swollen legs. It ended up being a long trek back to the hotel at Avenue del Salvador. It had been my worst marathon time ever but I wasn’t too disappointed since I managed to finish and finish running. I always like to push myself to go faster but when you push yourself too hard your have to face the consequences. The marathon is a difficult distance and some days just finishing is enough. It’s days like this I feel I should be thankful that I can run at all. So, it’s all thanks to our friends, family, supporters on race day and all the guys that make sacrifices and work hard to keep the sport going.
See you at the next race!!