2021 New York City Marathon - 42.195 km
After finishing the NYC marathon in 2019, I continued training throughout the winter. I was looking forward to the 2020 edition, but then COVID hit. All the races got cancelled for at least the rest of 2020. I still continued training until June, but then lost motivation. Training alone in the scorching heat with no races for months to come was too much. Mentally, I was also just a bit done with all the running. During the winter of 2020-2021 I cycled occasionally, but by March I had not run for at least 5 months and was out of shape. It still wasn't clear if the marathon would happen in late 2021, but I would have to start training if I wanted to finish in a good time.

I started working out 6 days a week. Luckily, after doing this for 3.5 months the 2021 marathon got confirmed. With another 4 months to go I started following an intense training program, also with 6 runs per week. It predicted a finish time of 3:02. The first two months of the program were tough but went pretty well. When the intensity of my training really started to pick up (~80 km per week including an interval training, tempo run, and 35 km long run) I gradually started to get injuries and felt a bit overtrained. Luckily, Diane and I were planning a hike in the Cascades, which would provide some cross training and perhaps allow me to recover a bit. You can read about our trip here.

Near the end of our hike, I unfortunately injured a tendon in my hip. Although I still went running a few times after we returned it became clear my injury was quite severe. I had already missed two weeks of training because of the hike and now had to take even more time off. After a 3 day break I didn't feel any better and with 6 weeks to go until the race I wasn't sure if I could even start. I hadn't used any medication in over 25 years, but decided to take ibuprofen. That reduced the pain by a good amount. I carefully continued my training program while taking ibuprofen before every run. This was a bit risky as I could increase the injury without fully noticing it, but I managed to complete about 90% of the remaining 2 months of my program and substituted some of the remainder rest by cycling.

A few weeks before the race I was in very good shape, but hadn't run a race in almost two years. Together with the training I had missed due to the hike and injury, I didn't have a good idea of how fast I could go. I figured I would be at least 5 minutes slower than my program indicated (i.e., a finish time of around 3:07). To compensate somewhat, I bought the Nike Vaporfly Next% 2 shoes which should make me 3-4 minutes faster.

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Just as in my 2019 race I felt miserable during my 2 week taper. I couldn't run fast and was continuously tired and hungry. During the 1.5 month before the race I had been eating double lunches and dinners and had still lost weight. The day before the marathon my injury still hadn't fully healed and I had milt shin splints, luckily both hurt less in my new shoes. I decided to take some ibuprofen before/during the race and hope for the best.

On race day I was much better prepared than last time, with even more warm clothes and food. There were also even more friends cheering me on this time. After the start I tried to go slowly but just couldn't. I ran the first 8 miles at a pace for a 3:02 finish time even though I had planned to run a negative split. I expected to crash at mile 18 at this pace, but kept having a hard time slowing down. I ran the first half in about 1:31:30.

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Fortunately, I did a good job at pacing myself over the steep bridges and drank and ate well. As a result, I still felt strong after the first 2 hours. To my own surprise, I only started to get tired at mile 22. This quickly got worse, but I knew I could finish in a good time. I pushed myself to my limits and finished in 3:04:17.

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During my previous marathon I could barely walk after I finished, but now I still felt pretty good even when walking stairs. Nonetheless, I don't think I could have gone any faster. Next year I hope to finally run a sub-3 hour marathon.I am aiming for a flatter course, preferably Berlin.