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 hard 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 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 definitely out of shape. It still wasn't clear if the marathon would happen in November 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 quite a bit. 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 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. The training I had missed due to the hike and injury made it difficult to predict 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 claimed to take about 3-4 minutes of my finish time.

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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, but 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 than during the 2019 edition. 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 that pace, but kept having a hard time slowing down. I ran the first half in a bit over 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 eventually finished in 3:04:17, more than 14 minutes faster than two years before.

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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 up and down stairs. Nonetheless, I don't think I could have gone any faster. Next year I hope to finally run a sub-3 hour marathon, likely in Chicago.