My third time back to Eindhoven, where I’d scraped my sub-4 time last year and nearly been lapped by the great Geoffrey Mutai the year before. This year the course had been changed to make it, allegedly, even faster (given that this is a typical Dutch town and flat as flat can be…!….). But as I read local newspapers I found out that the original race director had allegedly resigned over this, saying they were taking the marathon out of the heart of the town. Hmmm. I had already been disappointed to hear that now only the elite runners could have their own sports drinks put out along the route (in previous years anyone could, and your drink would be handed to you as you ran past! Now there was service!). Oh well.
The start had been moved a bit out of the town centre and didn’t have quite the same atmosphere. As we headed out along the changed route which included long stretches of dual carriageway with a large dip to go under another main road and deserted stretches of ring road, I was still able to keep up with the sub-4hr pacers. Big mistake. I’ve always done best when I’ve run my own race and aimed for negative splits. The pacing was a little erratic, nothing major but enough to throw me off.
The old course took you all through the town centre at half way – the support would be tremendous at this point, like being a Tour de France rider and I’m not exaggerating. This year we skirted the centre at 13 miles and I missed the extra lift from the spectators, I must admit, although the changed route meant we were lapped by the lead group which was quite spectacular to see (2:05 pace!).
Although I was not having any problems from carrying all of my gels stuffed down my sports bra (not glamorous, but effective) and I didn’t lose much time from walking a few steps to wash them down with cups of water, this was not working as well as the old gel+own sport drink combo of years past. My stomach started to hurt at about 30-33k. At this point I was still more or less on pace for four hours but I was feeling worse. The question arose – how much did I want this? Why did I want this? Unfortunately the demon on my shoulder said, “Sure it would get you a better start pen for Comrades, but much good Pen D did you last year!” and the angel on the other shoulder seemed to have gone off to the town centre for a beer. Major failure to zip up the man suit!
So the decision was reached – just to enjoy the last section of the race (there was a lot of shameless crowd milking as we finally wound our way through the town centre!), rather than (probably) still miss the 4h goal but feel rubbish as well! The eventual time was 4:04:15 (996/1278 overall, 24/42 in fv45 cat). The upside was that 2 years ago I finished in 4:05 and it was the hardest thing I’d ever done – this year I freely admit to slacking off in the final stages, but I was still quicker even so. Not all bad, then!