Friday, 20 April 2007

Rotterdam Marathon

Here's Peter's report from Rotterdam:

"It was a memorable day for all the wrong reasons. Typical press reports headline "Heat cuts Rotterdam marathon short". That report in English states that of the 7,800 participants, just over 4,200 finished the race and that the remaining 3,600 were unable to cross the line either because of the heat or the decision to stop the race early, after 3.5 hours. All participants still on the route were advised to walk the remaining distance and vans were available to pick up people unable to continue. I heard and understood the announcement at around the 39 km point but couldn't be certain it was genuine and anyway my chip set the 40km mat buzzing so why not continue running at the reduced speed I had had to run at after my right calf started to cramp around 28 kms? I passed loads of walking runners in those last few kilometers.

I saw none of the 30 runners taken to hospital many with symptoms of dehydration. 17 were admitted for further treatment and 2 runners who collapsed were successfully resuscitated, acccording to

I had ambled the short distance from my hotel to the start about 40 minutes before the canon was due to be fired. I was up and raring to make this the race of my lifetime. I had drunk litres of Lucozade Sport and had brought my normal pre-race breakfast from England, so it was just another raceday for me without the hassle of the drive or the familiar tracks on the cd player. I declined the extra bottle of water offerd by the organisers as I had a small bottle with me which I discarded shortly before the off.

My worry in the opening minutes was whether I could survive without the lu-stop which had delayed me after the start in London last year. I crossed the line 1:57 minutes after the Mayor fired the canon and was soon on the Erasmus Bridge were I saw Lisa and later the Pain brothers, Emma and Rachel. I started to increase speed and cheerily told Chris Hall of Dorking and Mole Valley that I would have have to leave him on his 3:30 pace as I was going for 3:15! I also plugged the Bewl 15 at the same time!

Between the 5km and 10km splits I was just 6 seconds off my planned marathon pace for 3:15. but I had had just one 200ml drink of Extran at the 5km drinks station and I was starting to thirst in the wide bright expanses of unshaded tarmac. At 10 km I thought the promised "showers" which I had never intended to use had been set up in a petrol station and veered off the road towards it only to backtrack across the grass when I realised it was a relay station for one of the subsidiary races!

I saw my band of supporters again and thought I was on track, but in fact I was slipping. I was fooled because my 3:15 paceband had slipped and the 3:30 band was showing. I thought I was on time at the half marathon point as well, but after then I had to start walking through the drinks stations so I could take on 2 to 3 cups of water and 2 cups of Extran as well as pour water over my head in an effort to cool down. In addition to the gels taken before the start, I was consuming all the 8 SIS gels I took with me.

I was unaware that in fact my heart rate had risen to unsustainable levels. It is incredible that levels reached at the end of my 42 min Chichester 10k were reached after the 48 min first 10 km section at Rotterdam. I was keeping going and comfortable but gradually losing speed when at around 28km I was back on the Erasmus Bridge and I saw my band of supporters again. Instinctively I sped up and at the same time the cramp which dominated the next 14 kms seized my right calf..

I continued to run but I could not get up to a decent speed again. As soon as I went above a certain speed the right calf started to cramp. It was even triggered by cold water falling on it! There was a nice shaded section which relieved the intensity of the sun for a while, but then I was out in the open again. At one point the cramp made me stop to stretch the muscle and it was shortly after this that the announcement was made that the race was stopped. How pleased was I to run past all those walking runners? Pleased as it turned out not to be wasting my 16 weeks of training and pbs attained at 10km, 10mile, Half Marathon and 20 mile distances in my marathon training, but I had never suffered from this cramp before.

The race still seemed to be on as the finish clock came into view. The disappointment was to be expected. I had finished in 1,259th place with a gun to finish time of 3:54:02 and a chip time of 3:52:25, some 14 minutes slower than London last year. But I had made it when many didn't after they had been threatend that they were risking their health by continuing. Chris Hall finished with a chip time of 3:38:57. I was told that even the Runners World Pacers couldn't make their times.

The experience makes me more determined than ever to succeed and proves that you can prepare as well as you possibly can but the conditions on the day are totally out of your control.

My thanks go to Lisa, Mike, Emma, Andy, Rachel and the the "Clappy Thing" for their most welcome support.



Michael said...

Well done Peter for finishing it! Although I have never been one to waste a chance to do a bit of sunbathing doing this while running a marathon is not to be advised! Sounds like you did exceptionally well just to finish and to avoid the first aid tent for dehydration.

Great report as well - felt as if I was there! If you ever fance a career change I think Runner's World would take you on in a flash.

Enjoy the rest even though you have probably already been out for more training ready for the next one :-)

We will give you a wave on Sunday and here's hoping for slightly cooler weather although 23 degrees is already forecast so I am off to find some factor 10.

Well done again, Michael

Peter said...

Thanks, Michael. I have got some factor 50 if you want it. I used it at Rotterdam (left over from skiing). Good luck on Sunday.

Incidently the 1259th place in the report came from the Dutch Newspaper results and that was only in the men's race. The actual official result puts me at 1361st out of 4337 finishers and 123rd out of 474 in my category with a speed of 10.893 kph! There is even a graph showing my declining speeds and an orange runner on a spot which indicates where you came compared with everyone else.

Peter Burfoot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Burfoot said...

With the certificate came a magazine "Looking back on the Fortis Marathon Rotterdam". It says that the race was "extremely hard" and that "on the day of the marathon a maximum temperature was registered by the Royal Dutch Meteorological Institute of no less than 28.9C". The numbers of runners dropping out increased with the steadily rising temparature which resulted in the decision to "neutralise" the marathon on medical grounds. In fact if you look up the RDMI records for 15th April you will see that the temperature of 28.9C was recorded in de Wilt whereas the maximum recorded in Rotterdam by the RDMI that day was 27.1C! What is the the definition of Spin?