I decided that I would like to do a mid-winter marathon too late to apply for the major races, which left me with few choices. Senshu Marathon is a medium-sized race (5,000 runners) and is near enough Kyoto to spend a couple of days there to do some sightseeing. The race location is uninspiring: you run from a park along one part of a bland coastline to a car park beneath an access road to Kansai Airport further down the same coastline. The course starts off northwards for 3 km, then does a U-turn and heads southwards for the next 34 km on mostly flat, straight road which undulates slightly through one strip of shops after another. At the southernmost point, it crosses two high bridges, does a U-turn, and recrosses the bridges to the finish. Despite the location, there were enthusiastic supporters along most of the route, some drum and music groups, as well as a few food stalls representing each ward at the finish area.
My target time was 3:05 so I set my Garmin for 4:23 splits and kept to that pace until the 33 km mark. I was in a group for the first 20 km, but it started to drop its pace very gradually, so I moved on to the next group and then the next. At 25 km I was feeling good and was doing 4:20 to 4:23 splits which I kept until 33 km. My plan fell apart when I hit the first bridge. It rises only 18 metres in elevation but might just have well have been a huge mountain. My next split was 5:00 and after that I couldn’t get back into my rhythm.
At the top of the fourth and final bridge crossing – just 2 km from the finish – I realised I was about to hit the wall. My head went light, and my body suffered the familiar wobbles, but I had enough presence of mind to get out my last gel. I took a couple of sucks, and recovered on the downhill. I was in survival mode for the last kilometre but still felt a little disappointed that I had dropped so far off my pace in the last few kilometres. 3:08:13 is a new PB, but it is only 2 minutes faster than Kyoto which is much hillier. Perhaps the fact that the bridges came right at the end makes them a bigger factor, or their steepness is the problem. The wind might also have been a factor. Although it wasn’t strong, it wasn’t insignificant either. Flags were fluttering towards us for most of the race which must have had an effect. Whatever the causes, I have faded in all 4 marathons I have entered, so I need to find a way to finish strongly. Alternatively, I could plan for my fade by starting at a 4:20 pace to allow for a bit of fade. The problem is I don’t do enough marathons to experiment with different strategies.
After the race, Miki and I went to Kuromon Ichiba Market in Osaka which is a great place for post-race food and drink. We walked through the old covered arcades tasting takoyaki, seafood-filled miso soup, and barbecued shellfish, all washed down with energy-restoring beer.
Start: 10:30 a.m.
Weather: sunny, 3-4 m/s southerly wind (mostly headwind); 4C at start; 8C at finish
Racewear: Shorts, long-sleeve top, thin long-sleeve thermal – I was a bit too warm
Nutrition: 4 x Powerbar Ume gels
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