Why is it necessary to take diarrhea pills before the race? Why not only sneakers make you a marathon runner? Why do people need to patch their nipples? Why do marathon runners wear cellophane bags? And why did I become so addicted to running?

How did it all begin? Everything began with a jumping Skype icon. A message from my friend (thank you, Kostya) that contained a link to an Ironman report.

http://www.trilife.ru/reports/report.php?id=2247

After reading the report (thank you, Fyodor, for it), I read it once again. Then other reports from TriLife, then on other websites. I was reading for the whole week. And thinking. Thinking about why was I reading all of these posts, why did they catch my attention? I didn’t find an answer to this question then, but I realized the most important thing – I wanted to become an Ironman. Because this is unreal and it seems unattainable. I love such challenges. And here we go…

Preparation

For the beginning, I decided to start running. And run a marathon. I took my old sneakers, found a T-shirt and went to the gym to find a treadmill. This is, by the way, my first training. One week later, my soles were falling apart and my knees were cracking. Therefore, I decided to buy a pair of sneakers. The coolest sneakers in the world that would take me to my goal. It sounds cool, but after the acquisition of my 9th pair of Asics, Newtons, and Adidas, after Asics foot ID, after reading tones of literature on types of sneakers, supination (a have a flat foot), amortization, stabilization, sizes UK US EU JPN, types: 2-4 for highways, for trails, for winter, for speed, for distance, for triathlon, for laying on the couch, after the purchase of insanely expensive orthopedic insoles and throwing them to the trash, I understood that it’s not the sneakers that make you a marathoner. Therefore, I stopped on a pair of Asics: Kayano 19 for trainings and Racer 7 for competitions. At that moment, my knees were not hurting anymore, and intelligent people advised me to go out to run. I found a trainer and we started running. By the way, I was very lucky with the trainer – he not only advised me how to run, he ran with me at my pace, which for him was equivalent to walking (thank you, Liviu, for your patience).

Two months later I ran my first competition race with the cops – 5 km cross. Came second to last and fell down (pulse 200 against a theoretical 180 for my age group). The next half of the day I was sure I would never run again. By the way, this race still remains the most difficult experience in my short sports career.

Following came the 10 km race, after which I managed 20 km. Then 26. Then the race at a temperature of minus 20 in Orenburg. Then 33 km on hills in Dubasari. Then the half marathon in Barcelona. After that were some trainings: hard and easy, cold and long, recovering, fast and unusual.

I know firsthand what a running injury (soles, periosteum, blisters) means, overtraining (laid in bed for one week hating running), hypoglycemia at 30th km and other charms of running. Despite all of these, I realized I like running. And I shall tell you about this.

Long story short, I ran already 1200 km on the roads of Chisinau, Orenburg, Munich, Barcelona, Moscow, Andorra and other small populated localities.

Goals

Ok, done with the lyrics, let’s move to real things. My goal number one – to run the marathon in less than 4 hours. Furthermore, I also have to swim 7 km, bike 200 km and try to complete the half Ironman this year. I have chosen the Paris marathon – flat, beautiful, good organization and I just want to go to Paris. So, let’s do it!

Registration

Registration to a marathon usually happens like this: you pay the participation fee in advance via Internet (around 100 euro), come where they say, show them your medical certificate that confirms that some doctor in the distant Moldova promises you’d complete the marathon and won’t try to die somewhere on the Champs-Elysee. In exchange you get a kit with your starting number, a chip (to trace you on the track), different souvenirs, T-shirts and a load of leaflets. Congratulations – you’re almost a marathoner!

The only thing left is to come and run.

After the registration, you enter a huge hall where you can find running related stuff – sneakers, clothing, food, devices and so on. Eyes run faster than money. Therefore, don’t take much of them with you. It’s dangerous :)

Race

Woke up at 6. Feeling as cool as a cucumber, I had a huge baguette with jam, washed that down with tea, put band-aids on problem areas on my legs and boobs (to avoid friction), took a pill for

diarrhea (had a related unpleasant experience), Spasmalgon in case of spasms, put on the pulse sensor and pulled on the numbered T-shirt. And, together with my wife and friends, went out to the streets. The temperature outside is 9 Celsius. Marvelous. At least it’s sunny, and there are people with plastic coverings running around. A sort of cellophane jackets given out to runners, so they don’t get cold on their way to the start point. And we moved on the Champs-Élysées.

9-1-1On our way, I relieved myself on a beautiful Parisian building, and so did most of the runners – 40 000 people in need is not a joke. Warmed up a bit, found my wave and waited for the start. A wave is a group of wimps like you, who dream of running the marathon in 4:00 hours – there were around 10 000 people in my wave. There are also 5:00 and  3:15 waves. But I’ve chosen the 4:00 and regretted it afterwards. I’m surrounded by thousands of runners, everybody’s shivering of cold, music plays loud, the sun is shining – in short, a fantastic mood. And, start! For some reason, we’re still standing. We stood there other 40 minutes. Because the first to go are the faster runners, then those who are slower and so on. In short, our wave crossed the start line after almost one hour. And on we went!

0-5 km

I want to run fast, but I shouldn’t. I decided to run the first five at 5:20, to warm up. I was surprised by the runners who were breathing like tired horses on the 5th kilometer– what will happen to them next…

5-15 km

Here I first started feeling something was wrong – I had to surpass many people to keep my pace. Overrunning others means, first of all, running in zigzags, which are additional meters, and second of all, a jump in speed, which is bad, because during acceleration lactic acid accumulates in muscles. I did not feel the consequences yet, but I suppose they will follow. At the 15th km I ate my first gel. After learning from my 33 km trainings, I start having my gels beforehand, and don’t wait to feel hungry. I see blind runners who run after their guides, linked to them with ropes.

I hear shouting from the sidewalk, and one of my neighbors runs to his family which is supporting him on the sidewalk, and takes one of the babies on his shoulders, the other one follows him on the bike. So they run for 500 meters, nice.

15-30 km

I’m overrunning more and more runners; however my pace is still falling. I realize I went to the wrong wave and now I’m “swimming” against the tide, which is slowing me. I curse to myself when I see my pace, and can’t do anything to increase it. A lot of people are already simply walking.

I go into a long underground tunnel with lights – a surreal image – several thousands of people running shoulder to shoulder in almost full darkness, the atmosphere is complimented by the echo of thousands and thousands steps and enthusiastic shouts, while ahead there is a swaying sea of raised hands.

I will probably never forget this image. Wow, a group of runners is running, one of them wearing an Eiffel Tower costume. It rises 2 meters above the crowd. How on earth do they manage to run? I’m having another gel – gross stuff, too sweet, acerbic. Where is the water?

30-35 km

And here is his majesty – Lactic Acid in the muscles. Legs start to stifle, and I can feel each step. I’m still overrunning hundreds of people, many of them are walking, some are sitting on the sidewalks; I can even see a man puking. Speed continues to fall; I’ll be out of the 4 hours, however with such a pulse rate (160-165) I could run faster.

At the 30th km I’m having my last gel tube, and realize I’m not hungry and that I’ll make to finish – this is good. I overrun the pacemaker with the 4:00 balloon. Next to me running is a Spartacus gladiator with the Italian flag.

35-42 km

No wonder they say a marathon starts after the 30th kilometer. Shins are like stone, every step – pain, but I continue to run and overrun entire groups of people (later I found that I’ve overrun 5800 people or 25 people every minute). Most of the people are walking. Kilometers become significantly longer – approximately twice longer. I start smiling and this helps cope with the load. But where is the finish? Yeah, there it is – the 40 mark! Perfect, let’s slowly accelerate! It seemed to me like I accelerated, but later I saw I just kept the same pace, although the heart rate started to rise. Orchestras are thundering around – Go! Go! Walking people start to run; they are being supported with claps.

And here’s the finish – the last push, smile, camera clicks and ta-dam – the finish! I walk for some 50 meters, volunteers put the medal on my neck, a blue cape and we are treated fruits. My face – covered with a rough salt crust – is smiling. The sun is shining bright, there are hundreds of happy people around, I have an orange in my mouth, and meanwhile I put a tick in my mind – marathon done! What can be better?

Then followed hugs from my beloved, respects from my friends, greasy sausages and wine, and a walk in Paris. And the following day I went and got myself a fuc… great Orca wetsuit. As they say, who did a good run, deserves a dessert!

Results

Distance: 42 195 m

Time: 3:45:34

Average pace: 5:20 (11.2 km/h)

Average pulse: 162

Pulse charge: 853

Calories: 2618

Place in the overall ranking: 11 207

Overrun on the track: 5800 people (25 people per minute)

Was faster than: 28 893 people (72%)

Link to itinerary, pace and pulse: devices

Mistakes

One mistake that has cost me approximately 10 minutes – choosing a wrong starting wave. First – ALWAYS choose a wave that is minimum half an hour faster than your expended time. This will help you finish faster than your plan. And second – after the marathon DO NOT eat a kilo of sweets. Even if they remind you of childhood.

What’s next?

So, what’s next? Next I have to swim over the Bosphorus in July, and should do it fast. Therefore, I’m starting to actively attend the swimming pool and start swimming in open waters in our remarkably clean reservoirs. And, I should probably learn how to ride a bicycle, because it’s a bit strange for an ironman to not know how to ride a bike.

Useful links

Official Paris Marathon site

Itinerary Map

3D Map

Results

P.S.

I promised to tell you why I like running. It’s simply: because when I’m running I feel like a five year old child, who is having a dream that he is flying over the land. And there is nothing else I can compare this feeling to …

Photos