The Dubai marathon is possibly the most boring marathon in the world. The course can’t even be described as a loop – you simply run along Jumeriah Beach Road for a couple of hours and then come back. And despite the name, you don’t see the beach from the Beach Road. In a city with quite a few impressive urban settings, the only landmark you get close to is the Burj Al-Arab hotel.
Still, a marathon is a marathon, and with guaranteed perfect weather, this is probably one of the easiest (and fastest) to do. I completed in a time of 4:12:41, and my splits throughout the whole course didn’t budge much from 6 min/km. I’m still trying to work out if that meant that I went too slow, but I don’t recall having much left in the tank when I finished, and mentally it was great not to fade, even if the last hour was tough. I didn’t knowingly hit a wall, so that seems like a good sign.
I’m not built like a long-distance runner and cross-country was my pet-hate at school. Still, for a while, I’ve wanted to challenge myself with a marathon. I applied for a place in the London marathon in 2003 as well as the following three years without success. I had been aiming to do a marathon come what may in 2004 but picked up a knee injury which stopped me running seriously for many years. I’m not sure I’ll run another marathon, unless running remains a big part of my life over the next few years. Maybe if I do well enough in half marathons and 10kms I’ll want a second shot. 4:12 is a decent time, even if it’d be great to run a sub-four hours.
I thought I’d share a few things that helped me achieve my goal:
– I’m sure there are lots of great books out there, but I used Owen Barder’s ‘Running for Fitness‘ as my guide book, which is available free here. I ended up buying it for Kindle, reading it several times, and then constantly referring back to it. It has specific advice, training programmes, and it also lays the groundwork in terms of nutrition, injuries and running theory. It helped me avoid beginners’ mistakes and be as prepared as possible for the race itself and what I was about to go through.
– A couple of months back a friend gave me a GPS running watch for my birthday, and it’s been an amazing tool. I don’t yet get the most out of the heart-rate monitor or really detailed analysis, but it’s great to see how far you have gone and at what pace. For training, instead of mapping out runs beforehand to get the required distance needed for that day, I could just head out with the watch, and follow my curiosity, knowing that my watch would let me know when I’d done the required distance.
Within the marathon itself, it made all the difference. I wanted to run a steady 6 min/km, so when I was at 5:50 I would ease off a bit, and at 6:10 put on a bit more power. It gives you a huge mental boost when you ease off a bit. Sometimes out of the blue you can be running at 5:40 without really realising it, and that could easily tire you out unless you have a way to track your speed. After the first 5km I was able to settle into a constant running rhythm, which I could keep going till the end.
– Finally, I think for marathons, the key thing is sticking to the training schedule come rain or shine, and just putting in the miles. In Dubai that’s easier than most places because the weather is usually encouraging. Training schedules are always set-up around building weekly mileage, with a constantly extending long weekend run, which only tails off three weeks from the end. What I liked about the Barder plan, was that three times I did the maximum training distance (32km) – running the distance, and then doing an easier recovery week and then coming back to 32km again a few weeks later. It made me feel that doing 32km was something I’d achieved regularly prior to the marathon.