The Race Is On. #1: Vienna City Marathon

Exploring my environs while raising skills/capabilities is the rather more important (not-quite-)everyday reason for my running, but – at least this year – races bring some rhythm to that steady beat.

Last Sunday’s Vienna City Marathon started this year’s set of running events.

First things first: My time was … enjoyable and well-spent, quickly passed and yet full of impressions. And especially so because this run already went with some experimentation.

“Barefoot”

Race attire was rather the usual: trusty, if new, CW-X Revolution tights (no compression socks for me, but rather the full “support web” ;) ) and a Mammut PowerDry top I’ve had for a while.

Vienna City Marathon, 1 hour before the start

For shoes, however, I did – after quite some deliberation – decide to run in the minimalist/”barefoot” Merrell Embark Gloves, after all.

Zero-drop, no cushion… it wasn’t entirely clear if that would work out well, but after having used shoes of that series all the time since last fall, I didn’t want to get back to more-standard running shoes. People I talked to fell into different camps just like that, with some saying it would not likely be a good idea, others loving the idea, some convinced of “barefoot” shoes, others having tried them and run into problems…

Well, my legs got sore the way they would anyways, one blister developed as it would in any shoes, one area at the ball of my right foot got rubbed loose unexpectedly, but did not get really problematic. Chances are, I’ll continue to use such shoes during the other events…

Contributing to Medical Science

Something like experimentation also applied in another respect, because I’d asked for a doctor’s clearance for the race (having just been getting over a cold), and then decided to also join in the medical study that team was doing. Results are yet to come in, but they will come.

Already, it was quite interesting to see skin surface temperature readings after the marathon: at the forehead and around the stomach, they were normal (~36C), on the upper arm, more like 30C … and my hands only read 24C (palm) and 20C (back). Yeah, it was rather cool and windy…

My heart rate went rather high, but as usual, without any other indication of any problems – and the Suunto Ambit performed flawlessly in delivering all the data. Not just current heart rate readings, also the graph of recent heart rate, time and distance, laps at each kilometer point… More on that to come in a first review, though.

Through the City

Running through Vienna on the roads was quite fun – and it’s even more fun now to come past some points and remember that, not so long ago, I had been running on just that road which is now, once again, heavily populated by cars…

Ca. km 23, four days later…

The race was a very mixed bag of impressions, nonetheless.

The organization was not too bad, but the starting blocks were really mixed (people just went into the block for whichever time they thought they’d like to run, and those running the marathon, the half-marathon, and the relay version were all starting together) and the first 20 km were quite an obstacle for it. Some people were going fast, some people were going slow, and it took quite some weaving around others, making it even more difficult than it can, anyways, be to find your own pace.

(Not incidentally, my fastest 5 km were those from 20 to 25 km, finally having gotten rid of the half-marathon crowd.)

On the first kilometer of the Vienna City Marathon

The refreshment stations were also not stocked too well: water, then also Powerade, later on also bananas, and some Coca-Cola towards the very end.

And the plastic cups! I had noticed the praise that was heaped on the unit of the Vienna city administration that is responsible for keeping the city clean – and getting the roads cleaned after the marathon – but I’d totally forgotten just how much trash such a big crowd would produce. After the aid stations, it was like running through a veritable minefield of plastic cups, drifting over the road worse than the snow did before.

Methinks that, too, is a reason to prefer smaller trail events, and to bring one’s own running pack of water and nutrition, with your own water reservoir/cup/whatever. Better to have some additional exertion and slower times, but show greater care for the places we run in!

On the Wienzeile road, headed towards Schönbrunn

Views and Impressions, Good and Bad

Impressions of Vienna one gets on the run are still nice, and it’s something different to be running in such a large crowd. Something that makes running appear less extraordinary, rather as it should be, but also shows yet more problematic sides.

I loved the diversity of people who joined in – but not so much when an ambulance had to push its way through the crowds every 10 km, lights flashing, sirens blaring, to get to someone who had collapsed. At km 32, I even came past a man who was getting CPR, lying on the ground next to what looked to be his young teenage son who was on the phone, calling for an ambulance , clearly shocked… It was a good reason to listen to the heart rate again and walk for a bit!

Not so few people, unfortunately, gave the impression that they could profit a lot more from conscious eating and daily walks – everyday fitness – rather than being proud of themselves for huffing and puffing through one marathon. But of course, it helps to have an aim…

Next

… My next marathon, one that gets into a bit more mountain-like a terrain, is 27 days from the time of this writing; at the beginning of April (this month), there were only 16 people on the starter list for the marathon distance there… So, it will provide quite the study in contrasts, and an excellent comparison.

So far, I’m thinking that small events and more hilly terrain will actually make things more enjoyable.

Let’s see what I’ll be saying then ;-)

And what's your take?