Race Report: World Down Syndrome Marathon

The motto of the World Down Syndrome Day Marathon this year was “Overpowered by you”, the running club 21 that sponsored the race wants to point out the great love for trisomy 21 children, which emerges after the first shock of having it. Down syndrome was described by the neurologist John Langdon-Down, but it was not until 1959 that the genetic cause was discovered: the unusual division of the first cell. It is not a hereditary disease, but it just happens. Due to medical advances, 21 victims can be much older nowadays. But one thing medicine does not do – it is in these special people: the happy laughter [Joe Kelbel – www.marathon4you.de].

My wife and I arrived in Fürth the day before the race. We met an old friend of ours, had lunch together and spent some time catching up before heading to our hotel for a relaxing evening. I went to bed early and was up 2 hours before the race on Sunday for breakfast. After checking out of the hotel my wife dropped me off at the TV Fürth 1860 soccer stadium and went to spend the day with our friend.

I dropped my bag off at the bag drop and found a seat in the sport hall and spent some time people watching, I had about 20 minutes before the race started. As usual for this race there was a diverse mixture of participants, some doing the ultra, marathon or half-marathon, others the 10K or fun run. I recognized several ultra runners, I found out later that some had run the 6-hour run the day before in Nurnberg or another ultra in Würzburg, Germany.

About 10 minutes before the race I made my way to the Start on the track in front of the sport hall.
Waiting for the Start
The course was new this year, in previous years the 6-hour charity race was held in a park in the middle of Fürth, but the event outgrew the facilities offered there, thus the change. The course was also longer, previously each round was approx. 1.3 km, this year just under 2 km. The new course also had two small hills, which seemed insignificant at the beginning, but provided 391 meters of elevation gain/loss by the end of the event. The old course was entirely flat.

Promptly at 9:00 we counted up to 21, the traditional way of starting this race. My training this year was sparse, with only three long runs between 24-26 kilometers (15-16 miles). I set my goals accordingly, try to finish a marathon, and keep moving as long as possible. I settled into an easy pace, around 6:45 min/km (10:53 min/mi). The course circled out of the stadium, down a small hill to the main road.
Small Hill
We turned right on the sidewalk to the next street.
Street
Right along a row of houses, past an annoying man with a loudspeaker, before climbing a small hill and back into the stadium area.

At around kilometer 1 was the aid station, which offered a good variety of salty and sweet, and diverse drinks. The course continued in front of the sport hall, past cheering spectators to the next street.
Cheerleaders
Then right back to the same road as before.

Along the road to the same path that we used to exit the stadium, up the small hill in to the stadium.

Around the track to the start, repeat.

It rained lightly off and on, but not enough to soak the spirit of the runners. I finished the first 5 rounds (~10K) in 1:07:48, my pace remained steady, I felt good. Based on my Garmin I finished 20K in 2:16:39, and 30K in 3:30:13. By this time, my pace was slowly decreasing, but I still felt reasonably strong.

Around 32 kilometers I stopped for a minute or two to adjust the sock on my left foot, somehow it wasn’t sitting right and I was worried a blister would form. I finished a couple more rounds and started feeling the mileage in my legs, I decided to take a short walk break (~100 meters) every second round, right after the aid station. By kilometer 40 (4:54:14) I was reduced to tortoise speed, but with only one lap before passing the marathon distance I plodded along as best I could.

After passing 42 kilometers (5:09:54) I started to take more frequent walk breaks. My legs were tired, the two little hills on the course had turned to mountains that I need to walk up. But as I pushed myself over the last couple laps I was at peace, I had rediscovered the feeling of going beyond, a seemingly indescribable state of mind, or feeling of contentment.

I finished what was to be my last lap, with 11 minutes to go I knew I wouldn’t have time to complete another lap, and didn’t feel like standing out in the (then) rain waiting for them to measure my last distance. According to the official race results I finished 24 laps, or 45.65 kilometers, in 5:49:18. I place 62 out of 114, quite surprising really.

I wobbled to pick up my bag, my wife arrived and waited as I showered, then we headed home. The next day (Monday) I had vacation, I felt good, so good in fact that I spend a few hours working in the garden. Last night I went to gymnastics class, I was quite surprised that I could keep up with the group, the legs were a bit sore, as they are today, but I feel good enough to go for a recovery run this evening.

Off to the races – 2017

With just a few days until my 6-hour charity run I am trying to mentally prepare for the event. My training is far from adequate for a good race, so I am approaching the race conservatively. The last couple years I have needed well over 5 hours for a marathon, so I am hoping to run around 45 km, if my legs hold out this long.

In past years the race was held in a park in Fürth, Germany (near Nurnberg), this year the race will begin at a local soccer stadium on the edge of the town. The race course is 1902.15 meters long, or just under 2 kilometers. As I write there are 108 participants for the 6-hour discipline and several hundred more for the marathon, half-marathon and 10K races.

My training this year has not produced the results I was hoping for. My conditioning is much better than it was at the beginning of the year, but it is not at a level that will make me feel confident as I toe the starting line on Sunday. In the past I have often had my doubts before a race, but in most cases my training was at a level that still produced good results. This year my training, or rather lack of training, leaves no room for mistakes, I need to start slowly and stay focused.

In any case I look forward to my first race since last June, and this event draws a large crowd of spectators. There is nothing like a cheering crowd to help squeeze out a few more rounds.

Oh those tired legs…

My training for the 6-hour charity run is not going as well as I would like, I have been really struggling on my long runs. Two weeks ago I ran 22 km (13.6 mi.), but my paced dropped off a bit from the week before that, I needed almost 10 minutes longer. Yesterday I had 24 km on my training plan, but my legs were shot after only 20 km, I actually had to stop and walk a bit. I ended up with 23 km, by the time I got back to the house, but I was not happy.

I attribute my less than satisfactory performance to two things, the first being the functional cross training that I have been doing on Friday nights. This training is tough, and my body has not adjusted to it yet. Several of the exercises in the aggressive circuit training are currently beyond my conditioning; I have to do modified versions of the exercises, for the weak and old. I also contribute my current performance to not having adjusted my training plan to my age. I will be 58 years old this year, and I am still trying to train like I did when I was younger and in good shape.

I am not totally frustrated though, I know that I have to tweak my race training each year, it only takes a bit to figure out what works and what doesn’t. As far as the circuit training goes, it is hard, but this is why I am doing it, long term this is going to keep me running longer. The veterans in this course said they all struggled the first few months, but it does get better. I only have the added challenge of being one of the oldest in the group.

Training Update

I signed up for my first event of the year, the six hour Down Syndrome charity run on March 19, 2017. I ran this event four times since 2011, running between 44-51 Kilometers. Most years I only ran the first five hours, the event being a bit too early in the season to run well. This year will probably be no different, since I am off to a slow start with my training.

I have been running four times a week, usually 12-14 km (7-9 mi) three times a week, and a long run. My last long run was 22 kilometers (13.6 miles), I hope I can gradually increase up to at least one 30 km (18.6 mi) run before my first event.

I have been also going to gymnastics training for the past month. On Tuesday nights I go going to a Functional Gymnastic class, which consists of a variety of aerobic and gymnastic exercises aimed at improving coordination and balance. On Friday nights I go to a Functional Cross Training class, which is basically high energy circuit training, aimed at strengthening the core muscles, especially the stomach and back muscles. These classes are important for me as I have been bothered by a pinched nerve in my back for several years. My therapist recommended doing exercises which strengthen the stomach and back muscles. In any case the training is tough, but a lot of fun, and I am making new friends.

2016 in Review, Looking at 2017

My 2016 running year began with good intentions and some vague goals, but no real plan. My first goal was a 6 hour benefit run in March, but my condition was so bad that I decided against this. My next goal was a 12 hour run in May, which I ran, but with no real hope or intention of completing the 12 hours, I basically ran the marathon distance and went home. In June was the local 80K (50 mile) race not far from where I live, but for the second year I opted for the shorter marathon distance. I finished, but decided that was enough for one year, I didn’t have enough appetite for another race.

This year I am getting back to the basics, weight loss and core training. To address both of these problems I am changing my traditional way of training. In December I signed up for a functional circuit training course at our local gymnastic club (Turner Verein – TV). This 1-hour high intensity training consists of a 10-15 minute warmup, followed by 2 rounds of 10-12 body weight exercises. As an example, one of the exercises was to do pushups for 45 seconds – while balancing your hands on a basketball – I highly recommend it. I am hoping that two nights of gymnastics per week, plus some weight training on my own, will improve my core strength and eventually lead improved performance in future races.

My running goals for 2017 are currently rather blurred, they will really depend on how successful my training is over the next few months.

Current weight: 81 kg (178 lbs)
Current long run: 18 km (11 mi) @ 6:40/km (10:44/mi)

Summer Weather and Nürnberg

My running last week started out much better than the week before, but a stressful work week eventually sapped my energy and motivation.

As I mentioned in my last post we travelled to Fürth in Bayern (Bavaria) over the weekend. We spent the afternoon with her on Saturday, than took the subway to the historic park of Nürnberg for Dinner. The weather was warm and mild, so we sat outside at one of the many restaurant beer gardens.

Bratwurst Röslein, Nürnberg, Germany

On Sunday morning we stopped by our friend’s house again before heading home. The time went by much too quickly.

Yesterday (Monday) I had vacation, so slept a little later, caught up on some paperwork, than headed outside in the afternoon to enjoy the summer weather we are having. I went for a 14 km run, than jumped on my bicycle for an hour ride.
Today I returned to work, but I look forward to a run after work, the sunny summer day are supposed to continue at least until Thursday, I want to enjoy it while it lasts.

Last Week in Training
Tuesday: 11 km (6:18 min/km)
Wednesday: 11 km (6:07 min/km)
Thursday:5 km (6:37 min/km)
Friday: 16 km (6:49 min/km)

Last Week in Running

Last week my running was really sluggish, the sudden jump in temperature to almost 90 °F may have something to do with it, or perhaps an extremely stressful week of work. On Sunday was one of the first sunny summer days this year where I didn’t have to work, so instead of doing my long run I opted to go bike riding with some good friends.

My Week in Training
Monday: 11 km (6:24 min/km)
Tuesday: 12 km (6:43 min/km)
Thursday: 13.3 km (6:41 min/km)
Friday: 7 km walking (9:16 min/km)
Saturday: 8 km with Running Club (7:46 min/km)
Sunday: 80 km with bike

This week is a bit cooler, I am trying to pick up the speed and distance, but it is too little, too late, to make a difference. I planned on running a forest marathon (literally through the forest) on July 24th, but I have my doubts at this point.

This weekend we are visiting a good friend in Fürth, Germany in Bayern (Bavaria), she lost her husband (age 84) a couple weeks ago and we want to spend some time with her. I am taking vacation on Friday and Monday so hope to get in a longer run or two.

A Father’s Love Letter

My Child,

You may not know me, but I know everything about you.
I know when you sit down and when you rise up.
I am familiar with all your ways.
Even the very hairs on your head are numbered.
For you were made in my image.
In me you live and move and have your being.
For you are my offspring.
I knew you even before you were conceived.
I chose you when I planned creation.
You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book.
I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live.
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
I knit you together in your mother’s womb.
And brought you forth on the day you were born.
I have been misrepresented by those who don’t know me.
I am not distant and angry, but am the complete expression of love.
And it is my desire to lavish my love on you.
Simply because you are my child and I am your Father.
I offer you more than your earthly father ever could.
For I am the perfect father.
Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand.
For I am your provider and I meet all your needs.
My plan for your future has always been filled with hope.
Because I love you with an everlasting love.
My thoughts toward you are countless as the sand on the seashore.
And I rejoice over you with singing.
I will never stop doing good to you.
For you are my treasured possession.
I desire to establish you with all my heart and all my soul.
And I want to show you great and marvelous things.
If you seek me with all your heart, you will find me.
Delight in me and I will give you the desires of your heart.
For it is I who gave you those desires.
I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine.
For I am your greatest encourager.
I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles.
When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you.
As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart.
One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes.
And I’ll take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth.
I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son, Jesus.
For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed.
He is the exact representation of my being.
He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you.
And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.
Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled.
His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you.
I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love.
If you receive the gift of my son Jesus, you receive me.
And nothing will ever separate you from my love again.
Come home and I’ll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen.
I have always been Father, and will always be Father.
My question is Will you be my child?
I am waiting for you.

Love, Your Dad
Almighty God

Recovery and Running Club Event

My recovery from my marathon a week ago is going much slower than I would like, a sign that my conditioning is not what it used to be.

My week in running:
Wednesday: 10 km with Running Club (7:21 min/km)
Thursday: 8 km (6:24 min/km)
Friday: Walked for 70 minutes (about 10 min/km)
Saturday: 14 km (6:44 min/km)

On Sunday my running club sponsored their annual 5K and 10K run, the Asparagus Run. This met a bit of work, on Saturday afternoon I helped set up the tables in the schoolhouse where participants could pick up their start numbers. On Sunday I manned one of the water points on the 10K course with my friend Manfred. After the race I returned to the schoolhouse to take down the tables and help wherever else I could.

The award ceremony for the race was held in conjunction with the small street festival in Graben, which is the next town north of where I live. Most of our club that had helped out ate lunch together and cheered the winners of the race as they received their prizes.

Tonight I want to try to pick up my training again, I would like to run another marathon or two this year, maybe even try to run a sub-5 hour run if my training improves, but one step at a time.