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.

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