Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Race Report: Munich Marathon

My new role gave me the change to travel to Munich this year for 4 times to attend some training. I didn't realize that the change for an oversea marathon came when I got the news that my last training week will change to October. I was planned to join my other colleagues to visit one of the trainer at Vienna. Later I had to drop the plan to visit to the beautiful city.

I been barking on to sub-5 in my marathon timing for 2 years and to be frank, I am very disappointed with my SCKLM result. I hoped to improve from last year but some how I didn't performed that day. Now I put some hope into this marathon cause the believes of
1. Runners perform better in cold weather.
2. It’s a relatively flat course.
I wished to improve the timing even if I need to seek for compensation of my limit in a cold weather.

I spent the whole week attending training and walked lots in safety boots. Both legs felt like iron rods each evening and the right calf even cramped in one night. I was thinking "Shit! I am going to shrewd up big time this weekend!" Fortunately, these legs got some rest with only 3k running gears test run, and the walk/shopping around on Saturday helps to relax them. Race kit collection done in Saturday morning. It also had a 4k fun run in traditional costume. Spotted a sarong man but didn't manage to talk to him. The run looks really fun but the weather was still very cold (~6°C) hence I only watched the flag off and quickly moved into the event area.
Finisher Medal (gingerbread hearth) for the Traditional Costume Run
Spotted Sarong Man!
Surprised by the first booth - Leguana, the Germans barefoot running shoes/gloves. Tried the shoes and it’s very comfortable to wear. But the price tag of €69 put me off. It’s still cheaper than VFF, maybe a possible replacement for it later (btw, from my observation, I was the only one running in VFF). Race bib collection was easy and lots of things happening in the event area. I spent almost 2 hours shopping, plus looking at the expert demo on how to fix the KT tape. Got all the supplies that I needed, and I took a different route with the tram back into the town. Time to do some shopping! Had a great dinner at one famous Bavarian restaurant, then head back to hotel around 8pm. Went to bed around 10pm and set the alarm to 6am. No rush like back in homeland, the race only flag off by 10am.
Race day morning, woke up earlier than the alarm, a bit pre-race anxious. What is my game plan? I planned to go with a consistent pace of 7min, as usual. It was still drizzling outside hence the concern was too cold to run. But it was too late to DNS now. Put on all the gear, took the hotel breakfast, then off to take the trains to the stadium. The organizer provided a big enough event bag for baggage check in, so I used it, and lots of other runners too. Hence it's very obvious that morning if you are going to do the marathon. There was only handful of us in the first bus I hoop on, then growing into plenty when I changed a train, and eventually in the last train to the stadium, the whole train was filled with participants! The race comrades came early! "We are going to do this!"
Paranormal view of the stadium
Before start
Starting line
The sun came out!
Reached the stadium with 45 minutes to spare, as they divided the baggage check in by every thousand, no queue at all. I just found a corner near by my 6000+ counter, took away all the warm clothes, and start to warming up slowly. The sky still gloomy and the sun didn't seem to coming out soon, but at least the rain stopped. I got a plastic bag to use as temporary warmer. Headed to the starting line around 9:45am. It's 2km from the stadium to the starting line, so I jogged slowly to keep myself warm. The race will flagged off in 3 waves. 10am for those sub-3 and elites. 10:10am for those 3-4 hours, and 10:20am for everyone else. So I started at the back as usual. The wave 1 flagged off with a big bang and instantly the sun came out and it started to warm up. It was beautiful and we made the weather! Waited no more and off we go.

Even though this was my 4th visit to this city, but I only covered very limited areas. The marathon route will brought me to some areas that I never visited before. We started from Olympic Stadium, heading to the city for a u-turn in front of Ludwig Maximilian University and ran into the famous English Garden. That will be the first part that covered 16km. Then we continue heading east and running past mostly sub-urban areas and we will turn to west after the starting point of the half marathon. After 24km, we will past the Munich East station and followed by the Deutsches Museum, and we are moving into downtown. From 27-32km, we will run thru the city center - Marianplatz and detour into the University area until 36km, finally we heading back to the stadium to the finish line.

After 4km, there will be a water station about every 2.5km. So I decided to abandon my water bottle, and first time running a marathon without a bottle on my hand. The first part of the race was easy going. I kept a consistent 6.5-7min pace, lots of people pass me and I needed to try very hard to avoid speeding up. The first challenge of the day came before I reached English Garden at 8km mark, I felt hungry! The breakfast was 4 hours ago, and I needed food! This wasn’t the usual marathon that I did back home, which happened mostly at ungodly hours and I can do without food replenishment. Luck they served banana from the 10km water station onwards, I made sure I took some from each water station. Observed some runners ran with a piece of sponge, I knew that the race will not provide sponge, but as the sweating level reduced, I wonder why people need sponge. But even you felt less thirsty in cold weather, but you still sweating during the run. I was drinking about 300ml of water from each station (about full one cup), sometime more. So what happened to those sweat came out on your face? They dried out and formed salt! Runners wet the sponge to wipe the salt off. Lucky I only felt them after I completed the run.

Exist from the English Garden we entered the sub urban area. This session of the route is like our normal housing area training run, not much excitement factor to share. But from time to time we pass some cheering groups that offered aid, music and even beer! At 2:24, I pass the half marathon starting point. From the start until now, the Garmin Pacer (virtual partner set at 7min/km) never passes me. So I still had enough time for my target. It’s getting hard to kept the pace now. If you think you will enjoy a better speed under the cold weather, you probably are wrong. My hearth rate stayed 150-160BPM since the beginning. The cold weather may only reduced the stress factor, so you can stay on with high hearth rate for longer. The sun had come out, most of the runners trying to follow the shed but I was on the other hand, following the sun. Even thought it’s noon time, it was cold when there is wind. I needed the sun to keep me warmed.

After 28km, back into the downtown area and we passes some office building and followed by the city center – Marianplatz. If you read until this point, you may wonder how the traffic control was. I can tell you, no issue at all. This is the marathon that 75% of the route had barriers that separate running route from traffic (being cars, trams, buses, bicycles and pedestrians), from the starting point, all the way back to finish line. Only few sessions that goes without barriers, mainly in the sub urban area and some part of the downtown area, where the incoming traffic is blocked outside of the city. This is the advantage of the city with great public transport. Btw, most of the shops are closed on Sunday, it helps on the traffic control.

After Marianplatz, at 32km, we can see the Siegestor, the Roman-style triumphal arches that we pass earlier in the first u-turn. But we still need to detour into the University, until 36km. And finally, we were heading back to the finish line. At this point of time, the Garmin Pacer passes me for the first time. I knew that I will had 4 minutes to spare if the course measured to 42.195km, but as my pace started to drop below to 8, it was too much risk to take. I must keep going! The sub-5 target was the only thing in my mind that time. Hearth rate goes beyond 160BPM, didn’t care! Left calf felt like going to cramp, didn’t care! Gear up and keep going!

Lots of runners finished and cheering us along the way back to stadium. Ran pass the starting point, I just needed to keep going! Ran pass the stadium perimeter, finally, we ran pass a dark tunnel passage with dry ice smoke came out, 2 photographers taking photos! So dramatic! I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and heard the cheering of the crowds inside the stadium! Like a champion, I entered the stadium with pride. But the excitement won’t last long, still another 400m to go and the clock is 4:56 now. Drained my last drop of energy, sprint thru the final lap inside the stadium, I clocked a net time of 4:59’57”. It was definitely a fantastic experience to finish in an Olympic Stadium. And achieving the sub-5 target definitely a bonus!
Paranormal view of the stadium, when I finished!
One Happy PB Finisher!
Served beer at the finish area, alcohol free...
In conclusion, I am happy that I achieved my target, but clearly I was still not ready for a sub-5 back home. Lots of improvement needed if I wanted to achieve the same result in Malaysia climate. Also, the cold weather will help, but you still need to face the challenges like the hearth rate, elevation (physically) and mind game (mentally) if you looking for a break through result. Anyway, once you tried it, you will be able to handle the challenges better. Like, now I knew that I can run the whole 42km without walking (only walk few hundreds meters in total, from all water stations stops, plus 2 toilet stops), and the legs will be fine too. So next time I will know it’s only a mind game when I am thinking of walking or too hard to continue before I reached 42km.

It’s time to take out the drawing board and workout the new training plan. Next year target will be sub-5 in Malaysia!


  1. Congrats and job well done on your sub5 marathon, Neoh!

    What a great way and place to achieve it. :)

    1. Thanks Lina!
      I really enjoyed the race :)

  2. congrats on your PB! you must be ecstatic! :)
    and love the heart-shaped medal, it's different!!

    1. Thanks! The PB left me lots of momentum to train harder and run faster in coming years :)

      I loved the medal design too. It's follow the German traditional Gingerbread Heart design. Saw the previous year colorful design, too bad this year only mono color.

  3. Congratulations for a sub 5-hr run. Here's something for you to consider. The Galloway run-walk-run method of running actually CUTS DOWN your time on a marathon. You can google Jeff Galloway or you can go to this site: I was 63 y/o and easily ran the marathon for the first time in 2011. I think you can easily run a sub 5 hr marathon using this method. BTW, I also ran my marathon wearing the VFF. Best wishes. -Hieu

    1. Hi. Thanks for dropping by :)
      Will check out the method but still prefer running all the way through the 42km ;)

  4. Well done I am running Munich this year great race report ��

    1. Hi Karen, thanks for dropping by.
      Munich is a great place for a marathon and October weather is just perfect for any long run. Hope you enjoy the race this year :)