As you may or may not know, my big target race this spring was the Virgin London Marathon on 21 April. In case you missed it, here is my race report. And after nailing my target I had the opportunity to then go to the Copenhagen marathon with the RunDemCrew and my friend Charlie Dark, to run for fun.
Pacing not racing
After my blast around London, I asked Charlie if he would like me to pace him around the Copenhagen marathon and to my delight he said ‘yes’!
Why was I delighted? Well three reasons really – the first was that I wanted to pay Charlie back for many hours of advice and support he has given me over the years. The next reason was that I was convinced that Charlie had a solid sub-4 hours marathon in him and I thought I might be able to help him achieve it. And finally I knew how much Charlie has poured into creating, running and leading the RunDemCrew and I felt that there should be a race that he had the opportunity to run for himself.
I have paced a couple of races before – my wife’s debut marathon in New York and a friend in the Bristol half marathon are two that stick in my mind. And this meant that whilst I felt confident that I could help Charlie, I also knew the challenges and responsibility that comes with being the man with the watch. Little did I know how much the course and the weather would make things more difficult than it was already going to be…
The Copenhagen marathon
The Copenhagen marathon is a relative old man of the racing scene in Europe, having been going for 34 years and has plenty in its favour – it is a capital city race. It is a flat course. It has a great headline sponsor in Nike and some other high profile supporters. The city centre course takes in all of the sights of Copenhagen.
But all is not perfect. I have to say that the race has a certain air of tattiness and gimcrack about it. The course seemed to be constantly crossing and running alongside roadworks. There are roads on the course that are open to traffic and on more than a couple of occasions the field was split and we were directed across a six-lane highway with a muddy median in front of impatiently waiting queues of traffic. The marshals were really not doing much and a number were sheltering in doorways out of the rain. There were just too many loose ends and rough edges to make the race great.
And it was NBRO’s task to host the other visiting crews – from London, Paris, Amsterdam, New York, Hong Kong, Berlin and other cities. The NBRO guys, and Troels in particular, pulled off an absolute master-stroke, with NBRO branded beer, a great pasta party before the race and an immense after-party that I have taken a lot longer to recover from than the race itself!
The race was tough. As I mentioned, the weather and course made an already difficult challenge – running 5 min/km pace for 42.125km – even tougher. After a baking hot day on the Saturday, the day of the race dawned grey and cool, which was perfect, but by 5km the heavens opened and the rain poured down. We were soaked from start to finish. Add to that, the very wiggly course, with lots of open roads, road works and pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate, and we had a tough day.
Charlie and I were bang on for 3:35 or quicker all the way to 35km, but sadly an old knee injury of Charlie’s, made worse by a recent fall, meant Charlie was hobbling and soon needed to stop and stretch out a tight hamstring. The frustration for him was that he was still running well, but frequent stops to ease out his knee ate into the time.
Nevertheless, Charlie dug in very, very deep and managed to fight the desire to stop and walk, which mean that we finished in 3:48:03. Still a big PB and comfortably under the 4 hour mark.
Overall, I think that Copenhagen is a good race. I think that for those at the sharp end, the lack of people to run with could be difficult. And for everyone in the field the difficult course stops this being an exceptional race. But I had an amazing experience – I loved running with my friend and thinking that I was able to help a little. I enjoyed seeing so many other runners and witnessing their struggles and I really enjoyed the after-party.
Would I go back? Not sure… but then again, if Charlie wants to try that race again for a sub-3:30, then I might be tempted!