The road to my first marathon
Journey 8 minutes

The road to my first marathon

July 27, 2020

It was a Friday just before the Christmas holiday, on December 23rd, 2016 when my marathon journey started. On that Friday the team from work met across the street for a snack and drinks to close out the year.

A fellow programmer somehow managed to get into a bet with my boss to run a marathon race on or before December 31st, 2018 within five hours. So he had two years to prepare. The bet was 50 euros and was sealed by a mail sent by my boss to the programmer and me at 17:57.

A couple days prior I had set a New Year's resolution, like many do year after year, to get moving again. In my case the idea was to pick up running again. It took me only four minutes to get the same bet, except I somehow had to run it before December 31st, 2017.

Getting started

So I got started training, with no idea what to expect. I hadn't run much more than routes going no further than 10K at that point, and that had been a while ago too! In early 2017 I started running between five and ten kilometers three days a week.

On January 25th I got the keys to my own house two kilometers from where I grew up and I was moved in on January 30th. For some reason, I cannot recall why, that made me decide to do a 17-18K run two weekends in a row, not having run more than 8K in a single go the weeks before.

And then the week after that, out of the blue I ran a whopping 35K.

First ever race

This was also around the time that part of the team from work participated in run clinics in preparations of a local run we sponsored. I had no idea what to expect from a race like that, it would be my first ever. Distance: 7.5K.

Turns out it was great fun, I was the fastest out of my colleagues and soon after I got invited to join a business team my bosses were enrolled in with some of our clients. It was a 10K, and that too was great fun. So far, this whole running thing was going pretty great.

My first ever race, 7.5K in 33:32.

Of course that didn't last long, I got injured and didn't feel like running again for 5 weeks. I had to get started again though, because I had signed up for 14.5K race in mid-May.

First marathon-distance run

After that third race I had another two weeks of barely any training before I, once again, made a big jump in training load. I did a week of training where I ran every day and totaled 84K. That Sunday, it was June 18th at 17:03, I signed up for the TCS Amsterdam Marathon which would take place in the fall. Funny enough, the entrance fee alone was higher than the money I would win from the bet.

I followed up by running my first ever 42.195K the following Sunday. It took me 4 hours, 11 minutes and 15 seconds. I had to take walking breaks towards the end but I had shown myself I could do the distance, and do it within 5 hours. It didn't count for the bet though, because the deal was to run it in an official marathon race.

Running 42.2K for the first time ever on June 25, 2017. I had to take a couple of walking breaks.

First training plan

I'm not sure exactly when, but I decided I would need a training plan to be more consistent in my running. Having only some confidence that I could finish it, I wanted some more direction. Through Strava I found out about the McMillan running plans. To this day I'm still a member because of the excellent plans (even though I have taken to creating my own plans now) and other resources provided.

In the build up to the marathon I had several weeks of solid consistent training with more than 80K of running, including another 42.195K. This time I finished it in 3:49:23, over 20 minutes faster than my previous attempt. This led me to believe that if I continued the training I could finish my first ever marathon within 3 hours and 30 minutes. The goal was set.

Ibiza trip

That year the company organized its first ever trip with the team. Destination: sunny Ibiza. It was a great trip, but the timing had me worried: one week before my marathon. A time when nerves get high in anticapation of the marathon, I as an introvert was on a group trip to a place I had never been before and I didn't know what to expect.

Luckily it all worked out great, we had a blast and it wasn't too taxing on me.

The marathon

Finally race day came. Start and finish for the TCS Amsterdam Marathon are in the Olympic Stadium, which made it feel quite special. I crossed the starting line at 9:40 AM on that Sunday, the 15th of October in 2017. I returned exhausted but happy in 3:35:51.

Halfway through I was still on pace for my original goal of 3:29:59, but I started struggling after around the 30K mark. From that point on, my hope was that I could finish the race without having to walk or stop. So when I came running over the finish line having accomplished that, I had already made my peace with not getting my initial goal time.

Photo by @joepvanurk.

On to the next one

The very next day, when I was still struggling moving up and down the stairs due to the muscle soreness the marathon had caused, I signed myself up for the NN Rotterdam Marathon in the spring of 2018. I wanted more.

Koen van Urk