Sunday, September 30, 2018

STON MARATHON 2018

Back in 2014 I was lucky enough to be on holiday in Croatia and ended the trip running and winning The Ston Wall Marathon! It's a small marathon (about 20 people that year) and the prize wasn't €250000 it was a painting by a local artist and a small trophy.... and they said; if I returned the next year they would give me a free entry and 2 night accommodation!

Wanting to see more of Croatia and it's neighbour, Slovenia, we started saving!!! 2015, 2016, 2017, all passed... All this time I kept in touch with the Marathon with the odd comment of FB. Roll on 2018 and we were heading back. I contacted the organizers and wait for it... 4 years later they still honoured the prize!

Having had time off for an injury I started training from zero in March!
Over the last 6 weeks I had built up quite well and if I had been lining up for one of the fast City marathons I would have set my sights on stealing a sub 3... Ston is not fast!
• You don't go there to run a PB
• You Run for the challenge of the marathon
• You Run it because of The Wall
• You Run because of the salt pans
• You Run because of the small towns
• You Run because of the Adriatic and it's views.
The Wall is waiting for us
With registration and a pasta party on the Saturday we cycled into the old town.... pasta, yes with mince / Bolognese and wait for it mussels (grown locally)

Spent some time catching up with old friends, the organizers, and 2 guys who had run it 4 years ago with me! Antonio from Spain, this would be his 5th run. And a guy from Split in Croatia this would be his 10 run. (It's only the 11th running) And making new ones... an English lady and her husband, Bikers! Next time he says they'll cruise down on their Harleys! While in Skradin we met a runner, Mikael, organizing an ultra for diabetes awareness. Having told him about the race he decided to pop down and run. Then there was Dion (great name for a runner) and Australian who had travelled to Croatia for the world 100km champs but had a small injury and didn't want to race 100km and get properly injured! So after watching his team mates race 100km he was now on holiday and with the injury coming right thought a little marathon would be a good idea.

With Ozzie Dion in the field my hope of a 2nd win was off the cards, but never say die!!!

7h30 found us on the startline ready to go. I set off at sub 3 pace... the first km is easy as you head down the main road to Ston. Dion joined me with Antonio and a Frenchmen behind. I wasn't running smoothly but I was running ok as Dion entered Mali Ston and started the climb up the wall. I was not far back.

The wall runs from Mali Ston to Ston, half over a mountain! We climbed 120+ meters over the next km only to climb down again... before running round Ston on the wall (more climbing as the wall also served as a lookout!). While Antonio had caught me I had caught Dion and the 3 if us left the wall together... race on!
Dawn didn't get a picture of us coming off the wall, but this is me running past at about 25

Dion showed his youth and 2h24 marathon pace by pulling away as we hit the flat. I couldn't find any rhythm in my running... was it the heat that was climbing and would almost reach 30°c, was it the humidity that had been draining the life out of one through the European summer? Or was it the 1500km of driving I had done while having my amazing holiday? I will never know.
Stopped for a drink in the shade
The Frenchman caught Antonio and I before the next hill and while I thought I could go with him I didn't, saving the legs. I was planning on running him down later. With the Frenchman pulling ahead in 2nd Antonio and I traded places till on the way back at about 18km when I stopped to walk a bit of the hill and take a Turbovite! I was melting so I took off my shirt and with a new lease of life I set off the pull back the guys ahead.
Dawn was at the top of the hill on a bike so I tossed her my top and got focused for the job at hand... hunting! It was easy to up the pace to 4min/km on the down hill, but once on the flat again reality set in!

It was going to be a long 42.2km...

At about 26km we passed Ston for a stretch down the other side of the peninsula. The beautiful views and picturesque small villages did nothing to spur me on. Goals had changed and staying in 4th and staying under 4 hours now took priority... Dawn was taking more pictures of the views than me.
35km and the turnaround finally came, it had taken forever!
The front guys were all taking strain:
• Dion would win in record time 3h07
• The Frenchman 2nd in 3h21
• And Antonio 3rd in about 3h31
Me... I run in, yes I was running, slow but running, crossed the line in 3h49. It wasnt my best marathon and while I was thinking I should have run about 3h20, I'll take it... I made it through in one piece and while I didn't enjoy all of the race. I enjoyed the fact that I have it in me to fight to the end.

And then there is the rest of the race weekend... mussel pasta and beer for us finishers, great medal and an atmosphere to top it all...

We then met the organizers in the evening and they invited us to join them for a drink and a bite to eat... If you want to eat local best you join the locals...

Who knows, maybe I'll make it back... would love too.

1 comment:

  1. It's wonderful to see you back racing again - fighting to the end with seemingly no hiccups or niggles. Reckon you'll soon be back to that sub 3 hour? Great detailed report too. A good read......
    Well done Coach...

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