Vienna City Marathon: Recap

Getting to my 13th marathon has been a unique and prolonged journey compared to my previous 12 marathons. You know, because of a world pandemic and all that goes with it.

First off, I signed up originally for the Vienna City Marathon in 2019. Professional marathoner Eliud Kipchoge had successfully finished a marathon as the first human to achieve a sub-2-hour finish in 1:59 on the streets of Vienna, Austria. The thought of this incredible feat got me excited to plan a runcation. The course is flat and I had never visited Vienna so it was an easy decision.

Naturally, when I registered, I had assumed the race would happen in April 2020. I trained up to my highest mileage week in March 2020 before the race was canceled and postponed to September 2020 thanks to Covid-19. But last September didn’t happen either. Now fast forward to September 12, 2021, and here we have finally arrived at the official race date. A full and 2 partial training cycles later with a sub 4:30 goal in mind.

The week before the race I was checking the weather and it was planned to be hot and sunny 79F/26C. Good for spectators, terrible for the runners. My goal didn’t change but I mentally was preparing a hydration plan and planning to be more in tune with my body’s signals.

The Expo had little excitement value with maybe 10-15 stands but the point was everyone was required to have a negative PCR test to get their bib numbers. This created long lines, having us wait up to an hour to enter.

Getting my bib at the expo

The weather report didn’t lie and on Sunday we had a 9 am start at 73/22C. 20,000+ full, half and relay runners were split up into 5 starting blocks with 5 minute differing start times, plenty of space for distancing. I won’t mind this approach for future races!

Start of VCM

And even though marathoners know to start slow, the excitement and pace of others always get to me and I was running my pace right out of the gates. The first 13km went great, I was warm but had my hydration pack and they had water and Powerade every 5km on the course. With the heat, the organizers did set up additional water fountains between the aide stations. The volunteers did an amazing job passing out cold water for all of us. At every station, I would take a cup to drink and one to pour on my head.

With a long straight, no shadow coverage stretch about 15km in towards Schloss Schonbrunn, I started to feel the effects of the heat and I knew at this point I would have to start to slow my pace.

Many runners split the course at the 20km point leaving the field to open up for the remaining 8,000 marathoners. Here and going forward we started to see runners suffer, cramp up, and quite a few collapse. I want to express sincere gratitude to the medical team who went to work safely and in an organized fashion.

I reach the half at 2:17. Luckily the second half of the course was along the Eliud Kipchoge 1:59 marathon route which is flat and tree-lined providing much-appreciated shade. I still hit a wall at 32km and had significantly reduced my pace. With the last 10km, I had to often repeat “one foot in front of the other”.

Putting one foot in front of the other

I started to receive messages of encouragement from family and friends with 7km left which gave me a needed mental boost

When the signs started to change from km to meters, and I could see the straight shot and purple painted road to the finish, I was able to muster up enough energy to sprint in the last 200m for a. 4:44:19 finish! Tears held back, but I was beaming as I now have my 13th medal!

Approaching the finish line
13th Marathon Finisher Medal

Before and after the race, I also took advantage of touring Vienna, a new to me city. I did a walking tour of the detailed street art thanks to the blog from Where Rose Goes, rode Europe’s oldest Ferris wheel, and did a shakeout run in the gardens of Schloss Schonbrunn while staying at the cutest boutiquey hotels and eating and drinking awesome food!

Vienna Street Art
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Schloss Schonbrunn
View from my room at 25hours Hotel
Sunset views over Vienna, celebrating my finish at 360 Ocean Sky

A week later I was still recovering. Sore legs, high resting heart rate, the heat severely interferes with post-race recovery. I took the week after off from running. They suggest easing back to normal paces and distance up to 4 weeks following.

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