RACES: The Marselis Run

Home sweet home! Or?

Not really, as it proved.

This Sunday I finished my 10 day Danish holidays by participating in the in the gargantuan Marselis Run in Aarhus, Denmarks second largest city. The day before two thousand bike riders had braved the route, and this Sunday 3600 runners braved the 12k, 3800 the 6.4k, and these were joined by 1400 doing the 5k walk (a few runners must have walked as well as a few finished the 6.4k in more than 2 and a half hours! I can hear Beronika yelling "Sandwich Runners" already). Incidentally the slowest 12k runner did it in 2:42.

A Grander Scale
With acres of company tents and other facilities dotting the whole seaside of Aarhus close to the arboreal Marselis area, it's not understatement to say that this event dwarfed anything I had previously participated in.

With Kenyan Josep Kimisi leading the pack with 37:08 in front of Dane Ulrik Heitmann in 37:36, I would also run against much faster runners than I had ever previously done in my competitive time in Ireland. Josep complained after the race: "It was a bit slow, maybe because of the many climbs." Aaargh...

Read more about the race here.

Sadly, I was a wreck. I knew I wouldn't be in top form, hard slow training, a weekend of festival behind me (albeit with minimal drinking), my first 4 day running break in months, and a 30th Birthday the day before all meant I had arrived with a fun-run in mind.

I did not count on being laid low by a flu, however. First it curtailed almost the whole week's training up to the race, then it left me feeling wobbly as Bruce Groobelaar as I joined up with old dorm mates at the official tent of the Aarhus School of Business, that I graduated in 1999.

Old Friends
At the tent I had arranged to meet up with some old dorm mates: Soren, and all-action Danish football player with a few of these runs in him, and his girlfriend Evelyne, both of whom are currently preparing for the Berlin Marathon.

I had hoped to be able to show the old folks a spectacular race but as our more than 7000 feet made our way up along the seaside towards the forest entrance, I knew that it would be all about survival.

I managed to stabilise my pulse just below my usual race intensity, but I was finding it harder than usual to maintain momentum, and every hill was just killing me as any push upwards in heart rate was deemed unacceptable by my weakened frame...

The Highlands of Denmark
As ridiculous as it may sound, the Marselis Race is a fairly hilly race. Elevation never goes up above 79m, but the whole 12000m are dotted with ups and downs on the sandy forest trails. The ascent grade is only 4.1% on average, meaning just a little less rough than Ballyross and Howth, but then again, the lenght adds another harshness to it. And, as impossible as it may sound for our flatland kingdom, ascent grades move up to as steep as 12.3% on certain spots.

For mountain runners interested in Denmark, the below profile is not all bad:

The End...No really!
Coming over the last ascent with less than 2.5km to go, I heard a familiar voice from behind: "Come on Mountain Runner", as I turned I saw Soeren coming up. At that stage, knackered as I was, something, pride perhaps, possessed me to lose my senses and open a far too early sprint to shake my old dorm mate off again.

Soren, haven spend most of the race looking at my struggling a few hundred metres ahead, would have none of it, and with a powerful surge, first kept my speed then thundered away as my legs failed me completely and I was reduced to a standstill as scores of runners rushed past. Only 500m later had I recovered enough from my awful tactical error to regain speed, and then burst back into a decent sprint over the finish line.
Søren finished in fine time, 50:35, and 55 seconds later I followed, destroyed and distraught. Evelyne apparently had suffered more, however, when she trudged in at 01:03:14, she had surrendered her "insides" twice in offering to the God of the Forest, and had been pointed in the direction of the ambulance. As the hardy German she is, she had scoffed at this, and finished her ordeal without a whimper...

The Result
I finished the rough 12k in a time of 51:30, which I guess is not too bad considering the conditions, yet I can't help but assessing the result as a failure and a setback. If anything, though, it'll spur me on to harder training as soon as I have driven this virus out of my system, as it keeps hanging like leash around my neck.

According to the Marselis website this time is a "Star Time" for a runner of my age-group, but not quite a Comet Time (which is 44 minutes and faster for runners my age apparently)

Don't Race Sick, Don't Race Fun
That's the lesson I've learned. There was a time when I could do a fun run, take it easy and just go out and do it, but I just don't have that ability anymore. When I race, it's full on, at least in my mind. So a lesson to everyone else who feels the same way: You can't do runs when you're not 100%.

It just makes you grumpy, demoralised, and when you're ill to boot, might cause some serious loss of fitness or rehap back into a more feverish condition. Personally, I started displaying mildly hypothermic syndroms about an over later, shuddering uncontrollable, then collapsing in a complete stupour for four hours on a bed, feeling as drained as a Saharan well.

The Marselis Race is a great race, and I will return, but next time, I'll be up for it, and who knows, perhaps I can bring a group of grizzled Irish mountain beasts to show the locals what running rough is all about...