Race Review : The Copenhagen Marathon

How did I get here? Am feeling very Ed Norton in Fight Club, at the beginning when he talks about single serving friends, not at the end when he has shot himself through the face to deny his alter-ego victory. Hotel room, curtains closed, tired and looking to order room service pasta the night before the Copenhagen marathon. I actually have Melissa Fehr and the damned #VLM lottery to blame. #VLM for not picking my name out of the hat, and Melissa for running this last year. If she hadn’t I would probably be in Worcester with Kurt and Becci rather than tired in the Danish capital.

It is six weeks since Manchester Marathon and I am in a far far better place than I was then, despite a #ukrunchat army being there. I went into Manchester with virtually no training other than a couple of halves to prove to myself that my normal level of running fitness and the right kind of fuel (a butt load of Jelly Babies) could got me through. It did, despite the Jelly Baby I gave birth to the next morning, and I even got a 5 minute PB.

Roll forward 6 weeks and I have trained, albeit for two weeks due to an ankle knock that stopped it all. I ran 11 miles. Not great but ok. I tried orthotics – which broke me, and so were binned mid run. I researched a proper carb loading strategy and calculated that I need to somehow absorb 4500 calories today to properly fuel my body to deal with tomorrow. Hence the family sized Tesco Everyday flapjack half eaten next to my laptop. And I have spent the two weeks of running near perfecting my Run/Walk strategy.

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Calorific!

The reason I am feeling so positive is much to do with the knowledge I managed Manchester in the manner I did, but mostly the run/walk thing. Well, it is more of a run/joggette thing for me.

I started by talking to a fellow follower of the method and decided to try running for 3 minutes and then walking/jogging for 1 in intervals prompted by my mobile phone in the breast pocket of my Camelbak DART,  my go to mara hydration vest. Unfortunately I could not feel the phone vibrating and so the first experiment was a failure. I then discovered how to set intervals up on my Garmin Vivoactive and tried again and you know what? It only went and bloody worked. Buzz on my wrist every 3 minutes and 1 minute and I somehow knocked over a minute per mile off my normal training times, and felt like I could go on further and was not remotely tired at the end. Also…. no DOMS. The guy who advertises this method runs a 30 second:30 seconds run/walk which I think would probably drive those around me at a big race crazy. I know if I was behind him I would have choice words to say. 3 minutes did seem a bit long to be running flat out so I tried again with a 2 min 30/1 min interval split and lo and behold my average time per mile went down again. And then again when I changed it to 2 min/1 min run/jog so here is hoping for a good time. My problem is pissing off the people around me by constantly speeding up and slowing down. How annoying will that be?

The Journey

It was all so simple in the beginning. Jump on the Jubilee line at Swiss Cottage, 4 stops to Green Park, change to Victoria line, 1 stop to Victoria. Buy Gatwick Express ticket on the way, 5 minute wait, then to Gatwick in half an hour. Bad drop, boarding pass, security all so easy. Hang about, wait for a gate and then go and wait… and wait, and wait… It perhaps wasn’t the wait, it was short after all, barely a 30 minute delay, but the lack of knowing. The gate staff didn’t make an announcement until I had tweeted that our Fly Norwegian flight was delayed and no one had said anything. They didn’t manage our expectation well either, not telling us a projected new time. No. This came via a text. To which I then tweeted a complaint and voila! we had the announcement telling us the new departure time. Oh, the power of Twitter.

The flight was fine, lots of leg room in the front row aisle seat, comfy, dozed a bit and the flight was over before I knew it. Drank a whole litre of water too, which was good and not normal for me.

After we deplaned and heading up the gantry thingy our progress was halted by a locked door. The gantry thingy filled with people. Those behind shouted for us to open the door, but we couldn’t. We shouted back in English and Danish that the door was locked. A bit of a bugger’s muddle really. A local snorted that this was typical Copenhagen at the weekend. The staff were either on lunch break or smoking. We were there for 10 minutes. Not happy about that.

The next bit was seamless, bags, immigration, and then out to a taxi. Now, if you go here, the taxi drivers are rip off merchants. I have never been anywhere where the taxis were so expensive. They are on time and not distance too, so a pound was put on before we left the taxi rank. TripAdvisor and Expedia both denigrate the taxi drivers of Copenhagen who will take you through the more scenic (longer) routes. I was starting to feel this as the fare reached £25 and I was on a winding country lane long after the sign to the CENTRE had been ignored. And, of course, the guy had no change for me. So ended up with a tip I did not want to give.

The hotel is nice and the staff are great. I like the Radisson Blu Scandinavia and would recommend it, despite it being a little far out from the centre, and a 55 min walk from the EXPO, but shhhh! right by the start and finish. And, let’s be honest, where would you rather be for a marathon.

EXPO

And that brings me nicely to the EXPO. Probably the same size as the one in Charlotte for the NC Half I ran around a NASCAR arena, so about the size of a scout hut, or one of those arty weekend craft fairs held in a multistory car park. I took the wrong entrance and walked around the whole thing without getting my race pack. Silly me. I did see the standard fare – X-Bionics and On were together and a tall skinny dude with glasses was wearing the bright yellow X-bionics and Ons and looked for all intents and purposes like an insect.

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High 5, Nike, Saysky, Adidas and a handful of European marathons had stalls. The Nike was the most disappointing. It had some good ideas and I wanted a black wind cheater, but black was for women only and the men’s one was white? White? So, see through rain jacket? No thanks. I did end up getting a t-shirt though and will be sporting it for the race.

Outside though, I am so glad I paid attention rather than blitzing through like I normally do. Lots of people were looking at a blue tarpaulin wall that, on closer inspection, was adorned with the names of all the registered runners. What a lovely touch. All races should do this.

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A 55 min walk back through Copenhagen brought the city into sharp focus. It was pretty, do not get me wrong, a cycling city but there was no real personality for me. It was friendly, everyone has been wonderful (other than the first taxi driver), but this city feels like it is both missing something to set itself apart from the other major European capitals, and that it is a bit of Frankenstein’s monster. As I walked back I felt the streets were like Amsterdam, the cycle lanes too. The architecture felt generically European and again Amsterdam came to mind, the river felt like the Liffey and I was in Dublin again as I headed to the hotel that is in a part of the city that feels like the modern part of Luxemourg did. I am liking it though and was glad the cobbles were few and far between.

The Route

route

Quite a few switchbacks and I certainly covered some of the route on my walk from the EXPO. The streets are wide. The surfaces are well maintained. It is supposed to be a little warmer (19) and possibly rainy tomorrow. Here is hoping because that is ideal for me, if a little warm.

What I liked

The first thing to notice was that you were not given a starting pen. You were not asked your projected time. It was up to you to position yourself by a pacer and I like that.

Now, those of you who frequent my blog and tune into the manic street preaching I spew into Twitter will know that I am ok with finding fault in things. But here there was a lot to like.

First, there was the level of engagement. Not only do you get emails detailing the race, the EXPO, your number etc in both English and Danish, you also get text messages, most notably the ones including your race number and time. Oh, and the tracking app was apparently spot on. Those I spoke to loved it.

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Maybe I would have liked them more if the time was lower…

I loved the runner wall. It was such a good idea and very easy to do.

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It was at the EXPO and also at the end

Big fan of this!

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and the Pacers with their balloons.

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So there was a lot to like.

How I did?

Second marathon in 6 weeks with virtually no training, all but the appliance of science in the use of the run walk strategy and eating my body weight in carbs the day before led me to believe good things were afoot. unfortunately they were not.

The Run/Walk Thingy

A 2 mins running/1 minute jogging plan works well in theory. Well, it works well in practice if the odds are in your favour. When training back in London I can easy bash out some great times using this method, and I did. But in a crowded marathon, on a blisteringly hot day in Denmark it made it too hard. Stopping at the ample water tables every 4K for water, High 5, bananas, oranges and apples and a run through shower meant you missed triggers, as you did when you hit bottle necks or are just too damned tired due to the heat. It works inasmuch as if I got a trigger at a point when I could run I did. But I was expecting something amazing today. It just didn’t happen. And none of my marathons or ultras this year lend themselves well to a sub-4.

The Heat

In honour of the fallen angel David Bowie I shall use one of his movies. Do you remember his movie the Man who Fell to Earth? Well, his character, the eponymous man, is an alien from a planet so hot everyone on it, including his family, is dying. Today, Copenhagen felt like that. There were a lot of fallers, collapsers, and the ambulances were kept busy.

manwho

I felt a bit wobbly at times and it was so hot I drained my Camelbak, despite using the water tables, before KM 35.

It was hard, it was hot and I did love it. It felt like it had listened to the things I hated about Manchester and fixed them, and then added some more awesomeness. For example, I hated that every Manc family with someone involved could drag any child in a push chair, elderly relative, or random lodger  not only to the race but into the race village. There was none of that here. They had security guards at the gates and it made one hell of a difference. Everyone who wanted the banana protein shake, or cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate in peace could. Everyone who wanted to get their bag didn’t need to force their way through a hoard. They just got it and could go or relax on the grass. Class in a glass, Copenhagen.

The Water tables, and I don’t want to hark back to Manchester, like I am beating a red headed step child,  but in Manchester you got water, or SIS gels, or Jelly Babies. By the end I was sick of them all. Here we had water, High 5 energy drink, bananas, oranges and run through showers.  I would have killed for a coke or a beer at some time. But what they did was superb.

Oh, and the Nike thing!

When you think of Nike you think of a great organisation, I know people who are Cuckoo for Cocopuffs about their stuff. Me? I can take it or leave it. Nike did the official tees and then a few unique items of their own. I bought one for £30!!!! at the EXPO only to discover that NIKE  cannot spell. Twats. I shall be asking for a refund of that.

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Now can you make an official international marathon tshirt and vest with a spelling mistake?

 miles

There were a few negative splits but not enough to show. The Run/walk has potential, if anything to trigger movement when you are amongst the walking dead at the end, but it was 6 weeks since my last marathon, with 11 miles as the longest run leading into it – so I should be bloody happy.

The Bling

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It is a marathon medal. As big as Berlin but not Manchester. Unique though and I love it.

In Summary

I am often asked or cited when people want to know about running abroad and THIS is why I do it. An international, nay, the marathon of a European capital city, a couple of hours from my door step, cheap to enter and you have the whole nation caring. The support is amazing, the water tables superb, the aforementioned nice touches (bell, balloons, wall) made it, and the tees and EXPO were all great.

Would I recommend the Copenhagen Marathon? YES, absolutely, 100%

Would I run it again? No, but ONLY because there are so many out there, Gothenberg is today, Stockholm is supposed to be amazing, the list is endless.

Next Up:

Westminster Mile and the Vitality London 10K

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