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Bucharest Marathon 2022

Since I finished the previous personal post right at the start of the marathon, I’ll begin this one by saying that I seem to have managed to press the button on the stopwatch just at the right time, seeing as the official time was only one second more than what I had at the end, which may not even indicate a difference of some fractions of a second, because the official time may be rounded up. However, that means that I somehow pressed the interval button before actually crossing the start line, or at least before the spot where the time was recorded. That seems pretty much impossible, but the start time displayed by my stopwatch was 1:39, while the official one is 1:42. And what makes it even stranger is that when I first passed by the finish line, after a little over one kilometer, the timer above the gate was nine or ten seconds behind mine, the delay seeming to have dropped to seven or eight seconds when I passed by that spot the second time, at the halfway point, but at the end the two seemed to just about match. It’s possible that a small difference remained, since I obviously couldn’t look at that timer just when I crossed the line, but the difference couldn’t have been greater than a couple of seconds, at least from what I seem to recall seeing as I got close.
Getting back to the beginning, I wasn’t even sure that I’ll be able to finish, so the thought of staying under four hours, which had been the goal for this year, was quite far from my mind, but I did know that in order to stay under four hours I had to average 5:40 per kilometer and recover that start time, or at least a minute from it, so I did mean to see how long I’ll manage to be faster than that, actually aiming to stay under 5:20 per kilometer early on. That didn’t include the first kilometer, since it was so crowded and I expected to cover it in about six minutes, but I ended up covering it in what I initially thought was 5:39, which was a nice surprise… And that surprise became even nicer when I realized that I had miscalculated, having in fact covered it in 5:29… Or maybe 5:26, if the start time was actually 1:42. Either way, I seem to remember that I covered the second kilometer in 5:11 and then could get even faster.
What I don’t know is whether the fastest kilometer was the fourth, fifth or 12th, because I covered the 12th kilometer in 4:54 but missed the sign for four kilometers, that being the only one that I missed, and the total for the fourth and fifth kilometers was 9:55, so if I covered one of them in 5:02 or more, then the other one was actually the fastest. And it is quite likely that there was a difference between those two, since on the fourth kilometer I was just pushing to catch the 1:50 half marathon pacemakers, which was probably why I missed that sign as well, probably passing it just when I overtook them, while on the fifth I passed Radu and his group and actually tried to look behind me a few times in order to see how many I recognized and which race they were taking part in, and then there was the first refreshment point. I’m quite sure that it came just after the sign, otherwise it’d have been clear that the fifth kilometer was significantly slower, but getting ready for it might have caused me to slow just a little bit as well.
Since the goal was to finish, at each refreshment point I took two drinks and a piece of fruit, and it was only twice that I didn’t take two cups of that other drink and a piece of banana. The first such moment was when I missed the first table with that other drink and ended up taking a cup of water first, only the second one being of that other drink, either at about 25 km or close to 31 km, the fact that those two points were almost across the road from each other making me mix them up. And the second was at the last point, close to 40 km, when I took a piece of orange instead of banana. I had managed to stick to the bananas for far longer than I thought I would, but the piece taken from the previous refreshment point had made me too nauseous, so I didn’t risk it one more time, and decided that the orange would help somewhat more than the apple at that point, even though trying and failing to peel it and then struggling to pull it off the peel with my teeth and eat it that way made me lose quite a number of seconds. And, again, the goal was to finish, so I slowed to a walk while drinking, so I won’t spill the drink on me, and that meant losing time at each refreshment point, possibly even more so after the one from Cismigiu Park, on the 15th kilometer, when I also swallowed air while drinking and that bubble seemed to have ended up being stuck somewhere, so for quite a few kilometers I felt like I had to burp and couldn’t quite manage to do so. I did eventually get rid of that air, but very gradually and after quite a long time.
It was a little before that refreshment point, right at the start of that same 15th kilometer, when I had the “jelly” bar, containing caffeine, which had been in the race kit. The initial plan had been to eat it at the end of the 14th kilometer, on that steep climb, but when I saw that the sign was right at the top, I decided to first get there and then catch my breath while getting that bar… Which is apparently made quite well and intended to be eaten without being touched with the hands, the wrapping coming off right away and the bar itself being very easy to eat while running. But I didn’t expect that, so I took it out of the wrapping and held it in my hands, which made my hands quite sticky. Either way, it was also on that 15th kilometer when those 1:50 half marathon pacemakers overtook me and pulled away. I first overtook them at four kilometers, as I already mentioned, they went ahead again at the refreshment point that followed, I overtook them again after that, they overtook me one more time at the following refreshment point, then I overtook them one last time, and after they overtook me again at that refreshment point I couldn’t keep up anymore, since I was already starting to get slower, and that air bubble definitely wasn’t helping either.
Seeing those pacemakers pulling away slowly but surely was rather disheartening, so I had to keep telling myself that they weren’t my target, even though that also meant that I was really giving up on even the thought of finishing in less than four hours, knowing that I was going to get significantly slower in the second half. But, again, the main goal was to finish, so I was doing what I could, and that meant staying under six minutes per kilometer for the first 22 kilometers, so not losing too much time at the fourth refreshment point either, but eventually getting over six minutes on the 23rd, which I seem to remember covering in 6:11. I also had the first gel on that kilometer, but the difference may actually be bigger than the time I lost because of that.
That also marked the point when I started tiring noticeably, and I think the 3:45 pacemakers overtook me at about 23.5 km, so after 24 km I started calculating, aiming to allow myself an average of seven minutes per kilometer over the last 15 km without ending up with a worse time than the first one… Even if at that point it was hard to make any really useful calculations, since I had only covered about 6.5 km before starting to feel that I had to let something out and, especially considering the problems which I had been having that week, I was quite sure that I was going to go to the toilet again, probably at the same gas station which I had used last year. However, that expired Smecta which I had taken before leaving definitely did its job, because the feeling remained entirely manageable almost all the way to the end, and even on those final kilometers, when it got worse, it wasn’t quite that bad. So I first decided to keep going when I first passed by that gas station, at 26 km, then once again continued when I passed by it again, on the way back, at just about 29.5 km, at which point I was starting to think that I won’t be stopping after all, especially since I had also taken that Smecta Go with me. Maybe knowing that there was another gas station that I was going to pass by twice, at about 34 km and 38 km, and that it actually was right on the route, unlike that one, also helped me reach that decision, since I knew that I had options if it’ll become an emergency, but in the end, as I already said, it wasn’t needed. And I didn’t take that Smecta Go either.
Back to those calculations, after entering those final 15 km I noticed that, assuming that average of seven minutes per kilometer from then on, I was actually looking at 4:15… And at some point after 30 km, possibly around the time when the route returned to Unirii, which would be at about 31.5 km, I realized that I might actually aim for 4:10. But, even though the feeling of hitting the wall made itself known around 30 km, I kept assuming that it was going to get worse and there will come a point after which I’ll lose a lot of time, so I was still thinking that I was only building a buffer, in order to allow for that loss, continuing to do so even when I realized that the target time actually worked out to 4:07 pretty much ever since I had started calculating. That moment came at about 34 km, so just about when I was passing by that other gas station the first time, and it took into account the rate at which I had been slowing pretty much ever since I had started calculating. But, again, I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t going to get much worse before the end.
Then again, that would have most probably been the case if I wouldn’t have had that shot of liquid magnesium which had been in the race kit for this year’s half marathon. After all, that feeling of hitting the wall and the refreshment point meant that I had already struggled to stay under seven minutes on the 31st kilometer, pushing to cover it in what I recall being 6:54 and leaving eating that bar with a high salt content for the following kilometer. That was another thing which had been in that race kit and which I had kept for the marathon, even though it had expired by then, and it was also easy to eat… Easier than I wanted it to be, in fact, since I was hoping to use that moment to regain my breath a little, after that push, so I ended up taking more time with it than it’d have actually required. And it might have helped a little as well, but far from enough, so it was getting harder to continue, and at about 32.5 km, a little before turning on Burebista, I was overtaken by Radu’s group, and I heard him encourage the others and tell them the target times, which clearly meant that they were aiming to finish in less than four hours, at which point one of them said that his personal best was 4:13 and they shouldn’t expect him to keep up with that, so I also found myself saying out loud, as they were going past me, that mine was 4:11… Even though that was actually the real time, not the official one.
Since watching them pull away was disheartening, I was struggling even more, and while the fact that I just kept running meant that I wasn’t in danger of going over seven minutes per kilometer just then, when a first aid volunteer cheered me on and said that I could do it, I found myself saying that I wasn’t so sure of that… And that made me decide to take that shot of magnesium after all. I had been uncertain about it, since it had no listed expiration date and it seemed riskier to take if it actually was expired than that bar had been, but I was on the 36th kilometer, had just passed this street that would have taken me back here, which for pretty obvious reasons tends to be the point where I think the most about giving up, so I decided to go for it and see what would happen… And what happened was that, over the next ten or so minutes, the pain pretty much went away. I was still exhausted, still getting slower, but I didn’t have to push through that pain anymore, which made it so much easier to keep going, especially mentally. And, even if the effect seemed to be wearing off some ten more minutes after fully kicking in, so probably around the time when I reached 39 km, it wasn’t as bad as it had been… Or at least it didn’t seem like it, probably because my mind had been given that chance to rest, to some extent, and I had regained some amount of willpower, helping me push through my body’s complaints more easily.
Actually, the times prove that it just seemed easier, because just those kilometers when the pain seemed to have gone away were the slowest ones. I might have just managed to stay under seven minutes on the 37th as well, despite the refreshment point, but I was no longer certain of that even shortly after finishing, that message which I recorded for myself first stating 7:09 and then 6:57 on it. This second option seems more likely, however, since 7:09 is a probable time for the following kilometer, if the sign was correct and not the painted mark, since the mark was before the intersection and the sign after it, and I clearly remember checking both times and reaching the mark in 6:51 and the sign 18 seconds later, so in 7:09. And that obviously adds that uncertainty for the 39th kilometer as well, but that one was definitely slow, because the 4:00 pacemakers passed me right at the start of it and that made me take it easy. I had actually been hoping to stay ahead of them for 40 km and really didn’t expect them to catch up so soon, so it was an unpleasant surprise, especially since I had also delayed eating that second gel until then, just so I won’t lose even more time. Either way, when they went past me it was clear that any chance of staying under four hours, even only as real time, was gone, but it also happened late enough to make me quite certain that I will be faster than last year, so for a while I lost any motivation to push, took it easy while eating that gel, and didn’t push too hard on the following, 40th, kilometer either, when I lost some more time because of the refreshment point as well, and because I struggled to eat that piece of orange, so I quite clearly recall covering it in a little over seven minutes.
That was the last kilometer that was so slow, however, since when I reached the sign marking 40 km I realized that, if I could somehow push again, I just had a chance to stay under 4:05, so I did my best and that 41st kilometer was the fastest in quite some time, and in that recorded message I was saying that I thought that I had covered it in 6:31, though that could be a few seconds off. But then the 42nd was far better, since I really gave everything and covered it in well under six minutes. In that message I was saying that the time had probably been 5:41, 5:42 or 5:43, but by that point I didn’t exactly have energy to think or memorize anymore, so that could also be a few seconds off. What’s clear is that it was the fastest kilometer in a very long time, and it wouldn’t be impossible for it to have been the fastest in the second half of the race, since I can’t recall how much below six minutes the 22nd had been, and while I know that, after going over six minutes on the 23rd, I got back below six minutes on the 24th, I again don’t recall by how much, and whether the 25th was also below six minutes or not depends on whether the refreshment point was just before or just after the sign. Admittedly, it is possible that I got back under six minutes on the 27th or, less likely, 28th kilometer as well, but the sign for either 26 or 27 km was hundreds of meters away from where it should have been, so while I seem to recall spotting the painted mark, which seemed to be in the right place, the situation confused me and I didn’t really try to keep those times in mind. But I seem to have been left with the impression that I didn’t get back under six minutes after that refreshment point.
Either way, what I can clearly say, since that time remained listed on my stopwatch at the end, is that I covered that final portion, between the 42 km sign and the finish line, in 1:03. And the official time was 4:03:56, with a real time of 4:02:14, so I didn’t just get under 4:05, but even under 4:04. On the other hand, that means that the actual running time was pretty much the same as last year, or maybe mere seconds faster, the real time being 9:14 lower and the total time required for that “pit stop” I made last year, between leaving the route and returning to it, being 8:50, and then I lost a few more seconds because I walked while putting the mask, which I had worn inside that gas station, back in its place.
What’s more important, however, is that failing to stay under four hours by less than four minutes means that I might have just made it if I’d have believed that it was possible. Four minutes means 15 seconds per kilometer for 16 kilometers, and while that might not have been possible for each of the last 16 km, and quite clearly wouldn’t have been possible for the 41st and 42nd, I’m quite sure that I could have gained at least a minute and a half, and maybe about two minutes, by optimizing the way I dealt with the refreshment points and how I ate the bars and gels and took that shot of magnesium. And I could have also improved my start time by about half a minute or so by advancing more boldly through the start area, plus that getting rid of trash right away instead of trying to aim for garbage cans or, later, holding on to it until the next refreshment point would have saved a little time as well. And just these things might have been enough to keep me ahead of the 1:50 half marathon pacemakers, or at least allow me to just about keep up with them until they finished their race, which would have been motivating, while seeing them pass me was disheartening, as I already mentioned. And maybe Radu’s group wouldn’t have passed me either, or they’d have only done so towards the end and I’d have tried to stay among them, with the 4:00 pacemakers probably on our heels, making me push instead of take it rather easy over the 39th and 40th kilometers, after being passed by them. And, of course, setting target times that added up to four hours instead of 4:20, and the very fact of having my mind set on that target instead of thinking, at least during the first part of the race, that even finishing at all was in doubt, would have made quite a difference. And I’m not getting any younger, so I don’t know whether I’ll get another chance… But I quite clearly intend to try again next year.

I only managed to get as far as the paragraph about the calculations, ending with what I realized at about 34 km, before midnight, the rest of what’s above this point, starting with the paragraph that begins by mentioning the liquid magnesium, being added Monday evening, with an addition made in the last paragraph that night, while I ate. And, while it might have made sense to end this post here, so it’ll only cover the actual race, I did edit it again later, adding everything I did before getting back for good in the early hours of Friday, before going to bed, and the final section on Friday afternoon.

I actually posed for a photographer right after crossing the finish line, but I wasn’t sure whether he was still paying attention, and the angle of the picture that I found makes me wonder whether it wasn’t actually another one who took it. But at least I have that shot. There were previous races when all of the photographers seemed to have missed me at the finish, and since this time around I wasn’t exactly going to be able to have a good picture taken later, with the medal, it seemed pretty important to have a better one taken at the finish.
Either way, I was rather stumbling as I made my way to those who were handing out the medals, but it was definitely less bad than after the long practice run. So I received the medal, then grabbed a bottle of water and one of juice, drank a glass of water and ate a piece of banana and eventually two pieces of apple. However, I think I just had one piece of apple at first, probably waiting for a while before I even grabbed that, because I was looking for full fruits and there were none within reach… And when a guy took a crate of mixed fruits to another table and I was trying to work up the courage to just grab something from it, the competition’s medical director came to me and asked how I felt, and when I said that I was quite finished, he said that it showed and asked whether I wanted some salty soup, pointing out the salt residue on my t-shirt and saying that I needed to recover the salt as well, especially if I had just drank water. I didn’t tell him that I had only drank plain water once, but asked whether they just gave that soup away and he said that they gave it to those looking like they needed it, so I accepted his offer and chose chicken when he asked whether I preferred beef, chicken or vegetables. It was just the liquid, however, nothing solid in the bowl, and I wasn’t given a spoon anyway, so I drank it… And it really was awfully salty. But by then that crate was no longer in view, so I had to give up on the idea of taking any fruits for later and I think that was when I grabbed that second piece of apple. And I definitely drank a cup of that other drink before finally leaving that area.
Just a few steps away, massages were being offered, and this time around I decided to have one. But they were actually using order numbers, not making people stand in line, so I asked for a number and, after realizing that it’ll be a while until my turn will come, went to retrieve my bag, also passing by the Zuzu Fit tent and taking a protein milk and a protein yogurt, since they were offering products directly again. Then, after managing to somehow stuff most of what I had into the bag, I decided to also try to use the place where pictures seemed to be taken automatically, but I didn’t know how or even whether it worked, so I stepped on that plate and posed for a few seconds, but the only click I heard was just when I stepped on that plate, which would have made for a particularly poor picture, and it’s not like I knew how to see it later, and I didn’t ask, so I shrugged off the idea of getting a picture that way, returned to the massage area and waited for my turn… Or a little more, since a bunch of numbers were called, the people who were just ahead of me apparently no longer being there, and while I raised my hand when my number was called, I wasn’t noticed, the guy who actually said that he was there when his number was called, a little later, being taken instead. It was only then that I actually said that I was also there, and ended up being taken once another table became available, having a leg massage, plus a little on my back as well, albeit over t-shirt. The person doing the massage commented when she saw the bandages on my heels, since I removed my socks and tights, but I said that they were only there for protection.
After that, I made my way to those who were watching those who were still arriving at the finish, went straight to a guy and, after standing next to him for a little while, until the next finisher seemed to be far enough away, I asked him to take a picture. However, dad called right when I was handing him my phone, after he agreed and I told him that the camera was bad, so the phone should be kept steady, so I excused myself and then got back to him after talking to dad. At that point, he offered to take a picture with his phone and send it to me by Whatsapp, but since I don’t have that, I was left with the picture that my phone could take. The quality is pretty bad, but at least I have one with the medal as well. And then I went behind some other tents, changed out of the t-shirt, took quite a long time to move everything into the other backpack, since I had taken it with me, and finally put on the headphones and jacket and left Constitution Square a little before 3:10 PM.

I walked to Unirii and spotted a fair in that park, so I had a look, then quickly checked that Mega Image, went into that shopping center to pee and wash my hands, face and mouth, only put the mask back on before entering that Carrefour, and walked out of there without having purchased anything either. Then I went to the metro station, showed the card directly, without even trying to use it again, and decided to just get back to Dristor, finally finding something to buy, an expiring bottle of apple juice, at the Mega Image that’s next to that farmers’ market. And, while they didn’t say anything about the full backpack, which I never bothered to put in a cabinet while checking those stores, either, when I entered that Supeco, through the exit door, since the entrance wasn’t working, I was advised to leave that bottle somewhere. But it was clearly from Mega Image, being one of their store brands, so I refused, had a quick look and then entered with it when I checked that Carrefour as well, showing it in passing to the guard when I left, again without finding anything else to get. And then, even though it was terribly crowded, I wasted a little more time checking out the Turkish Festival which I noticed was taking place in the park, before making my way to the newer bakery from this area, also having a quick look in this Mega Image from across the road when I passed by here. And, while they didn’t have what I was actually looking for, at least I did buy one thing from that bakery, obviously still not getting any receipt.
I got back here at 6:20 PM, dropped everything off… And that pressing need which had, as expected, pretty much evaporated after I finished the marathon suddenly reappeared, so I rushed to the toilet, then munched on something while spending some time on the computer and was just leaving again when dad got back… At which point I realized that I had forgotten to lock the door… And then I also forgot to take the mask again, realizing it after I went out the door and coming back for it, so it was at least 7:35 PM when I left again, if not a little later.
After crossing the road, I realized that I had taken the running shoes again, but didn’t have the time to get back and change them, since Penny stores usually close at 8 PM on Sunday and that was my first destination… Though I did quickly check that Mega Image that’s on the way, seeing one of those apple pastries but deciding against buying it, just keeping in mind to have another look on the way back, in case it’ll still be there and discounted at that point… And then, when I got to Penny, I saw that this location closed at 9 PM, so I could get the mozzarella that I wanted and a couple of other things without rushing.
Still, Kaufland closed at 9 PM, so after arranging the purchases in the backpack I rushed there, peed and washed my hands and walked in just after 8:30 PM, without bothering to put the purchases in a cabinet. But nothing interesting was left in the bakery area and, despite noticing a discount that was a little higher than the announced one and meaning to grab a few bananas after having a look around, I forgot to do so, so I just got carrots, which had an evening discount, and a bag of arpacas… Which I initially thought was leaking, but since nothing fell out of it when I tried to check, I shrugged it off and took it. Then I had no problems with the self-checkout and was just finishing when it was announced that the store had closed.
After that, I also went to that Carrefour, put the purchases in a cabinet and bought a few things, needing to call an employee to apply the evening discount at the self-checkout for the bread which I had grabbed for dad. Then I retrieved my things from the cabinet and arranged everything, but I was in a hurry… And at some point I ended up losing the 5 RON bill which I had received as change. But I only realized that two days later, so at that point I just kept going, rushing to also check that Mega Image, I think entering with all of the purchases and grabbing a discounted bread for dad from there as well. I also wanted to get some snacks for him, but I thought that I was going to find them at this other location as well, so I didn’t get them from there… And ended up not getting them at all, since I just managed to get back to this other location at 9:55 PM, obviously once again didn’t take the time to put anything in a cabinet… And had to go back out without any purchases, since those snacks don’t seem to be available at that location, and that apple pastry was no longer there either.

I was back for good a little after 10:10 PM… And when I put some of the purchases in their place, I realized that the bag of arpacas really was leaking, so I put some sticky tape on that area. Then I finished the part about October 3 of the post about the last runs before the marathon and posted it as it was, ate the remaining half of that raisins and nuts mix, talked to dad, and finally went to the bathroom, to use the toilet one more time and take a bath, when it was close to midnight. I still finished a little before 1 AM, but after talking with dad some more, washing and cleaning some of what was in kitchen, and actually making dinner, I only started eating it at 4:45 AM, and took it easy, finishing at 6:15 AM. I used the electric oven to make that pizza and it seemed cooked very unevenly, but it’d have probably been good if I wouldn’t have piled on way too many ingredients, since it was really good around the edge, but rather uncooked towards the middle, where everything was piled on.
I only got in bed at 7:50 AM, but at least that meant that, instead of tossing and turning and possibly giving up and getting back on the computer for a while, as it tends to happen after exhausting runs, it was probably just a little after 8 AM when I fell asleep and I only woke up around 1:15 PM. And, while I got up at that point, around 4 PM I got back in bed and slept for almost one more hour, waking up just after 5 PM, though it was a little after 5:30 PM when I actually got up again.


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