Running races always have painful start times for a weekend. There’s no nice and relaxed morning before a run, it’s up at the break of dawn and get yourself to the start line.

Gyeongju was no different with an 8am start time meaning that we my alarm went off at 5:45am to give my body time in the morning to wake up. I’d bussed it out the previous evening and found a place serving pasta, which I ordered two servings of. The run was billed as the Cherry Blossom marathon, but unfortunately the bad weather meant that there wasn’t much blossom around and I shivered my way out of the hostel in full under armour and a hoodie on.

The traffic was worse than we had expected and so we only made it to the start line about 5 minutes before the race start. I hurriedly did a very mini warm-up and stretches. This wasn’t ideal before my first full marathon, especially as I ‘d taken the previous week very easy due to a bit of a strained calf that was hurting.

Nevertheless I set my watch to a 3 hour 20 pace, plugged in my music and watched the fireworks go off as we prepared to run. I was feeling pretty prepared for the opening 32km, but having never run further, wasn’t sure what would happen during the final 10k. The start of the race was pretty difficult trying to control my pacing. To hit 3:20, you have to run an average of 4 min 45 per kilometre, which is a lot slower than I’d run for anything shorter, so I had to focus on staying steady and not dash off with the race leaders.

The opening 21km went pretty much as I’d expected, I plodded along, sometimes feeling the odd niggle in my legs, but fairly steady overall. I tried to not focus on how low the mileage was and that I had over half to go, but just on others around me and the unspectacular views. I had fun between 8-10km in unpinning my race number, taking off my hoodie and stuffing it into my running bag then repinning myself whilst still moving. At 21km I took my first energy gel to make sure legs were fully fueled for the rest of it.

The 21 – 32 km slug was a bit of a mental challenge. The race still had too far to do a final 10km countdown and I had a few ups and downs pushing through as my legs started to hurt in new ways. From 32km to the end was pretty painful. My quads burned each time my legs impacted down and I realised why it is you see distance runners not taking as large strides as you’d expect – it’s to try and minimise the impacts. It became very much a focus on each ~5 minutes – getting through another kilometre and thinking how short a run this would be normally.

Towards the end of the race there was a tedious uphill section to really give the legs a final burn before that blissful turning and the 200 metre sprint down to the finish barrier and a beer to down from my friends who had run the half. I finished in 3:15:53, which I was happy with, but it did make me nervous for my 70km in 2 months – I need to run a lot more miles into my legs. The quads burnt the most when having to push uphill or deal with more impact on the downs – this race was fairly flat – my Ultra will have 10km of elevation change – so a lot more training is required.

I headed straight from the marathon to Pohang to celebrate a friend’s birthday with table tennis, screen baseball, beer pong and then just some normal drinking. Sunday was a frisbee beach training day. I was able to participate in the drills at about 50% of my usual pace, but sat out of the pick-up matches as I didn’t have the sprinting power in my legs. Today they’re still a bit sore, so will be a rest day, but from tomorrow I’ll be back out on the track to start prepping them to go 30km further.

My marathon split times – I stuck pretty well to my aim of 4:45 pace, ending with a 4:40 average