April 28th 2019 was the day I had been looking forward to for months now. Ever since I broke my personal best time in Rotterdam in April 2018, I was eager to try again.
I have been training with Benny as my coach now for a year and have worked harder than before. More intervals, more training on heart rate, more trainings designed specifically for me. And I was going to have Sofie by my side, which gave me an enormous mental boost. Benny told me the night before the race that every kilometer I could run faster then 6:20 would be breaking my own personal record. Mental boost!
The day before I was doubting about what to wear. It was going to be 8-9 degrees Celsius at most and rainy. Long sleeves, short sleeves, hat, …? I wasn’t sure. I decided on shorts, a long sleeve t-shirt and my ‘Once Upon a Run’ t-shirt over that. After I laid out everything the and had a big bowl of pasta I went to sleep.
I had set my alarm at 6:15 after a restless night of sleep. When I left my apartment at 7am to meet Sofie on the tram it was pouring. I wore a sweater, long pants and a rain poncho over my running outfit. When we arrived at Linkeroever where the start was it was raining even harder. Not my favourite weather and that made me a bit nervous.
9am, time for the start! I wanted to run this marathon in 4h20min (my previous best time was 4h27min). When I found my place a couple meters behind the 4h15 pacer I tossed my poncho, turned on my Garmin and was ready to go. Sofie, Eline and I started running a couple minutes past 9am and fell into an easy pace. 6:01, 5:57, 5:36, … My body felt good, but I was going out very fast (for me)…
After 5 kilometers I saw my parents for the first time. I immediately started the countdown to kilometer 20 when I would see them again.
At kilometer 6 we (Eline and I) lost Sofie. I was sure I wasn’t going to be able to keep up this pace and that we would find each other again very quickly.
But after 20 kilometers when I met my parents again, my pace still felt okay and I figured I would just keep it up for as long as I could. Eline was still by my side and her mother-in-law was biking next to us. What an amazing mental support!
When we crossed the halfway mark in 2h07min I got goosebumps! If I could keep up this pace I would finish in under 4h15min, my goal of 4h20 seemed very very possible.
At kilometer 25 I knew Nathalie would be waiting for me. A quick wave and on with it. At the kilometer 31 sign I saw my parents again, at that point it had been raining for over 30 minutes and I was cold. It felt so good to see them!
Now I knew I had to keep going, keep pushing. In the distance I still saw the 4h15min pacers and knew if I could catch them I would finish in under 4h15min.
When we hit kilometer 35 I took a last sip of the sports drinks they were handing out, followed by a cup of water and decided to try and speed up even a tiny bit more. I was getting very hungry and decided to eat half of the Nakd bar I was still carrying with me. I had eaten my 6 GU gels and did not want to ‘waste’ any more time trying to get a cup of water at the next stop. I left Eline behind me and hit a 5:36 minute kilometer.
After 38 kilometers I was starting to feel really bad, hungry and just very very tired. I ate the rest of my Nakd bar and told myself I was ‘almost’ there. Around 40 kilometers I was running with the big group that had gathered around the 4h15 pacers. When we were only about 1 kilometer from the finish they told us to go for it. Run, run faster!
I could see the finish line… I did not notice anything or anyone else around me. I was so tired, hungry and I had to pee very badly. When I crossed the finish line I was in tears! How did I do this? 4h12min49sec!
I immediately saw my mom and fell in her arms, crying. She put a coat over my shoulders and told me how proud she was. I told her I was exhausted and could not believe what I had just accomplished. We found my dad and waited for Sofie to finish.
I said goodbye to my parents, met up with Kim for a massage and met Sofie and some friends for beers and food after that!
Big thanks to Sofie for being my mental support during training and in general! Thanks Benny for being the best coach I could imagine, 1 year of training with you and I sharpened my PR by 15 minutes!
Thanks to Eline for being my mental support during the race and of course my parents for always being my biggest fans and always being there for me.
Shout out to everyone I saw on the course: Bieke, Bart, Stéphane, Veerle, Geneviève, Nathalie, Joseé and everyone I’m forgetting…
And last but not least thanks to everyone who tracked me on the app and sent me good luck and congratulations: Tine, Sara, Cat, Sophie, Toby, Annelies, Liesbeth, Bart, …
I could not have done this without all of you by my side!