Hey you guyyyyss!
Prague is my last stop in Europe, and this past weekend I participated in the Volkswagen Prague Marathon. Yep, the full marathon. Marathon #4 for me. It was a bit of a question all throughout my travels whether or not to run the marathon since I was dealing with a nagging IT band injury and I didn’t want to hurt it further. Not to mention the fact that the most I ran in any one week between the injury and the marathon itself was about 17 miles total in one week. Some weeks I would only run once. And trust me I would exaggerate my mileage if I could, but just trying to keep everyone honest here. That being said I definitely was not very prepared to run 26.2 miles.
Had I never run a marathon before, I probably would have just not started, but my body does know what it is like to run that distance so I thought it might not be too bad. If nothing else I wanted to do it to see what the expo was like, start the race to see how they do it in Prague, and so be it if I had to drop out or walk the majority of it and just treat it as a long sightseeing day. I was in a beautiful city with a lot of things to see, of course! And I felt good doing 14 miles two weeks before sooo all logic pointed to completing it, no? I’m really glad I did it though. I finished, and didn’t do terribly bad with my pace (4:12:44-still within about a half hour of my normal range), and only had to walk a few times towards the end, to my surprise. I think this was in large part because while traveling we are on our feet nearly all day most days, and a lot of days lugging around a huge pack, so I’m going to attribute part of being able to complete it to that.
It was pretty hard towards the end, and I’m glad I did it in this case, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend anyone to skimp on their training OR try to train for a marathon while doing an extended backpacking trip. It’s fun to run while traveling, but most of the fun of training for marathons for me is to train with my marathoner friends and without a group of people to train and do the race with it’s just not as thrilling. The thrill for me on this one luckily came from being in a new city, with new sights, and to complete it with my cousin, who is a first-time marathoner!
The Volkswagen Prague Marathon 2014 was definitely a great experience. The Expo was awesome, the course was FLAT and beautiful, and they were really well organized. There were about 6,038 racers that finished and only about 1,102 were female, I noted. 9,500 runners were listed as registered prior to the race.
I’ll share some things I liked and didn’t like about it. I’ll start with some things I didn’t like so we can end on a happy note.
- A lot of doubling back in this course. For the most part I enjoyed the course, and the fact that the course went back and forth throughout the city was sometimes good because I got to see my cousin from time to time AND got to see the elite athletes pass by while running, however it made the course feel a little longer to do so much doubling back and running back and forth with two-way runner traffic on the same road.
- The Expo! Their sport expo was pretty good with all the regular exhibitors like nutrition experts, energy concoctions for pre-and post-race, running coaches, booths with a lot of cool gear, elite athletes, and lots of music and race information. I got to meet Barefoot Ted McDonald at the expo which was really cool. He spoke first about the benefits of minimalist footwear in running and about his time with the Tarahumara in Mexico. He then signed copies of Born to Run, and he showed us the solowheel. It was a good time.
- Salt at most refreshment stops. The other thing that really helped me make it through this marathon was taking salt capsules and taking salt when it was offered on the course. I learned about the benefits of salt capsules (like these by Saltstick, that I used) at Gear West after I had horrible cramping at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN in 2013. There is nothing worse than cramping up half-way through and not having anything to help with it. Salt capsules to the rescue! I did feel my muscles tighten a little so started using the capsules around mile 10 and took probably one an hour. The Prague Marathon also had plates filled with salt set out at the refreshment tables and runners would dip their fruit (bananas and oranges) into the salt for a quick salt shot. I was glad they had this available for runners.
- Live Tracking! I think this is becoming more and more commonplace, but I was excited to see that the Prague Marathon had live tracking so you could look up and watch a runner run across a map on your screen from the comfort of your home. It looked like the screen shot below. Even though it was very early in the morning back in the US, I still had some family that got up early to watch me at the end of the race!
- Flat course! Prague can be hilly so it was really nice that the course officials mapped a course that was really flat. Almost no hills at all. It would have been a good course to PR on!
- Free massages! There was a half a city block of massage tents and massage tables set up for a 5 minute leg massage before or after the race. It may not seem like much, but I think my recovery was much better and I had less pain than normal due to the quick rub-down post-race. The 15 minute wait in line was worth it and the lines went pretty quickly since there were so many tables.
- Personal message booth! This was by far the coolest aspect of the race for me that set it apart from others. They had a booth set up at the expo with videocamera and microphone where you could record a short message for your friends or family that were running. They would record the runner’s bib number and your message here…
And then the video message would come up on the screen and speakers at the 36K point during the race (a little over 22 miles), just for your runner to view. It was cool to have the option for that personal encouragement we all need during mile 22. SUCH an awesome idea!
- The language may not translate but the enthusiasm of fans does! While I was running there were a lot of different languages being yelled in my general direction, and I didn’t see any personal messages from the message booth in English, so you could really tell how international the marathon actually was. I read somewhere that 91 countries were represented. Even though I couldn’t understand most of what was said, things like “go, go, go!” were easily understood, and high fives were always welcome. Although the fans weren’t as numerous as other marathons I’ve done, the fans that were there did have fun signs and would yell or clap for encouragement. They also had a lot of music along the route, and many cheer squads to cheer you along.
- Photos and videos of you during the race! This is also regular at all the races I’ve done, however this race had a race video that I could purchase as well. Since I didn’t have anyone in town to cheer from the sidelines, I did purchase all of the digital photos and videos. And the price was much more reasonable than what I’ve experienced at other races, at only €40 for all HD digital copies.
As you can see from my use of exclamation points that I was very excited about the race overall. I’d highly recommend it for anyone hoping to PR!
Afterwards, I went to this AMAZING vegetarian restaurant, called Lehká Hlava. The name means Clear Head in English, which I love. I had a pret-ty large meal post-race. The meal after a marathon might be the best thing ever. So choose wisely. I definitely did this time!
And I also had a raw vegan strawberry cheesecake made out of cashews and walnuts, but I didn’t even manage a photo because I ate it so fast. It was soooo good!!!
The rest of the time in Prague I did see a few sights. Prague was definitely near the top of the list of cities that I’ve visited so far, due to it’s relaxed and friendly atmosphere. It was a great city to hang out in after the race and just enjoy.