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Pisa City Marathon
Sunday 21st December 2014
Christof Schwiening

Pisa is one of the last fast marathons of the year - and a stuning location to burn a few calories before the endurance eating season begins. I had planned it as my last sub-3 attempt of the year, but thanks to the ultra-fast Raceway I had no need to make an Italian Job of it. Instead, Kevin and I hatched a plan at The Castle, over more beers than is wise to consume in a single sitting, an assult on his London GFA time. The target was sub-3:05. I was slightly skeptical that either he or I would make it, but I am always game for inflicting a mild amount of suffering on the willing, and went straight for the Broadside.
As we were preparing to go I discovered that a few other C&Cers were making their way to Pisa too. It being the festive season it was no surprise that there were three Christs (Hurcomb, Poole and me) as well as Richard Staley, Kevin and George. Kevin provided the bag drop and loos - having booked his accommodation overlooking the start line. I lined-up with Kevin a little back from the start leaving George to brave-it out with the svelte Italians at the front. You have to hand it to them - they all looked smart and fast. If the race were based on fashion and machismo we were definitely not in with a shout. I hadn't told Kevin, but there was no way I was going to let him get away with a gentle 3:04:59. He was in better shape than that. I was up front about the first km - that was going to be a 4:30 (3:10 marathon pace) - but after that I was going to see if I could drag him down to a 3:03. He didn't disappoint. Off we went winding around the streets of Pisa - the weather was cool, but a breeze was forcast with a nasty little headwind on the 12km straight on the way back. 3:03 was not going to be easy and a negative split was never really on the cards. Kevin and I traded heart rates all the way - I could never get anywhere near his! As we ran through the first 12km we seemed to be the only ones talking. Both of us were relaxed and enjoying pushing on towards a 1:31 half. As we headed back towards town the wind rose as forecast and things got gradually tougher. But, we were overtaking pretty continuously and only two Italian club runners came past around 34km. Kevin remained strong and we dropped the pace only slightly. Before the suffering got too bad the town was in sight and the winding roads began again. A massive PB for Kevin - and he made me work in the final few km to stay in front. At the end we met the others. They were looking fresh, tall and happy after what had, by all accounts, been an enjoyable half. I, on the otherhand, took my cue from the Tower and spent the next half an hour leaning alarmingly.
So, much beer later I agree with a pre-marathon assessment from Edd - after putting on a few kg after the raceway and precious little running, but too much carting of wood - I did indeed have to race to a sub-3:05. Marathons are never easy. But, neither is a half. Edd blew-up pacing George towards a 1:18. I didn''t know you could hit the wall in a half, but Edd demonstrated that with sufficient determination it is indeed possible. Hey ho! Time for the re-fuelling season to begin.

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