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contributed by Keith, Israel

I had open-heart (triple bypass) surgery some years back, and felt that I needed to lose some weight. Exercise seemed easier that dieting (I have enough problems watching my cholesterol, salt, sugar, etc.), so we started walking - half an hour every day.

I got the marathon "bug" after reading stories from marathoners on these e-mail groups and decided that this would be a target for my 55th birthday. Sunday, March 4 was the big day, and here is our story.

My wife told me I was crazy, and rushed off to my doctor to get this madness stopped. But the doctor told Tamar that she could either try and fight me, or join me: if she joined me she could at least keep an eye on what I was doing. So Tamar realized that she had no choice, and joined me!

Of course, the first stage of training was to get hold of Dave's book. The first time that I read it, so much of it seemed irrelevant - it's not for me, this book is for people who walk marathons! But, slowly it sunk in, that we were going to become marathoners too. We must have read Dave book at least four times. The common-sense information was really useful, down to earth and simple. We based our training on Dave's program for beginners, and followed it quite faithfully in the beginning. Towards the end - I guess about two months before m-day, we got off the program - I had some business trips, bad weather, etc. If I look realistically at our training, we did no serious walking in those last two months. More of that later.

We flew to Paphos, picked up our car, and headed off to look at the course. We found that there was real killer of a hill climb around the 18 km mark - enough to make anyone who had any doubts, really begin to wonder whether it could be done. Afterward, we headed for the registration center to pick up our pack.

I should mention that the entire event was the work of one person (Stavros), who was helped by his wife Maria, and their 13? year old son. I probably should also mention that we were the only walkers in the marathon, and that the course would be open only for 5 hours. It was agreed that we would start before the official start (08:30 AM), so that we could finish before the course was closed.

Picked up our pack, and they told us that the route had been changed, and would now be two laps of a completely flat course. Thank goodness for that! Took the bus trip to familiarize ourselves with the route, as we would be doing the first lap before the marshals were in place.

Marathon day arrived, and we were up at 5.00. Following Dave's advice, everything had been laid out the night before, so we were ready in no time. Into the car for the 15 km drive (in the dark) to Paphos. Parked the car, did a last minute check that we had everything, and headed down to the start line. The office of the race director was close by, and there was light, so we popped in to say goodbye.

Down to the start line, a kiss and we were off!

We had two goals: firstly, to finish; and secondly, to do it in 6 hours, so we had to do each km in 8:30. The first few km we were a bit slow, but that was OK. As we started to pass the km markers, our times were getting closer to the 8:30 mark. As we arrived at the 3 km mark, the truck was there delivering the water, so we each helped ourselves to a half-liter bottle. Same story at the 6 km - the water was just being delivered as we got there. By this stage I was warmed up, so I shed my jersey by the refreshment table.

Tamar and I kept together for the first 14 km, but I felt that I was going a bit slow, so I pulled ahead. At about the 20 km mark (the course was a loop) we meet the marathon runners, who had just started off, as they passed their 1 km mark. Got to the 21 km mark with my watch showing 3:01 and feeling great, so I felt quite confident. Shortly after I turned and started the second lap, I met Tamar, so we weren't too far apart.

Somewhere around the 28 km I began to feel sluggish, and I could see my km times dropping off toward 9 minutes, and even 9:15. But I got back into the stride of it by the 34 km, and my times crept back towards target.

I was taking a 1/2 liter bottle of water at each of the water stations - they were 3 km apart - and was feeling good. Twice I 'lost' my water bottle. Once it just fell out my hand, and rather than stop, I just carried on walking. Definitely a mistake. A couple of stops later I put the water bottle in my pocket (I was getting tired of carrying the bottle), but most of the water splashed out. I could see that my arms were swollen: so much so that I took off my Polar watch. At the last two water stations, I just couldn't force myself to drink any more, and did even bother to pick up water.

Hit the finish line with my watch showing 6:07:00, but didn't have long to wait for Tamar, who came in at 6:14:23. Tamar had been busy the last 4 km talking to herself, telling herself "You can do it", 'You're almost there", etc.

Did some stretching, and wandered around, basking in the warm glow of victory - we did it! No blisters or chafing anywhere. I must admit that we were very pleased with ourselves! We had finished, and we weren't too far off our six-hour goal. Next time we'll train properly, and break the six-hour goal!

Some conclusions, for next time

The advice in Dave's book is spot on.

Anyone who has some good walking experience, including some long walks, can finish a marathon - the only question is how long it will take.

We both carried (small) backpacks of water (because we weren't sure if the water would be in place at the first few water stations) and Isostar (because we had never trained with Gatorade), as well as a couple of bananas. Never again. We both felt that carrying stuff on our backs hindered us, and made it more difficult to hold onto a good walking style.

You have to drink (at least) 1/2 liter of water every 3 km. Towards the end I didn't, and suffered from mild dehydration in evening (headache and a temperature).

You need to drink Isostar/Gatorade from 21 km onwards - I didn't drink enough (and started drinking too late)

If it is sunny, you must wear a good head covering. We both did, and were very glad of it, but we saw how some of the bare-headed runners really suffered from the sun.

We will stick more carefully to the training program.

Just a few words of thanks: to all the people who take part in these mailing lists, who gave me the bug (special thanks to PC), for the advice, hints, and motivation to do it. This was the first marathon, one of many more to come: an achievement to tell to the grandchildren, met some wonderful people, and had a wonderful experience.

Keith & Tamar

The book referred to in this story is "The Complete Guide to Marathon Walking" by Dave McGovern. Dave is not associated with this site, but you can buy the book at our Walking Store.

Read more marathon stories.



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