I'm sitting here in our hotel reception area in Zurich, trying to get a grip of the Swiss keyboard which has some of the keys in strange places. A few hours ago I finished the Zurich marathon in 2 hours 59 minutes and 40 seconds, finishing in 373rd place out of 4,642 finishers.
I was really pleased with my run. My plan was to stay close to the 3 hour pacer, but right from the start he went off more quickly than I wanted to run so I let him go. The race gave official times for the quarter, half, three quarter and full marathon distance, and I was through the quarter marathon point (slightly more than 10.5 k) in 44.51. At that stage I wouldn't have given myself much chance of beating 3 hours, and the 3 hour pacemaker (with his yellow balloon high in the air) must have been about a minute and a half in front. I surprised myself by picking up the pace, and by the half marathon distance (1.29.10) I had caught the pacemaker and his group, and was going well. I stayed with him (and the rest of the group, which was quite large) until the three quarter marathon point (just less than 32k) which I went through in 2.14.08. At that stage I was feeling good and knew I was on for sub 3 hours if I could hold it together. For some stupid reason I pushed on in front of the group at the 35k point, and by 36k they had come back and passed. I started to struggle badly, and went through a very poor section from about 36 to 39k. I was pretty sure at that point that my chances of sub 3 had gone, but as I checked my watch going through 39k I realised I could still do it if I was able to up the pace a bit. The last 3k were, as you would expect, very painful, but I was absolutely determined and as I came up the final straight I knew I was going to do it. I crossed the line in 2.59.40. I had done it - absolutely thrilled to bits - my first sub 3 hour marathon since 1998, and the first time I have done it in a big city race.
I have to say that the course and the organisation at Zurich were fantastic. The race started at 8.30am, so it didn't get too warm - I think the temperature ranged from about 9 to 14 degrees, which was ideal for running. The course went out and back along the lake, so there was hardly a hill on it. I received a text about 20 minutes after finishing, giving me my official time and splits. All in all a brilliant event, which I would highly recommend. It obviously helps when you run well :)