The idea came at the beginning of the year, when I realised that my birthday would fall on a Sunday. Seeing that normally marathons are taking place on the last day of the week, I did not have to think twice, but looked up possible races that I could run to celebrate my anniversary. I cannot help it, but I am a pretty superstitious. I mean I am turning 25 years, hence entering my 26th year of age, so it would almost be rude not to run 26 miles on that given day.

Valencia Marathon, as well as Verona Marathon were both set to take place on the 20th of November. Initially I was drawn to re-visit the country I had lived in last year, Spain, but in the end I opted to run Verona. Not to forget that for me Verona is pretty much a home marathon, as we are living at Lake Garda, which is around 45 minutes away by car.

Came Friday, the 18th of November, I flew in from Berlin and picked up my race bib. The atmosphere was wonderful. Christmas lights lit up the city and the expo was located right outside the tremendous Verona Arena at Piazza Bra. I am not sure whether it was due to my insisting, or the atmosphere itself, either way my mum spontaneously decided to sign up for the 10k race on Sunday.

On Sunday, November 20th, I finally found myself at the starting line. Based on my fitness levels from before Cappadoccia Ultra-Trail, I should have been able to run between 3:00 and 3:10, if things would have been all in my favour. However, unfortunately my return to running after CUT had been a bit rocky, as I had picked up a muscle injury in my right thigh. Truthfully, I could not run at all during the weeks leading up to the marathon, so I had to readjust my goal of simply reaching the finishing line, as I was really not sure how my leg would hold up. 

Anyways, the starting gun was fired and off I went. I had my leg all taped up and just run. With my split times in mind, I was counting down kilometre by kilometre. To my great surprise things were looking pretty good. It took me under 50 minutes to complete the first 10 kilometres, and I run the half in just under 1:40 hour, so I was on track to at least break the 3:30 hour mark. Whilst I had run three ultra marathons this year, I still remembered hitting the infamous wall at around 30 kilometer in my previous marathons in Madrid and Munich last year. However, none of that feeling kicked in this year. Filled with adrenaline and excitement of being able to run this marathon on my birthday, I kept on pushing, and I was able to keep the kilometre splits at around 4:50 minutes.

I crossed the final bridge and entered the old town of Verona. The streets were filled with enthusiastic Italians that were screaming, singing and shouting. It was an incredible atmosphere along the cobbled roads. It reminded me of the narrow marathon route that lead through the city of Madrid. I was looking at my watch. I knew I was almost there, and I knew I would break the 3:30 hour. A final left turn and I saw the arena in front of my eyes. The final meters were closed off and went along the side of this impressive construction. Music was playing and the crowds were cheering. One final sprint, if you can call it one, and I crossed the finish line at 3:24:31. I made it. With no training in my legs and an injured thigh, I undercut my personal best by almost ten minutes. I was walking out off the runner’s area, whilst staring at the medal around my neck. I could not have imagined a better way to celebrate my birthday. It was a wonderful day, and marked the final race of my first full running season. After a longer recovery, in order to fully heal the damaged muscle, but with less than four months to go, I am now back in training for Marathon Des Sables, as well as striving towards a sub-3 marathon next year. 

Photo Credits: Castagnoli Fotografie Sportive