THYROID (2/2): health and sports

A gland so important because of its effects on metabolism has not been extensively studied in its relationship with athletics performance.  Within normal range an increased thyroid activity correlates with a greater effectiveness of exercising muscles. As the exercise intensifies, TSH levels increase, for an initial and transient increase of T3 levels that leads to a latter increase of T4 levels. For situations of hypothyroidism, when the ability of the thyroid to increase T4 levels is compromised, athletes complained of decreases in athletic performance or exercise capacity (not excluding other symptoms already described).

Seen as the thyroid gland can adjust metabolism, synthetic thyroxine has been used (or more properly “abused”) by bodybuilders and athletes, as an activator, a procedure that could lead to adverse effects, typical of hyperthyroidism, and even myocardial infarction.

It is also worth commenting on the effects that anabolic steroids may have on the thyroid profile, because of its increasing use in athletics, and with aesthetics interests. There have been studies where steroids use resulted in the reduction of T3 and T4 levels. Therefore, some of the improving effects that a cheater athlete could be trying to achieve, would be however countered because of the side effects affecting the thyroid.

About thyroid hormones levels studied after a marathon it was found an increase in the TSH just after finishing the race. This increase was temporary, with normal levels one hour later, and a decrease one day after. As for the free T4 levels, they were significantly increased, for every time recorder, after the race.

Some elite athletes have been diagnosed with thyroid problems, mainly hypothyroidism, with the shadow of suspicion on their performances as they could be using an enhancement in their thyroid profile to achieve better results. Regarding genre, women are four times more likely to suffer hypothyroidism than men, although the reasons for this prevalence is unknown. Among the best-known women in athletics, Paula Radcliffe, was herself diagnosed, not with hypothyroidism, but with an overactive thyroid gland. It has also been said that very intense training over long periods of time could be down-regulating the thyroid, but it is unclear.

As pointed out early in the entry, the link between athletics performance and thyroid profile is not fully understood, and more studies would be welcome to clarify this interesting topic.

If you feel for a long time without energy, your training plans become harder to follow, and your achievements can´t get where they used to be, maybe it´s time to get a blood test and check for your thyroid hormones. Even at a subclinical level, could be explaining a performance decay, and although it doesn´t usually need treatment in these mild states, it would be appropriate to do a blood test annually to prevent any further decays.

A good guide for a hypothyroid athlete would be:

  • adjust the training levels
  • get enough rest and sleep
  • follow a healthy diet
  • avoid unnecessary stress

Listening to your body may go a long way, and even if your best times are gone, there are plenty of goals to look for and enjoy running.

Bibliography:

Thyroid Disorders in Athletes

Duhig TJ, McKeag D.

Current Sports Medicine Reports 2009 Jan-Feb; 8(1):16-9

Influence of marathon running on thyroid hormones

Sander M, Röcker L.

Int J Sports Med. 1988 Apr; 9(2):123-6

 

MARATHON OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS (III) – St. Louis 1904: THOMAS HICKS (1876-1952)

    

International situation because of the Russo-Japanese War prevented some of the top athletes coming from abroad to compete in St. Louis. Therefore, less than 20% of the total participants came from outside the USA, with only 15 nations represented. Again, as it had already happened in Paris four years before, the Olympics took place along the International Exhibition.

The marathon organizer was James Edward Sullivan. Among the participants the most experienced were the American runners, some of them, as it was the case of Thomas Hicks, had already completed the Boston Marathon. There were also ten Greeks that had never run a marathon before, and the first two black Africans to compete in the Olympics, two Tswana tribesmen that were in St. Louis for the sideshow fair, a series of controversial sporting events under the “Anthropology Days” running title, where indigenous populations competed in some weird athletic feats, for the disapproval of Pierre de Coubertin. Also, there was a Cuban former mailman, Félix Carvajal, that had raised the money for the Olympics running the length of Cuba, but lost everything in a dice game and only arrived at St. Louis hitchhiking and dressed in street shoes and long trousers.

On August 30th, around 3pm and 32°C, the 32 runners that have gathered for the race were off for a 24.85 miles course, in dusty roads opened to the traffic, and including seven hills with ascents between 100 and 300 feet. To make things more “interesting” Sullivan had decided that 2 water stations, at miles 6 and 12 should be enough. He wanted to do some research on the effects of dehydration, as it was a captivating research topic at the time, and he thought that an Olympic marathon was the appropriate venue to get this information.

The American Fred Lorz took an early lead, but it was Thomas Hicks who took the leadership soon after. The Cuban Carvajal, still in a good position, ate some rotten apples from an orchard and started suffering stomach cramps, so he decided to stop for a while and have a nap. For his part Lorz also started having cramps, so around the mile 9he got in one of the accompanying automobiles for 11 miles, when feeling better decided to start running again, entering the first into the stadium, and “finishing” the marathon in just under 3 hours. Just when he was about to receive his medal as winner people realised that he wasn´t the legal winner. He changed his mind and stepped down, saying that it was “only a joke”.

Meanwhile, when Thomas Hicks was 7 miles away from the finish line, and feeling already tired, his supporting crew gave him a mixture of strychnine and egg whites. The strychnine in small doses is a stimulant, and this sadly became the first reported use of doping in modern Olympics, although at the time there were no such regulations. Limping and pale because of the drug running through his system, the news about Lorz disqualification gave him the energy to start trotting again. His crew thought that it was time for a new dosage of strychnine and egg whites, although this time also accompanied with brandy. It didn´t improve things much, until he soaked his head in water, when he somehow started feeling better. He entered the last 2 miles of the race running mechanically and with hallucinations (as he thought that the finish line was still 20 miles ahead). A last shot of brandy on the last mile was enough to let him cross the finish line on the arms of his trainers, while barely able to move his legs. Enough to be declared the winner. He had lost 8 pounds, mainly through dehydration, and needed medical care to leave the stadium. A higher dosage of strychnine would have been fatal. Accompanying him in the podium were his teammates Corey (although born in France) and Newton. Carvajal only managed to finish 4th, and from the 32 runners that started the race, only 14 finished.

The following year Lorz and Hicks would meet again at the Boston marathon, where Lorz would take his revenge and win the race without any illegal tricks. As for Hicks, although continued competing for a few years, was unable to repeat his success in St Louis. Later he moved to Canada to work on mining claims, and naturalized Canadian, settling there until his death.

Sourced from:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1904_Summer_Olympics#Marathon

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Hicks_(athlete)

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-1904-olympic-marathon-may-have-been-the-strangest-ever-14910747/

https://www.fabio.com.ar/6576

Pictures in the public domain used under Creative Commons Licence

Marathon start
Hicks helped by his crew
Frederick Lorz, the cheater
Carvajal ready to compete

THYROID (1/2): the metabolic controller

The thyroid is a gland, about 2-inches long, in the shape of a butterfly, and located in the throat, below the Adam´s apple. Being a gland it releases hormones that helps the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working.

The thyroid gland uses the iodine in the food to produce thyroxin, also called T4 (because it has four iodine molecules), and in smaller quantities T3, although the latest is mainly produced from T4 breakdown. Their production is regulated by the variation in the levels of another hormone, TSH (Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone), secreted by the pituitary gland.

Thyroid is a finely regulated mechanism, and any changes in its normal function can evolve into pathological estates, mainly because of its over activation (hyperthyroidism) o underactivity (hypothyroidism). If we focus in the hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland is unable to release enough hormone to keep body running normally. Main causes are autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), surgical removal of the thyroid or radiation treatment, although iodine deficiency is the main cause in the developed world.

Although many symptoms are variable and nonspecific, we could highlight some typical of a slowing in the body functions, such as feeling colder, tiring more easily, skin getting drier or becoming forgetful and depressed. It is like a motor not getting enough fuel to work. Some of these symptoms are present in people with normally working thyroids, so it can be difficult to determine if there is a thyroid problem present. The thyroid needs to be told by the pituitary gland of how much T4 produce. It the pituitary gland cells detect low levels of circulating T4 in the blood they will increase TSH production to tell the thyroid gland to produce more T4.  The only way of knowing if the thyroid gland is working properly would be a blood test to measure the levels of TSH and T4.

NORMAL AND ABNORMAL TSH LEVELS (mU/L)                                free T4

0.0 – 0.4              hyperthyroidism                                                           0.93-1.71 (ng/L) normal range

0.4 – 4.0              normal range of TSH                                                                                or

4.0 – 10.0            subclinical (mild) hypothyroidism                            10-23 (pmol/L)   normal range

+10.00                 hypothyroidism

The combination of high TSH levels and low T4 levels would indicate hypothyroidism. If the levels of T4 are normal, but TSH is in the range indicated above (between 4 and 10mU/L), we would be talking of subclinical hypothyroidism. For this mild level of dysfunction there is no treatment recommended, although it will probably develop into hypothyroidism later in life. Usually is prescribed to repeat blood analysis once a year to keep a close eye on further changes. As for the clinical hypothyroidism is treated with T4 replacement, in levels that usually needs a fine tuning to adjust the right amount, not too low (as the body would still be hypothyroid) or too high (as it would go to hyperthyroidism, with symptoms as anxiety, hyperactivity, hot sensations, weak muscles…).

In the next entry we will focus on the effects of thyroid on physical performance.

Bibliography:

www.thyroid.org

www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid-nodules/thyroid-gland-controls-bodys-metabolism-how-it-works-symptoms-hyperthyroi

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thyroid

MARATHON OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS (II) – Paris 1900: MICHAEL THÉATO (1878-1923)

The Olympics in Paris were supposed to be the first ever in modern times, as the city was proposed to hold the Games in 1900, in a meeting that took place in the Sorbonne as far back as 1894. As the waiting time was considered too long, it was decided that Athens would hold the first Olympics in 1896, and Paris would hold the second ones together with the World Exhibition. Among the curiosities of these Games, they were the first ones with female competitors, and the only time that live animals (pigeons) were used as target in the shooting competitions.

Among the 19 participants that started the marathon on July 19, 1900 at 14.30 and with a 32°C temperature there was a Michel Johann Théato, that would become the first French Olympic champion (or so was considered for a few years). It was to be hold on a 25 miles course that would follow the old city walls, and that would prove a total chaos, as the course wasn´t closed and daily activities continued normally around town. Because of the intense heat after only a few miles there were only 9 remaining athletes. Théato felt indisposed for a few miles, but he was able to recover his energy and surpass his fellow countryman Émile Champion, and win the race with 2.59.45, 4 minutes ahead of him.

Controversies started immediately with the American competitors, and specially Arthur Newton, that finished 5th, who claimed that he had taken the lead and never been surpassed before arriving to the finish line. This would imply that Théato has taken a shortcut. It is not clear if he was a cabinetmaker, a baker or a gardener, but he lived in Paris and knew well its street maze, and some authors claimed, without proofs, that he could have used this knowledge to win the race. Probably it wasn´t the case as there were numerous spectators following the race. As the city was opened to the traffic, the other American, Dick Grant, that had finished 7th decided to sue the IOC because of an incident with a cyclist, a claim that was dismissed soon after.

Although Théato is still considered the first French Olympic champion in athletics, it was proved that he was born in Luxembourg, then his family had moved to Belgium and finally to France, where he competed for the Racing Club and worked occasionally as gardener. Luxembourg claimed the medal for themselves, a claim that was dismissed in 2004, and so the victory still counts for France.

As for Théato himself he became professional after the Olympics, but his best achievement was to finish second in the French cross-country championships on the following year. Afterwards his life entered anonymity, and even his death is not clear if it was in 1919 or 1923.

 

Sourced from:

http://www.pierrelagrue-jo.com/michel-theato-1878-1919

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Th%C3%A9ato

Pictures in the public domain used under Creative Commons Licence

During the Olympic marathon race
Théato arrival to the finish line

ULTRA-MARATHON: PHYSIOLOGY AND PATHOPHYSIOLOGY

I came across an interesting new review about ultra-marathon running from a physiological and pathophysiological point of view, and I thought it would be interesting to outline some of the main findings of this study.

For those that consider the marathon the bare minimum of competition, the ultra-marathon can become the goal to go for. The number of ultra-marathon races has been progressively increasing over the years, and usually they are organized over a certain distance (50k, 100k or longer) or time (12h, 24h, or even days). The study found that although the number of finishers increased over the years, the best times didn´t improve much, probably because the races have become more affordable to everyday runners, and not only to the very experienced ones as it could happen before.

This study found that male running ultra-marathons are around 45 years old, and that they still account for around 80% of finishers when comparing with women (in the article they even specify more these profiles). If comparing with marathoners, ultras are older and run more slowly. Usually they are already experienced marathoners, that decide to transition to longer distances. They also tend to be thinner, as the training mileage increases accordingly with the race length. Peak performances are achieved older as the distances increase.

From a pathological perspective, the rate of injuries and competition related problems increase proportionally with distance. Nevertheless, when comparing ultra-marathoners with general population they are healthier (less prone to cancer, diabetes, coronary diseases, etc), and with a healthier lifestyle, although the incidence of asthma and allergies is usually higher. Their motivation moves from competition to adventure.

Regarding performance in ultra-marathon, the factors that affected positively the outcome were low body fat and fast running speed during training, with experience also being a key factor, as it was pacing. Experienced runners could maintain the pace with small variations through the race, while younger and less experienced runners tended to start faster, and achieve worst overall performances.

As for the energetic requirements in these races, runners were usually unable to maintain the energetic balance due to an insufficient intake, and sometimes dealing also with a loss of appetite and digestive problems. Additionally, there is a change in the proportion of energy that is coming from carbohydrates, and the body turns preferentially towards the fat as energy substrate.

Musculoskeletal problems are more frequent as distances increase, as could be expected, being mainly located in knees for road races, and ankle for the trail ones. The appearance of blisters depended strongly on the experience of the runner. It was also described a thickening of the tendons and a favorable effect on the cartilage, as the synthesis of collagen was increased. Skeletal muscle damage is extensive after an ultra-marathon, with significant reduction of skeletal muscle mass. Some supplements, as BCAA (that will have a separate post soon) were tried with no effect, as it happened with anti-inflammatory drugs (diclofenac or ibuprofen), while the results were contradictory when consuming diets rich in antioxidants. Surely the best way to reduce skeletal muscle damage is appropriate training.

Regarding hormones, is usually reported an increase in the stress hormones (cortisol) and catecholamines, and a decrease of testosterone in men, that could be negatively influencing the outcome in the competition. As for the female runners is usually described an increase in the levels of estradiol.

Cholesterol and triglycerides were reduced after a 24h race. The digestive problems are also one of the main reasons to abandon an ultra-marathon, with 90% of retired runners complaining of nauseas. It looks that the best way to avoid these problems is eating what you like, and trying high-fat foods that seems to be best tolerated. Liver and kidneys usually present elevated levels of damage markers, usually reversible after a few days and rarely serious.

It is concluded that competing in ultra-marathons is overall beneficial, mainly because of the associated training that is implied within, and although there are side effects, that can appear during and/or after race completion, they are usually temporary, and the long-term effects positive.

 

Bibliography:

Physiology and pathophysiology in ultra-marathon running

Beat Knechtle & Pantelis T. Nikolaidis

Front. Physiol. | doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.00634

Aguilar de Campoo Marathon (03/06/18 – 68)

After my first experience in this marathon last year, I had already clearly in mind that I would try to come back again, as it just happened. Aguilar de Campoo is a village in the north of Palencia, popular because of its many biscuit factories (Gullón and Siro among the most popular ones), and holding this year “Las Edades del Hombre”, a popular itinerant exhibition that shows some of the best religious art of Castile and Leon, under the “Mons Dei” running title, that takes place (partially) in the church of San Miguel, on which lateral the finish/start line will be located.

Things got complicated after my last marathon 4 weeks ago. On the same day I did my first recovery training, but only getting up from a chair, I felt a strain on my left thigh. Although I thought that it wouldn´t go anywhere, next morning I have difficulties stretching the leg. Diagnosis: muscular strain of the upper quadriceps. After one-week rest, and treated properly with ice, compression and some anti-inflammatory gel, I do a full recovery, with 2 weeks left before race day.

This marathon is mainly a one-man effort. Thanks to Gabriel Ruiz García the race is already celebrating its 21st edition. Without any big sponsors, he is the one that proceeds with registration, trophies, gifts, controlling times and even installing the podium and finish area himself with the help of some volunteers. He is clearly the soul of the race. And everything for a marathon that offers FREE registration.  The number of participants, surprisingly, hardly goes beyond 30.  This year the entrants list counts with 25 runners, but among them some of the most experienced “amateur” marathoners in Spain.

In a friendly, and almost intimate start at 9am, 14°C and a forecast of electric storms in the afternoon, the course will leave Aguilar from behind the church, towards the biscuit factories for a first small lap. Once we finish this introductory lap and back in the church, there are another 5 long laps to complete the marathon distance, that will take us outside Aguilar, towards the tiny village of Villallano, where we will turn around following the same road, which allows to keep the race controlled, as every runner meets the other ones a few times every lap. I try to keep the first runners in sight, and even get to a momentary 5th place, but I quickly go down to an 8-9th position. The runner in the lead keeps opening the gap with the chasing runners behind, a difference that will become definitive. I am not feeling fully charged, with the last weeks overwork taking the edge from me, on top of my only 2 weeks of training. Just as I finish the 3rd lap, the leader is just finishing his 4th. As I go from my 4th lap onwards I start losing positions, unable to keep the punch that got me to my season best last year (3.35.18) on the same course. The last lap is an effort to avoid the 4 hours barrier, that I finally attain in 3.59.16, and a 13th position out of 24. Finishing more than 20 minutes behind last year offers a sour taste, although the camaraderie soon erases these feelings.

With the summer season around the corner, and not a clear marathon in sight in the immediate future, it seems as the ideal time to get shorter races and start planning the autumn season.

 

Score: 5 (out of 5)

Pros: atmosphere; free registration; trophies for everyone (plus biscuits, cereals and cakes); sometimes one-man effort can achieve much

Cons: local council organising another race on the same day

Towards finish line
Start & finish area
San Miguel church

MARATHON OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS (I) Athens 1896: SPYRIDON LOUIS (1873-1940)

With Pierre de Coubertin leading the efforts to revive the Olympic Games, in 1894 was decided that they would take place in Greece in 1896. The marathon, although previously inexistent as an athletic race, was proposed by Michel Bréal, and introduced in the calendar as a way of remembering the legendary effort of Philippides, the Greek messenger that run from Marathon to Athens to announce the Greek victory over the Persian Empire in the battle of Marathon. 

In Greece, the Coronel Papadiamantopoulos was elected responsible of the qualifying races that would decide the Greek Marathon Olympic team. He had been the commanding officer of Spyridon while doing his military service, and already knowing his running capabilities, convinced him to run on one of these trials. On the second of them he finished fifth (with the winner in 3.18), gaining him a place in the Greek Olympic team, and later in marathon history.

Spyridon came from a humble family. By the time of the Olympics he was 24, and worked in the family business carrying fresh water to Athens. On April 10, 1896, wearing shoes donated by his fellow villagers, was among the 17 runners (13 of them Greek) to start in Marathon, for a race that would take them to the Olympic Stadium, in Athens, nearly 25 miles away. The French Albin Lermusiaux, who had finished third in the 1500m, took a strong lead from start that would last well beyond the halfway point, when he let the Australian Edwin Flack, which had already won the 800 and 1500m a few days earlier, in the lead. Meanwhile, Spyridon, that had stopped in the small village of Pikermi for a refreshment (a glass of wine, or cognac, depending on the sources) predicted that he would overcome those in front of him. Flack, that was unused to run such long distances, began to slow down, and being only 2 miles away from the finish line collapsed. In a delirious state, in which he even punched a spectator who tried to help, he abandoned the race, allowing Spyridon to take a lead what would become definitive.

At the same time this was developing, the crowd in the stadium was depressed as the last news available put the Australian in the front. When a messenger brought the news that Spyridon was in the lead, the whole stadium started shouting “Hellene, Hellene”, as for Greece. The apotheosis of Spyridon entrance into the stadium got people on their feet for a last lap, stopping the clock in 2.58.50, seven minutes ahead of the next competitor. As he recalled years later everybody started calling out his name and throwing flowers. The first legend in the marathon epic was born.

Spyridon saved the Greek honor in the first modern Olympic Games, and consequently became a national hero on his own right. He was offered a wish by the King of Greece, and modestly he only chose a donkey and a carriage to help carrying water in the family business.  He retired from running immediately after the race, and went back to his simple life. Many years later he was honoured as flagbearer of the Greek team in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, where he presented an olive branch from Olympia, birthplace of the Olympics, to Hitler, as a symbol of peace. That would become his last public appearance before dying in 1940.

The Olympic Stadium in Athens is nowadays carrying his name, and entered the greek language, as the expression “yinomai Louis” is used to talk about “disappearing rapidly”.

Sourced from:

www.wikipedia.org

www.olympic.org

www.iaaf.org

www.espn.com.ar

www.aims-worldrunning.org

 

Pictures in the public domain, used under Creative Commons Licence.

In Greece 1896
In Berlin 1936

Solar protection: ISDIN Fusion Gel (Sport)

Packaging front
Packaging back

With the summer around the corner and longer days, it is important to get UV protection, especially if you can only do your training or competition under the sunlight (but also in cloudy conditions). A solar protector will keep your skin healthier and younger, and prevent associated diseases, as skin cancer.

If it is important to run using sun protection for your body, with the highest protection level the better, protecting your face is essential. If you have been running for a while, you will probably have experienced that it doesn´t take long, once you start sweating, for the cream in your face to start dripping on your eyes. I had to stop in many occasions to wash my face with water, or use a handkerchief to remove every bit of cream on it, as I started crying and was unable to see properly in front of me. As this problem doesn´t affect the rest of the body, you can go with any normal solar protection for the limbs or neck. As for the face I kept trying sport branded solar protectors until I came across the ISDIN Fusion Gel, that I got as a freebee in the running expo for the Barcelona marathon, where they told me that I would not have that problem with it. I was doubtful, but gave it a go on the next day, and sure it did as assured.

After this first try, I decided to give it a go and buy it. I must say it is not cheap. The 100mL ranged between nearly 30€ in the pharmacy to around 20€ in some online shops (I ended paying 20.6€), but if you keep using it only on your face it will last long.

I have already used it a few times, and I must say that never again had the solar protection entering my eyes, even when running in very hot conditions and sweating profusely.

The colour is transparent, and the texture very light, more liquid than other protectors. The smell is powerful, as alcohol, but once it is applied is easily absorbed, and the smell mostly disappear. It is sold as useful for hairy areas, and because of its small size it can be taken into your hand baggage if you want to carry on your flight. The main issue I found was its liquid nature. When I got it in the mail, I found that the external cardboard box had a small stain inside. I didn´t give it a second thought, but when I took the bottle on my first trip I found on arrival that it had leaked. Due to the liquid nature of the protector, the container should be airtight, to prevent leaks. You don´t want to ruin your luggage. Since then I always carry it wrapped with 2 airtight plastic bags.

A poor detail for an overall necessary product.

 

Score: 3.5 (out of 5)

Pros: a solar protector that doesn´t get into your eyes (finally); high protection levels against UVA and UVB rays; water and sweat resistant

Cons: inappropriate packaging, for the price you would expect an airtight container to avoid wasting it over your stuff

Container
Liquid texture and top, with liquid leaks already

Lisbon Eco Marathon (06/05/18 – 67)

For the third time in a row I am coming back for this marathon. Date has moved from mid-June in 2016 (and evening start), to mid/late May in 2017, and finally early May this year. I think it is a good change, as weather has been more benevolent getting away from summer, but I expect is not moving anymore, as it can get in the already marathon-packed April.

Since last year the race start and finish are on the same spot, in the Eduardo VII Park, just where the Portuguese flag overlooks the whole Lisbon town, and a privileged viewpoint.

Apart from the time it takes to get there and come back, marathon is wholly taking place in the Monsanto park, a big natural reserve just in the outskirts of the town center, that offers a trail marathon just without leaving town. Its “Eco” in the title comes from its course and the additional care is taken about littering at the water stations and thorough the course.

Registration priced at 30€ (because it was done well in advance), and an 8.30 start, having also a half marathon choice one hour later, or a 10k at 11. The number of registrants, as I am told when picking my kit, is about 150 for the full course. With hot conditions in the forecast (~26°C around midday) I take an easy evening to save the energy for tomorrow.

With an easily accessible start by public transport, and plenty of parking spaces I get early to the start area for a change. Being a low-key marathon, at least regarding to the number of the full marathon participants, everything in the area is still being set up. Previously to the start we get a warming session, that will come handy to avoid injuries later on. As for equipment I go for the T-shirt provided (as it is “compulsory” to wear it) and my backpack, where I carry one liter of isotonic drink and the usual gels. It came handy on previous occasions here, as weather got hot, and although the water stations are enough and no far between them, it was useful to carry everything, and get an extra drink on occasions. Also, uncommon in my case I also take my headphones and get ready my podcast playlist. And… we go!

We get the bike lane that goes to Monsanto, for about 2 miles, before entering the park area, that is composed of tarmac lanes closed to the traffic, with a few occasional road crossings always carefully marshalled, and off road well signaled paths. As for starter I decide to save energy, as once we enter the park the course exigency rises considerably, with continuous hills, slopes and so on. It doesn’t take long for the gaps among runners to extent, and when I am about halfway, you can only see some runner in the distance when running in a clear area. Although the temperature increases, trees offer a perfect cover and respite, and miles start falling on my side without taking much notice. I cross the 30k checkpoint feeling fresher than earlier on, and from that marker on I can keep a steady pace, that lets me overtake some really depleted runners (although I also got overtaken myself by a couple of other ones). On leaving Monsanto, and the last water station, we get again on the bike lane heading towards Eduardo VII Park and the finish line. The last mile still saves 3 uphill sections, but with the flag in sight a last pushing effort get me through the finish line in 4.18.12, improving my 4.22.23 in 2017 (with a dramatic fall after mid-point, that maybe conditioned a better time) and my 4.34.19 in 2016 (run in the evening), for a 43 place out of 101 finishers.

An ideal race to cross the 2/3 point on my way towards the 100 barrier, and one of my favorite races that I will try to keep in my calendar again next year.

Score: 5 (out of 5)

Pros: trail scenery; start/finish point

Cons: an always changing date 

Getting ready
Podium area
Runners camp
View from start/finish
At the start

SWISS ALPS

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Monday after the marathon. Not too tired after the race, time to wake up early again to get into the 8.30 train to Lucerne, where we arrive after 45 minutes. There is only time to take a few pictures before taking the ferry to Vitznau-Rigi, as in the information post recommended to get to the top of the mountain early in the morning to avoid the rainy forecast for later in the evening, that would spoil the views from the top. 

A peaceful cruise gets to the start of the mountain Rigi train, oldest in Europe, and only second in the world. With an old engine and wagons, we ascend through bucolic landscapes until the 1798 metres of Rigi -Staffel, with a few stops in the way to the top, where there is still deep snow in some places. Views are spectacular, with a hotel, restaurant and tourist office, where there is information available about the hiking trails that depart from here. Plan was to do one of the short trails, but as there are plenty of markers to villages and train stops nearby, and the return ticket to Zurich departs from Goldau, we take one of the routes to this village, that we can see on the shore of the lake on the horizon, all the way down from the mountain. 

Following the sign that says 2h and 30 minutes looks as a good choice. There are still some patches of snow near the summit, although they soon clear up, to give way to green pastures, forests and waterfalls, and from time to time the distant noise from the trains descending from Rigi-Staffel to Goldau. The 2 and a half hours planned were clearly not enough to reach Goldau, and the legs start to get tired of the long descent, so we decide to finish the route in Kräbel, and reach our destination using the mountain train. We are at 758 metres from the approximately 1800 metres of departure, just on time, as a heavy rain paves its way through the mountains. With some extra time, there was a telepheric every 30 minutest going from Kräbel to Rigi Scheidegg, the other big mountain in the area, that promised new and fantastic views from a different perspective. Nevertheless, considering that there is only one train every hour from this stop it looks better not to risk the returning connection. Once in Goldau another train to Zurich, last stop for a remarkable trip into swiss territory.