Last Sunday, April 23, I completed my 41st marathon, the Vienna City Marathon in Vienna, Austria.
It was one of the tough ones; I struggled in lots of ways, but I am proud of myself for sticking with it and finishing on a challenging day. They can’t all be magical. But, maybe the next one will be! A marathon finish is still a marathon finish. Though I faced physical and mental challenges at this one, my love of the marathon is still strong, and I feel much gratitude for this Vienna trip and experience. I ask a lot out of my body (and mind) and I hope I am able to continue running marathons, even when they’re tough. It’s my favorite way to see the world!
On to my recap…Settle in, this is a long one!
We arrived in Vienna from London late on Friday; the U-bahn trains weren’t even running that late, so even though we had read that the U-bahn was quick and easy from the airport, we took an Uber.
One note about Vienna public transport: their trains are very clean and easy to navigate! You load money onto the WienMobil app on your phone (we did a 72 hour pass); we are also big fans of the CityMapper app (in London and many other cities) and it was very easy to get around via the trains/trams. Definitely a positive of Vienna!
We stayed at the Sans Souci hotel in the center of the city, in the 7th quarter, which was a cool area and very convenient for the finish line of the marathon, but not as much for the start line or the expo; we had to take the U-bahn for both of those. But better to be close to the finish line, right?
Day Before the Marathon:
Saturday morning, we went for a short shake-out run to Stadtpark nearby:
Then showered, ate the breakfast at the hotel (included in our stay), and then made our way to the expo.
The expo was held at Marx Halle; when we arrived, the line to enter was wrapped pretty far around the building and was moving quite slowly. It was 72C/22F and sunny, so not a terrible day to wait outside, but it was strange as when we finally made our way inside, they checked our QR codes for race registration and then just let us in (with a separate entry for non-runners with no line?) So the line was kind of oddly meaningless, as we still had to walk across the full floor to bib pick-up and scan our QR codes again. The lines for this were also a little confusing and people were cutting in line quite a bit. Guess that’s part of the challenge when we all speak different languages!
After getting our bibs, we wandered around looking for some Vienna gear, but the only official Vienna marathon gear they had was the finisher’s shirt, which you had to pre-order to ensure you got the right size. By the time we decided to get in line to purchase one, only XL and above were left. So I guess we weren’t getting any Vienna marathon gear! Oh well.
After the expo, we went to Schönbrunn Palace. We did tour the state apartments, but they were quite crowded. We much preferred just exploring the (free) gardens outside the palace!
We were back at the hotel to rest our legs by 5 pm and then walked to Pizzeria La Spiga for a margarita pizza, which is my normal pre-race meal. I will say that I ate more of the pizza than I needed to and was very full; I wonder if over-eating the night before caused some of my issues the next day…
(Yes, Dustin did have a beer the night before; and he was just fine! I had cranberry juice. And lots of water.)
Race morning I ate 3/4 of a plain bagel with peanut butter, a little bit of coffee, some nuun and some water. I had a Gen-U-Can gel about 45 minutes before the race started. I took Maurten gels every 45 minutes during the race; I have read a few people’s comments that you shouldn’t mix Gen-U-Can and Maurten, but I’m not sure if that was part of my problem. Maybe.
The Right Fit:
I wore a Oiselle fly-out tank with my name ironed on; the letters actually stayed on, even though I was soaked by the end! Amazing. Definitely a win! I’ll be doing iron-on letters every marathon from now on.
I wore Tracksmith 5-lane shorts, a Oiselle flyout sports bra with my phone in the back pocket, Hoka socks, and the Hoka Rocket X2’s. Even though I hadn’t trained in those super shoes much, they actually worked out fine and maybe would give me that “super” power on a different day!
The marathon didn’t start until 9 am, but we weren’t sure how crowded the U-bahn trains would be. The race instructions said they were adding more frequent trains, but I was still worried, so we left our hotel by 7 am. The trains ended up being quiet, easy, and quick. We were at the starting line by 7:20 with way too much time to kill!
At least there were no lines for the porta-potties that early (it was a mix of regular porta-potties and these little cabins!)
I visited them right when we arrived, but then wanted to make a stop one last time before the race so I was back in line around 8 am and that line moved VERY slowly. Dustin had to drop off his gear bag between 8:15-8:30 for Block 1, and I was still in line at the bathroom; he didn’t know where I was since he didn’t have his phone. I was getting a bit worried since I left my stuff with him…Fortunately, he was still waiting for me with my bag in the same area, so we found each other, I quickly dropped my gear bag, and we headed to the starting corrals. He was in Block 1, I was in Block 3, but we were both on the same side of a divided road (i.e. Block 2 and 4 were on the other side.)
We parted ways around 8:45.
Waiting in the starting corrals was a cultural experience! One might think that we didn’t see that much of Vienna, but honestly, I feel like running a marathon gives you a pretty legit vibe of a city and the culture!
For example, runners were doing calisthenics/warm-ups to the music. Just like at other European marathons I’ve done, there is a lot more warming up than I see in the U.S., things like jumping jacks, etc. I don’t want to waste my energy doing sprints, but whatever works for you!
The start line announcer would first say everything in German and then say it again in English, which was helpful, since well, I don’t speak German!
He went through the top 10 countries that were represented at the race. U.S.A was #10, then I don’t remember the exact order, but it was Czech Republic, Spain, England, France, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Netherlands, and then of course, Austria as number 1.
It was laughable, because for each country, they would play a song related to that country. For most, it was the something very patriotic, but for U.S. they played Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the U.S.A!” Ha!
Eventually, they played the Blue Danube Waltz to kick off the race, which was really lovely and a special way to start the marathon, and then we were off.
These are my mile splits from my Garmin; the race actually only had kilometers signs, no mile markers.
Mile 1: 8:28
Mile 2: 8:34
Mile 3: 8:55
Mile 4: 8:53
Mile 5: 8:41
Mile 6: 9:02
Mile 7: 9:03
Mile 8: 10:09 trying to find a bathroom without a line.
Mile 9: 10:14 bathroom stop…
Mile 10: 9:30
Mile 11: 9:09
Mile 12: 10:02 another bathroom stop…
Mile 13: 9:11
Mile 14: 8:28- we split with the 1/2 marathoners and WOW, did things open up! I could breathe fresh air! (I know this sounds so petty but it was really stinky for the first half! I felt like I was running in a smelly man’s armpit the whole time…)
Mile 15: 8:58..trying to hold onto that good feeling…
Mile 16: 10:04 And, the good feeling was gone. Ha!
Mile 17: 9:41
Mile 18: 9:29
Mile 19: 10:43
Mile 20: 9:44
Mile 21: 10:36
Mile 22: 10:56
Mile 23: 10:00
Mile 24: 11:17
Mile 25: 11:02
Mile 26: 10:38
final 0.2: 9:00
I had what I thought were terrible side stiches for most of the last 10 miles across my whole belly; I’ve read that they can actually be caused by both over-hydration and under. Mine was definitely under hydration but I have never had them before.
I knew it was going to be a hot one from the beginning. The sun was shining bright from the start line; at that time, the temperature was already in the 60’s (or 15C). By the end, it was 22C or 74F and full sun. Not great for me. I’ve run other hot marathons, and its not like I want to avoid them just because they’re hot, but I need to run smarter in it than I did…
The aid stations were only every 5k. In between, there were self-service faucets where one could fill their own water bottle; I often ended up cupping my hands to take in my water at those. I really should have read up on this beforehand and carried a water bottle as every 5k was not enough hydration for me on a hot day. I’m sure this was a contributing factor for my issues. Multiple bathrooms stops definitely don’t help with the dehydration either; I’ve been using Maurten gels for awhile and didn’t have issues, but I know a lot of people DO have stomach issues with them, so I’m going to experiment with other gels again during my next training session.
The bathrooms, by the way, were not quite frequent enough in my opinion. I had to pass by multiple single porta-potties with 1-2 people waiting in line before I would find one that at least didn’t have anyone in line (though there was always someone inside; in fact, one time I opened the door to find someone in there mid-wipe, which was quite graphic…eeks!)
The Vienna City Marathon day had a half marathon and a marathon relay (4 runners splitting the distance.) Parts of the full marathon route did repeat, especially around the Prater (park.) That helped keep the crowds pretty consistent. I had my name on my shirt and I received a fair number of Brava Jessie’s or “ZUPA”- I think it was Zupa- maybe Supa? No complaints about the crowd support. And I saw two vizslas (though the DPM or dogs per mile was a little low in my opinion, ha!)
The route was mostly flat, with some repeating sections as mentioned. Both marathons I have run since moving to London (Porto and now Vienna) had multiple balloon arches or “false finish lines” in the last few kilometers, which was mentally challenging. With all my bathrooms stops, I wondered if my Garmin was wrong and I was actually at the finish, but nope….Another fake finish!
Yes, I had a rough day, but most of the issues were my own, not the fault of the Vienna marathon. Yes, there could have been more frequent aid stations and bathrooms, but there were bottle stations, so had I did my research, I could have brought my own bottle and probably stayed a lot more hydrated. And no one can control the weather, so that’s not the Vienna City Marathon’s fault. It was still a good marathon- maybe not a GREAT one, but a good one. And it was a cultural experience. The Blue Danube Waltz at the start line, the Miley Cyrus Party in the U.S.A- those were all memories that will stick with me. And honestly, Vienna is a very clean and pretty city. Definitely worth a visit. Austria overall was lovely.
And this is just my personal recap; Dustin had a much more “normal” experience, finishing in 3:15 with minimal walking. He felt good about the race even in the heat. He does feel that he was in shape to run a sub-3, so 15 extra minutes is still significant, but he didn’t struggle as much as me. He never noticed the infrequent bathrooms and he felt that there were plenty of aid stations. Never judge a marathon just by one person’s recap!
Post-race, I was feeling pretty nauseous, so I sat on a bench until Dustin found me. I had my phone in the back pocket of my sports bra, which was great, except I was pouring so much water over my head that too much water went into the charging port and then of course the phone wouldn’t take a charge for a few days. Fortunately I could charge it with the contactless charger during that time and it’s working fine now!
Our finisher’s bag included water, Powerade, and an apple. Our hotel was a short walk from the finish line, so we were able to hobble back pretty easily. The weird pain I’ve had on my left outer lower knee was pretty swollen and sore right after the race, but by the next day, it was back to normal. Definitely going back to physio again to sort that one out!
We had a booking at the well-known Viennese restaurant Figlmuller, where I had the largest serving of schnitzel ever! Dustin and I should have just split one, but we didn’t know.
The line outside the restaurant for those without bookings was around the block, so I’m very glad we planned head! However, I was feeling really hungry and VERY thirsty; the restaurant was so busy I was getting light-headed before some water finally arrived at our table; I drank a huge bottle of water so quickly.
Well, I thought I was drinking a lot of water, but when I finally peed, TMI, but it was…very dark. So dark, in fact, that I had a panic attack that I had AKI, or acute kidney injury (as discussed in this article.) I am pretty sure I did have this, but fortunately I’m okay now. I drank lots more water, some more Powerade, and went to bed in an anxiety ridden state worried that I had done something very stupid, so it wasn’t the greatest celebration post-marathon. This was my 41st marathon, I should have known better….
Fortunately everything was fine by the next day, but I was careful to continue hydrating more than usual. I have never had that happen to me- at least to that extent- before, even though I have run hot marathons in the past 40 races.
I don’t want to experience it again, so I have a few things in the works- I ordered the Levelen sweat test that several of you recommended. Of course, I had to order it from the US & pay all the UK tariffs, and then will have to mail my sweat samples back! I also ordered the hDrop sweat tracker (also recommended by many of you…also coming from the U.S. of course, ha!)
I also am testing out Skratch and Liquid IV in training and plan to carry my own hydration going forward at marathons, no matter what, which I never have done before. I always relied on the organization’s support, but in the EU, I think a good idea to carry my own!
With regards to what’s next for marathons, Dustin and I are doing the Marathon du Medoc with my sister Erin and her husband, which is not a “serious” marathon, but rather one where there is wine at every aid stations. Yes, I recognize the irony of writing paragraphs about dehydration and then running a marathon with wine as the theme, but I will be careful and also approach that experience completely differently. Dustin and I plan to run it together and only he plans to drink wine during the race. And I’ll bring my own hydration then too. Medoc is a “must-do” race experience for most European (and American!) runners, so I’m really excited to be part of it. (Please let me know if you have run that one before, I’d love to hear more!) Exploring Bordeaux France on that trip will be fun!
But my next marathon that I hope to race will be the Dublin marathon at the end of October. I’ll use Medoc as a long run preparing for Dublin. My sister Erin and her friend also plan to run Dublin, and we have a few days afterwards in Dublin & then Galway to explore. (please share tips!)
Thanks as always for reading and following along on my running journey!
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