It is completed: my fiftieth marathon, in Malaga, one week after my trauma in Dorset. Despite having felt almost hundred percent recovered on the day, it turned out to be an experience in two parts: the good one and the bad and the ugly one. Let’s start with the good part.The good: It was one of those build-ups that are almost perfect. The smooth arrival at Malaga, getting your bearings (and race number) without stress, having an enjoyable afternoon cycling down the Costa de Sol with spectacular views, all that was then topped off by stumbling into the Christmas season opening of an amazingly decorated town centre and having dinner at a truly nice and special gastro bar with excellent food. My apartment was very central and only 10 minutes walking distance to the marathon start and finish, which couldn’t have made getting to the start line any more hassle-free. No getting up at unholy hours to catch unfamiliar buses or trains, no messing about with bag-drops, portable loos or how to make waiting in cold temperatures work. It was perfect: I left my place at 8:30am for the start at 9. The event somehow felt bigger than 3,400 runners, yet there were no hiccups and I could leisurely stroll to the right pen and even had time for stretches. Surrounded by palm trees, a colourful morning sky and pumped up, excited runners I could not have had a better start. And so it continued for the first half of the race. I found my pace and despite still feeling a slight soreness in my quads from the ultra the week before, I had hopes for doing a solid under 3:30 finish. Running along the seaside was very uplifting, the temperatures were around 16 degrees, but it felt cooler because of the constant light breeze and because many parts of the route were not in the direct sun. The runners high came to a sudden stop pretty much after the first half, which leads us to part two.The bad and the ugly: Not long after I passed this inflatable arch that marked the half marathon distance (21.1 k or 13.1 miles) I felt this weird weakness creeping up. Despite having had hitting-the-wall moments before, this felt different. It is not about tired or achy legs, but about “I actually need to stop and lie down”. A feeling I only experienced during the ultra the week before and hoping it was not PTS from this traumatic event, I reckon the cold was still lingering. (I am actually getting sick and tired writing about this damn cold.) I stopped at kilometre 23 (mile 14). Because there were almost the same distance between me and my bed in the apartment I had to come up with a plan. I decided to do a serious walk-run alternation. And so the work began: Each new kilometre sign was an achievement, the masses of runners overtaking me needed to be ignored as well as the pacemakers for sub 3:45 and eventually sub 4:00 hours times. I had to keep it together, somehow. And again, the weird thing was that my legs themselves were not tired or worn-out, just the overall condition was “feeling weak”. It became an absolute drag and I would lie if I said I enjoyed it. In addition, all the little things start to bother you: Missing or slightly wrong distance markers. Why was there none for 30k? Or for 35? And 38 surely came to early, or not? I can recommend to rather rely on your own tracking device than the markers. Then there was this blue line on the road that normally indicates the shortest route, but here were sections where it definitely didn’t. Other sections had only half of the road closed off and on the other half saw heavy stop and go traffic that produced a lot of stink. There were plenty water stations, which is good, but why do the helpers have to force the water bottles again and again into your face? Even if you just picked one? I know, I am being petty, but that happens when I don’t enjoy myself. However, I managed to get a grip on the last 3 k (or 2 miles) and managed to run them without stopping. The route saved the town centre with the stunning cathedral, nice historic buildings and Christmassy extravaganza to the last, which really helped to make it to the finish. Once passing the finish line, some of the welcomers to honour your effort with a medal turned out to be children with Down syndrome. The runner before me got a big kiss on her check together with the medal from one of those helpers and I got a really lovely smile with mine, which somehow was the most touching way of receiving the medal that I have yet experienced. So I can say my fiftieth marathon did end on a high and it is not all about strength, toughness and endurance, but also about kindness, heart and smiles. Thank you!