Freiburg Half-Marathon…shouldn’t I be in training?!

So, I went and signed myself up for Freiburg Half-Marathon at the beginning of April. Mainly to shut people up: everybody at the club could tell I’m serious about my running, so liked to ask what was next on my racing calendar and if I was planning to do a marathon or half at any point soon? (hint hint) So I picked a race (a) that took place while I was still in Switzerland (b) wasn’t too far away from Basel (c) had the promise of a Basel Dragon contingent. Frieburg is a couple of hours away on the train. It’s a pretty little city in the Black Forest region, thus promising to be a scenic race, no running around industrial parks or anything demoralising like that. There’s also musical accompaniment en route and free pasta, allegedly. I’m all over this.

From my late-summer trip to Freiburg last year. The city is famed for being the sunniest place in Germany...

The notion of running a half marathon isn’t too challenging a concept. The distance of 13 miles (or 21K) is well within my range: I regularly run 13 Ks around the city with the club on training nights, I’ve done at least one 20 K training run since I’ve been in Switzerland without any hassle. I’m training twice a week with the club and holding out well. The challenging bit is putting in a good time – folk at the club seem to assume I’m capable of putting in a decent time. But well, if I don’t do sub-xx min then it won’t be the end of the world, and I doubt I’ll lose any (of my non-existent) street cred.

So…why am I doing this?

Outside Freiburg's cathedral.

Well, it’s like a lot of things in my life: I’m not happy unless there is some kind of goal to aim towards, structure my life around and come away from with tangible progress/results. I freely confess: I like running just for the Hell of it. When I’m upset or angry with something my first instinct is to grab the trainers and batter the angst out of my system. It both helps me unwind and psyches me up. However, without a goal to work towards it feels like there’s something missing. I don’t feel like I need to do a half to “prove” anything, but I think it’s a great target to have and a suitable motivator when the Swiss weather is crappy and the allure of just spending the evening arse-ing around on Facebook gets too damn strong.

Also, with the stress of grad school applications, living as a foreigner in Basel and battling on through experiments that go wrong…it’s nice to be reminded that I am good at something. And that I can celebrate & showcase what I’m good at. Running is great for my general morale, tangible objects from completed races (photos, t-shirts, medals) are even better…

So…what do I need to do in the way of specialist training?

I. Saturday morning runs. I need to go off in search of the elusive 3rd training session of the week. The easiest way to achieve that is with the Basel Dragon’s Saturday morning group. When I’m running with the Club in the week then my distances are fast, but shorter.

II. Do more races. Racing is very different from going out with a training group. You’re pushing yourself a lot harder & faster, kinda without realising. Willpower and concentration start to play a part in getting you from Start to Finish. Hence, I’m planning to do a couple of races within the next months: there isn’t a shortage of races in the Basel area, thankfully. The Basel Dragons put a fairly frequent turn-out to these events. First up is a 15 K in the hills around Oberwil (about 20 mins from Basel Stadt). Ahhh, hilly races…

So, while it isn’t a Make Or Break goal (or even really worthy of an NYR)…I am pleased to finally tick Run A Half Marathon off my list in 2012.

Anecdote: Last Thursday Basel was hit by settling snow and the infamous winter cold finally arrived. Temperatures dropped into the minus Celsius range. Thursday is Basel Dragons Club running night, so from midday onwards I was resigning myself to a quiet night in drinking hot chocolate and relishing a hot shower (because training surely wouldn’t go ahead in awful conditions like these, would it?). But in the late afternoon I received an email informing me that training WAS going ahead as usual, despite of the snow. So…I went out and joined 8 others for a gentle winter wonderland 7km run. Not only was it magical running in the snow at night, but it felt really good inside too. To borrow (& amend) a line from one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books: “No excuses…If you were absent for a good reason, you’d be absent for a bad one.” Which is the reason why I go out in the snow in freezing Swiss weather: principles. Principles cement the routine. 

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