Had a great day in up Freiburg, Germany running my first half marathon on Sunday the 1st of April. I certainly beat my own expectations: when asked by others what time I was aiming for I’d shrugged and said 1 hour 50 minutes sounded reasonable. This was based on what I thought was a sustainable pace for me over such a distance (5 min per kilometre, slower than what I do in training in 10-13 K runs) The runners at my club said that they were sure I could manage something snappier than that. So I finished the half marathon (13 miles, 21 km) in 1 hour 43 minutes. That put me 40th in my age category out of 395 female runners. So yes, I am pleased.
I started out at a modest pace (which was revealed in the online results later to actually be 5.02 km/min for the first 6 km), based mainly on the volume of fellow runners I had to cope with. I realised that I WAS going to have to jump into the first Portaloo I came across – thanks to nerves and an 750 ml isotonic sports drink – which was an annoying setback, but at least ensured that the other 4/5s of the race was distraction free.
Unlike absolutely every other runner in the entire world, I do *not* own a GPS watch. Or even a digital watch. I think I warned you that I should have lived in the Icelandic Saga Age. What I did have was my trusty solar-powered Citizen’s Eco Drive watch, which I decided to wear as a rudimentary form of timekeeping. Based upon my above calculations, I knew that if I wanted to run a 1h50 half-marathon, I would need to be at the finishing line by 1 o’clock. And each kilometre was supposed to take 5 minutes. When it came to about 6 km and my watch said it was later than I’d expected…well, I made an effort to speed up. Note to self: get with the times and buy yourself a digital watch.
I was about a third of the way into the race when the stitches and cramps started. As long as I’ve been a runner I’ve been contending with these during training and races: they can be caused by having eaten the wrong things 2 hours earlier, running to fast or else being out of shape. Most of the time they can be dissipated on the move. However, when you get rid of one, you’re probably going to encounter another fairly soon. I suspect these particular stitches were a warning that I’ve not trained enough for this type of long-distance race: I can maintain the pace and complete the distance, but my body finds it damn hard work. For my next Half I’m going to have to put in more ~20 km training runs and hope my body starts handling anaerobic conditions better.
The nice thing about Freiburg’s course is that it doesn’t stray far from the city centre, meaning that the whole course is lined with spectatators providing friendly encouragement. It’s also a “Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon” with musical accompanyment from local bands spread out around the course. As we gathered at the Starting Line the loudspeakers were blaring out Sharkira’s Waka Waka, which made me slightly concerned about the quality of music I was going to experience over the next couple of hours. It was good stuff, though. I heard everything from Dire Straits’ ‘Sultans of Swing’ to ACDC’s ‘Highway to Hell’ to Robbie Williams’ ‘Let Me Entertain You. As well as rock there were samba bands (and what I think were Gugge musicians from Basel, too). It’s fantastic what hearing live music does to your energy levels.
Next on the agenda? There will probably be a second Half before 2012 is out. However, I’ll be keeping it local over the summer with various 10 km to 10 mile races held in Switzerland. Here’s to many more successful runnings.