My first race
… was supposed to be the 1/2M in Leiden but short time ago we came across a folder with the (much shorter) Singelloop in Leiden: it is a nice 6.6 km loop following the canal around the medieval part of the city. Since I’ve been living in Leiden for several years now, I decided to use this ‘back garden’ charity run to spice up my training a bit. V was happy to join (“Otherwise I have to go running tonight anyway…”)
I worked all week and had little time to google more information on the race. Also, we have friends from Prague visiting us this week so I was not really focused to get ready – enjoying long evenings with wine, chatting, eating and more wine.
The start of the race was scheduled at 19.30. At the end of the afternoon with still a lot of work related stuff to address, I quickly googled the report from the last year race: 5000 runners, major regional sports event,… hmm – it looked like the start line would be rather busy. Luckily, the start was at a walking distance from our house. I geared up our guests with 2 huge umbrellas (the weather forecast promised heavy showers) and a heavy back pack with warm dry clothes and we all walked towards the town. On our way, we could already see many runners – some on bikes, some already warming up by jogging.
Of course it was cold (wearing our Team AprilRuns t-shirts). And of course I had to go to the WC. And of course there were only 3 (three!) of them for the whole crowd. Luckily we were nice on time and queuing among other runners allowed me to calm down. I knew that 6.6 km was an easy distance and I had nothing to worry about. Yet my legs were shaking and I could hear my heart beating in my ears. I haven’t been feeling like this for the past 20 years. I haven’t been RACING since I was 18.
We did not hear the start shot, we just heard the crowd getting louder as it started moving towards the start gate. And then, several minutes later, V smiled at me and said it was our time to get going. The euphoria of that moment, the first hundred meters when you somehow feel united with that crowd, is hard to describe.
Young and old, slow and fast, fat and thin – all the people who exchanged the comfort of Friday night in front of their TV for the experience we were going through as well. The course brought us along the nicest parts of Leiden: 2 windmills (one of them used to belong to Rembrandt’s family), the old university buildings, botanical gardens, both city gates. I knew all the places, I have passed them many times by bike, by car or just walking – but never before I saw them from the perspective of a runner.
The crowd on the road and alongside the course was wonderful – people waving at us from their balconies, from the pubs and parks. Kids offering us water and snacks, students yelling at us. And so we ran. We ran as if there was no tomorrow. The atmosphere was too good to think about a slower pace. Soon we were half way and guess what: we were not at the tail, quite the contrary – we started passing many runners and as I quickly checked the watch, I knew this would be our fastest run so far.
At the finish line, our Czech guests were waiting so we even attempted to speed up for the finish photo. I guess we succeeded as they told us we were too fast for their cameras. And then, at the end, after crossing the finish line, we got our first running medals.
With the real time of 37:28, we managed to maintain the pace above 10 km p/h and that is a good sign that we can do the 1/2M in a month time. And it is a major achievement for me. Remember, several months ago I was not running at all. And I was 30 kg heavier…