April Runs

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Archive for the tag “race”

Salzburg 1/2M: Slow but great!

After my slow and not very well built 1/2M in Limassol in March, I felt it was time to attempt to race better. He he, little did I know… I decided to run 1/2M in Salzburg on Sunday, the day of S’s first birthday. Originally, all of us would go to Salzburg together: the girls would be enjoying a nice day out while I would get my run done and join them later for lunch and some more walking. The thunder on Saturday night and temperatures dropping to freezing point made us change our plans.

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The wall with the names of all participants in the University Auditorium

At 6.00 on Sunday morning, freezing to death in my light jacket, I left for Salzburg all alone. Arriving to downtown at about 8 am, the soft rain changed into something I was not willing to run in. However, the streets were full of happy (and wet) runners and so I was waiting for a miracle. And it came: By 8.45, it was suddenly dry and the clouds moved several miles outside the city. The starting shot caught a happy colorful crowd, both marathon and half marathon runners started at the same time as the marathon course was designed as 2x ‘our’ 21.1 loop. Foto0111 The first 5 km part was great. As my nose was blocked and I had a bit of a sore throat (this is becoming my new tradition during races), I decided to make it a nice and easy run allowing me to breath well, look around, enjoy the historical down town and its outskirts. I quickly joined a group that formed itself around the 4.45 marathon pacer and stopped thinking about the time, distance and other problems – just stopped thinking all together. After the marker of the second km, the paved surface was substituted by an unpaved sand path. Due to the rainy night and morning, the path was somewhat muddy but nothing too serious. The first pit stop was placed in Hellbrunn and it was great – enough drinks and fruit, well organised (volunteers who actually knew how to pass a plastic cup without spilling its content all over us), cheerful people. The scenery was good too…

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One borrowed picture: Hellbrunn

… and this lasted for another 5 km. Around one third of the race I decided to leave ‘my’ pacer behind me and as I could still spot the green balloon of the 4.30 one, I attempted to move towards him. Why oh why did I waste so much energy to do this? I passed the 1/4M mark in 1.09 and felt well. We came to another well equipped pit stop at Schloss Leopoldskron and by the 13 km marker it became obvious that I had no speed to continue chasing the guy. I calmed down and ran a while behind a tall German girl who kept a pace similar to mine. Every now and then she stopped to make a picture (or to catch a breath?) and we have been passing each other on and off till the finish line (for which I thanked her at the finish).

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Yet another pic I did not take but it looked exactly like this yesterday.

The last third of the race lead us back to the old town: paved roads, good crowds on the sides, very very supportive people and volunteers, music – and then the sun started shining… Unfortunately, I did not have any energy left to speed up, quite the contrary, the last 2 miles were sort of painful – but in a good way. The first 2 Kenyan runners (who were finishing the second loop) passed me with the speed of light around 19th km. I hardly had time to focus on them and off they went. And there was the finish line, again with many people, music, beer, fruit and even this cherry cake: Foto0114 So to sum up: my finish time, 2:21:14, is the worst out of my thee 1/2M’s that I participated in but when it comes to my feelings, this was probably the best race I ran in. I would be happy to return next year :-).

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Limassol 1/2M

It was supposed to be an easy flat race on a track that I know as well as my shoes. I have been running along the Coastal Road here in Limassol for months now so when I found out that the annual Limassol Marathon pretty much copies my favourite training route (with the start some 500 m away from my office) and that I would be on the island exactly at the time when it takes place, it was hard to resist. Out of the 4 offered distances (full M, 1/2M, 10 K and 5 K) I opted for the 21.1 K, a distance that I ran once before during a race (Leiden 2012, pre-babies) and several times during my training. With enough ‘winter kilometers’ in my legs, I felt confident that I would be able to run this race well, if only I could get some sleep one or two nights before the D-Day.

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As the race day was approaching, the kids were getting a bit ill, sneezing and coughing. On Saturday, I myself woke up with a head that felt as if it were hollow but decided not to pay attention to it. We all went out and enjoyed the sunny day and light breeze. During the afternoon, E did not feel too well so we made a steam-bath for her with Eucalyptus oil, made sure she drank enough and put her to bed early. Ignoring my own cold, we ate pasta (the only item that I found in my runner bag) with tomato sauce and I allowed myself one small beer and went to bed too. At midnight my Camelot ended: while E was sound asleep, S started crying and was not to be calmed down. She felt really warm and to our surprise, her fever raised to 39.7. Of course we were panicking. To cut a long story short, early on Sunday morning, after hours of cuddling, singing, walking around with her and attempting to put her to sleep, she was quietly asleep in her bed, with fever under control. I still had 1.5 hours or so before it was time to get out and race.

At 7.00 I announced to V that I was not going to leave the house and running was out of question. At 7:30 she forced me outside the entrance door and told me that if she needed me, she knew where to find me because at any given time, I would not be further away than 10 km. Yet again, she was right.

Foto0028By 8.00, I was in the office changing myself and attaching my bib number to my shorts. Then 2x number  1 and number 2 (how great not to be depending on the portable toilets down the road!), check check double check and off I went. Out of 4000 registered runners, some 3500 participated in corporate runs (5 and 10 K). As the corporate teams were lining up near the starting point at Molos, it seemed like everybody knew each other there  and I felt a bit lost, thinking about my girls at home… What distracted me was the fact that the marathon runners were lining up at the start gate while half marathoners and 10K runners were supposed to take place behind them. Weird, I thought.

Foto0032Around 9.00 I heard the gun shot and as the crowd started moving, I crossed the start line some 3 minutes after that. I went with the crowd, the pace was around 6 minutes per km and it went well. After about a mile I suddenly saw a pair of bare feet running next to me. They belonged to a tall blond guy with light blue eyes. As we plodded on, we started talking. Funny enough, he was Dutch coming to Cyprus to enjoy his ‘old days’. Being 60 now, he was never a runner till about 3-4 years ago when somebody advised him to try barefoot running. His life story was quite amazing and so was his running story including the barefoot runs in Himalaya’s. He was happy to be able to talk to me in Dutch while I was happy to be just listening. The pace remained slightly above 6 min p/km and when at 9 km I realised that I wouldn’t be able to keep it forever (or for the next hour or so), it was too late to do anything about it. We passed the 10 km mark at 1:03 and I told my guy that it was time for us to part.

The turning point at Amathus excavations caught me in a bad shape. I was hot, my throat was sore and most of all, I felt no urge to run as my thoughts were wandering to the kids. What looked like a well started race turned into a nightmare as I suffered through the last miles with some kilometers slower than 7 minutes, not being able to come to a good pace and focus. At the eighteenth km, I was only about 1.5 km from home and the idea of leaving the track and turning home was quite tempting. At the end, the biggest achievement was probably simply the fact that I finished.

I crossed the finish line at 2:20:51 official time. To my surprise, I was not the last one – about one fifth of the runners was still on their way. I quickly walked to the office again, called V (to find out that the girls were sort of ok) and biked home. There was still half a day ahead of us to continue curing the little ones and I was left with mixed feelings.

limassol medaileP.S. On the organisational side of the race, it was quite a chaos. My email inquiries with regards to the advertised car rental discounts and bib numbers pickup remained unanswered. Also, I have never experienced a volunteer refusing to pass me water arguing that “there is another water station several miles further, this water is for the full marathoners.” But despite all this, I might be back next year :-).

 

10K in Leiden

E has just turned 11 weeks and S three weeks so I thought it was the highest time to return to racing. Ehm, can one do that without any training? Without any sleep or proper daily routine? I figured that a short race, just to get the feeling back, couldn’t hurt and so I convinced V to walk with me with both kids downtown yesterday and visit the marathon Expo in Pieterskerk 250520131627

and as we were checking some seriously discounted shoes (bought 4 pairs, the two of us – see the yellow/orange boxes under the strollers), I enrolled for the 10K of Leiden Marathon that was scheduled for today. DSC_0010

250520131628 The loyal reader knows that last year, me and V ran our fist 1/2M here in Leiden and as this year the 10K was practically passing our backyard, this was the one logical choice to do.

As if the kids knew that today I needed to be (sort of) fit, the night was wild. And so was the morning. By the time I had to leave home (14.00) to (hopefully) get to the start line on time, I was exhausted as if it were midnight. There was a lot of crying, no sleeping, refusal to drink…

Anyway, thanks to V, I managed to leave the house on time. The plan was to jump on the bike and get down town and walk to the start. I had about 2 hours to do that, run my 10K and return home. And believe me, I did not want to be late as the breasts would start hurting like hell and kids would yell.

How does it feel to wait there (I had full 2 minutes of time reserve!) at the start with hundreds of charged runners around me – after NO training at all? My last proper run was probably the 10M race in Amsterdam last September. After that, there was some more jogging and then between December and April nothing at all – just weight gaining, delivering babies, breast feeding and NOT shaving the excess weight off at all.260520131634

The first 2 km’s went ok. I somehow knew I was way too fast but I decided to enjoy the day, the crowd, the run, the feeling. Then after another 2 km’s my legs started to hurt. The good thing was that all it was were muscles – no bones or joints. There was a water station half way and a cup of water indeed came handy (normally I don’t drink when running 10K as the distance is simply not worth it…). Around 6 km, the crisis came. Why do I do this? What am I trying to achieve here? Oh nice, I passed a guy who was probably over 70 years old and now he passed me back. Time to quit, go home, feed the baby and stop pushing the limits.

Except that quitting does not show in my books. And so I went on, jogging over all the paths I know from my early morning city runs – except that now hordes of people were supporting me from the sidewalks. By the time I was at 9 km (took me an hour!), I knew I managed to book yet another minor personal victory. The last kilometer was of course an easy one, with crowds around, music, the perfect downtown Leiden racing atmosphere.260520131635And then the medal, the red ribbon hanging around my neck… of course it is dedicated to my 3 beautiful girls who were waiting for me at home.DSC_0018P.S. I managed to return home within the time limit for another breastfeeding session!

Dam tot Damloop

I have heard about this race many years ago: the biggest Dutch running event with thousands of runners and even more supporters along the way, great atmosphere and interesting  10 mile course… No wonder that the start numbers were sold out 12 minutes after the online registration opened. Luckily we managed to ‘sneak in’ by combining pleasant and useful and joined a small charity project to run (and collect funds) for them.

This was all long before I got pregnant…

Saturday night: Here I am, the night before the race, feeding myself with spaghetti like crazy, feeling quite good but sadly realizing I have to do this on my own as V caught some stomach bug and looks like she will be spending the whole weekend hanging above the toilet.

Sunday 8 am: I am dressed in my (summer) running gear, drinking my coffee, eating cereals, watching the mercury in the outside thermometer – it keeps shrinking around 8 Celsius. It looks like it will start raining soon, too. The last quick look to the website of Dutch railways does not fill me with optimism either – the shortest railroad between Leiden and Amsterdam (where I have to be at the start) is closed for rail works all day today. I decided to take my bike to the station, just in case I need to quickly get to another station for an alternative route.

10 am: Finally I am in the train. It is packed with runners (recognizable by white plastic bags with numbered stickers that match their start number and running shoes hiding under the winter gear) and tourists (recognizable by huge question marks in their faces with: ‘People, where the hell are you all going??”), so finding a seat is out of the question but at least the train moves in the right direction.

11 am: Amsterdam Central Station, the first obstacle of the trip is behind me.  Now digging a map from my plastic bag and trying to find the spot where our charity meets. Since the principal color of our logo is purple, I am happy to fix purple balloons with my right eye and walk towards them. Ehm, wrong charity (at this point, there are 4.000 charity runners around). Several minutes later I am on the spot, right on time for the group picture.

11.30: It is still dry and actually even sunny, the temperature raised to rather comfortable 13 degrees so I am undressing (wearing the charity T-shirt today rather than my own Team AprilRuns), stuffing my plastic bag and throwing it to a truck number 8 (they say I will find it later on 10 miles further, in Zaandam…). The queue in front of the toilets makes me want to pee again and again and again. Luckily I am not too shy to use the facilities of 2 pubs nearby.

11.45: I am quickly calling V to tell her we are moving towards the start corridor. She says “don’t rush, the fastest Kenyan guy has already finished”. The official race started at 10.59 and I will only find out later that there are 50.000 runners today starting practically continuously between 11 am and 3 pm (out of 20 start corridors)! Leonard Komon (‘the Kenyan guy’) finished at 44:48, highly disappointed as he stayed some 20 seconds behind Haile Gebrselassie’s world record.

11:50: Our charity group hears the gun shot from Ronald de Boer, a Dutch iconic ex soccer prof. Little do I care, I am pre-programmed to run so I run. The sun is shining, the crowd along the route is huge (later I hear it counts 250.000 people!), I hear music, drums, people clapping their hands and I feel good.    

1st km: The first bit along the city centre (Prins Hendrikkade) quickly turns down to the Ij tunnel, about 1 km long tunnel under the river Ij. This is the biggest descend and ascend of the race (about 25 meters). The crowd speeds down to the dark mouth of the tunnel accompanied by African drummers who unpacked their huge drums in the middle. Half way through the tunnel some runners already stop running and walk. I keep my pace around 6 minutes per kilometer, smiling, enjoying, singing along. As we climb out of the tunnel (yes, in Holland the 25 m are qualified as climbing), I am happy with my pace. As of now, my GPS dependent Garmin is only useful for the time, not for the distance. Tunnels don’t do him good.

2nd km:  Luckily there are markers on the road each kilometer. We are running through Amsterdam North now – many locals around the path, kids, music groups, BBQ parties, beer… oh no wait, I am here to race.

5th km: 30:48. As planned, I make a quick pause to drink and ‘feel’ my body and let it speak. I feel surprisingly good even though on paper, the first third of the race was too fast for me. I decide to keep the current pace till km 8 and see how it goes from there.

8th km: 49:19. There is a fruit station here. I grab 2 halves of a banana, walk for 10 seconds and still feel really good. Suddenly my Racing Me comes up with an idea: back in spring (while registering) I set a goal of running this race under 1:40, under 100 minutes. If I keep my current pace I could actually still make it. Hmmm, once the little worm of an idea crawls in my head, I am not to be stopped anymore.

10th km: (second 5 km bit ran in 30:58) I have to pee. Well – I ALWAYS have to pee when running so lets neglect the urge and plod on. I am checking my pace by singing along with the street musicians and/or with my mp3 player. All still going good, keeping my pace right around 6 min per km.

11th km: The weather is changing, it is getting colder and windier but what the hell – it is just 3 more miles to go. I will be warm in half an hour!

14th km: I have to admit, the last mile is getting longer. Luckily we are entering the city of Zaandam, the last bit will lead us through the city centre with yet another amazing crowd (although the picture does not show that many people).

16th km: I do not have any ambition to speed up, my legs would not allow me and even though I am racing, I am still very aware of the fact that I am carrying a little passenger with me. My breath is easy and regular, and yet I manage the third 5 km piece in 31 minutes. The cobble stones are okay today, my knee is holding excellent. We have to pass 2 bridges and then turn to the finish line on Peperstraat. I quickly check the time board. My mind is unable to do the maths but I have good hope I actually managed to stay within my time limit.

Finish: Happy and tired but not breathless or exhausted. It was a good race, I ran very flat splits (you hear me talking as if I were a professional, haha) and this all is rewarded by my Garmin showing 1:39:41. Later on, this very time will be confirmed online as well. I am halfway the 18th week of pregnancy and I just ran 10 miles under 100 minutes. And – the charity has collected some EUR 5.700 so far!

3 pm: Sitting in the train home, chewing on a banana, smiling and every now and then reaching towards the medal to check it is still hanging around my neck.

4 pm: Home sweet home, hugging V and finishing the bowl of pasta (I love leftovers from the fridge) and doing absolutely nothing for the rest of the day.

Prague by night

When planning our ‘racing autumn’, my eyes fell on the Nike Run first. One quick remark of 12Honza (“Prague by night is unforgettable, V will love it!”) made me change my mind and so we registered for the Mattoni Grand Prix Prague on September 8 instead. Of course we combined the race with a long weekend trip to Czech rep. to see my mother so the 1.5 day before the start shot, we were working in her garden, harvesting plums,

hiking around and enjoying the good old Czech cuisine. (Turns our V. loves my mum’s homemade meat loaf). Oh yes – not to forget: we had a great dinner with the whole family on Friday and finally announced my pregnancy. Surprisingly, nobody made any remark regarding the pregnant woman racing. Both my mum and my brother know that there is no chance to change my mind once I set my goal…  On Saturday afternoon, we went down town to pick the start numbers and to breathe some of the ‘racing air’. The starting area looked like this:

We walked around with ice coffee, did some shopping and returned to my mum’s house. For the last time we tried to persuade her to join our friends along the race in Parizska street and to see us running. And at the end, she agreed to come with us! After a series of telephone calls we managed to get a camping chair and 2 friends to accompany mum to the best spot to watch us. We equipped them with a bottle of Becherovka as one never knows when the traditional liquid medicine will come handy. Both the liquor and the camping gear turned out to be unnecessary as we picked a perfect spot at a terrace in front of a fancy café. Mum could see us easily from her place!

Slowly we walked to the start area on Staromestske square that now looked like this:

We found the toilet (twice) and our D corridor and then all of the sudden I spotted attributes that unmistakably belonged to 12Honza (design glasses, black Asics running shoes ‘for formal occasions’, big smile, running pants with a hole on the right knee,…) with his daughter

and he spotted us.

A bit of a surreal moment to shake Honza’s hand, I was so happy we met there! We wished each other good luck and an enjoyable evening and shortly after that the famous Moldau from Smetana’s My Country brought me to tears and made us running.

The evening city was amazing. Yes, it took a bit of an extra focus to avoid the curbs and uneven cobblestones in darker areas but hey, we are urban people and this 10 km track showed Prague at its best. Especially the long stretches at the embankment were not to be missed. Funny enough, we passed pretty much all ‘important’ areas of my young student years and as our pace was moderate, I could show V all of them and even comment on ’what happened here and there…’

Before we knew, we were half way through, keeping the pace at a comfortable 6:15 or so per km. We drank some water from the bottle that V was carrying with her and ran on. Every time as we were passing Parizska street (4x in total) we waved to my mum. Then as we were passing Manesuv bridge on our way to finish, the fireworks above the river exploded!

At Ovocny market, 12Honza with his daughter ran over us in a mighty finish pace and soon we were passing the finish line as well. The race was fantastic as the atmosphere of medieval city by night cannot be substituted by anything else in the world. Our time 1:03:44 was way below what we predicted and I am very happy with it considering the fact I am almost 16 weeks pregnant.

With the golden medals hanging around our necks we walked to Parizska street again and joined our support team at the terrace. It was great to chat with them some more while drinking huge glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice and chewing cheesecake. I saw the twinkle in my mum’s eyes. She was so happy and proud of us! We talked and talked and if it was not for the public transport that we were depending on, we would have stayed over the midnight…

On Sunday morning we went to my mum’s cottage again to enjoy some more sun and hike a bit and also to finish some garden works.And then it was time to head home. A perfect weekend if you ask me – and I am sure we will be back!

Charity Run? Why not!

During the past months, funny thing has happened to me: somehow I started realising I was becoming a (slightly) better person. Not in the sense of better/faster runner but better as in more receptive to other people: their stories, sorrows, lives.

This might be a temporary thing, enhanced by our tiny running/racing successes but never mind, I am predetermined to use it to the max. And so I enrolled our 2 headed Team AprilRuns to the charity project Europa Kinderhulp and in September, we will be running the world famous Dam tot Damloop (10 miles from Amsterdam to Zaandam, 40.000 runners!) and raising funds for this charity.

Europa Kinderhulp is a Dutch charity organisation with its main goal to enable different kids from all over Europe to spend 2-3 weeks of a nice holiday in Holland, to escape from their socially and financially poor surroundings. It is not any life saving general project, it is just an attempt to help each individual kid to forget the misery at home and play.

I remember myself when I was a kid, how important my holidays were for me, the 2 fabulous months every summer. If we can raise some money to lighten up a couple of children’s faces, to make sure they spend the holiday of their life, our goal is achieved.

Asking others for money is not what I do nor am good at. I have never done it and I am not sure if I am good at it. It helps knowing that the money is being raised for a very good cause. So if you feel tempted to help, here is what you can do:

  1. Visit our Dam tot Damloop charity website  and feel free to read/donate;
  2. Email me or leave me a blog comment to arrange for a different way of payment.

If the whole idea is not interesting to you, never mind: the point of charity is that it is voluntary. Keep running!

Recovery Run Random Ramblings

  • Yesterday, 8500 happy people enjoyed the running day in Leiden. Well, 8500 minus 1. According to the local paper, one of the runners died of a heart attack after finishing the 1/2M race. I do hope that media won’t use (abuse) this personal tragedy to support the wicked theory of how unhealthy running is…
  • My legs are sore but I am already checking the calendar for future races (is this normal?) – perhaps a 1/2M in Katwijk at the end of September?
  • Finally read Born to Run. Should I slowly start testing my own barefoot running abilities? Will do so next time on the beach.
  • After surviving 20 km running, I am sure I can survive the dentist next week, too.
  • Should I opt for some proper training plan? I am a bit afraid that the regularity would kill my idea of the freedom that running brings. On the other hand, I could use some (semi)professional guidance in order to avoid the common mistakes.

… and then my 30 minutes were over and I ran home…

We did it!

This morning, I woke at 5 am to drive my mother to the airport. It was rainy and windy and misty and the idea of running 20+ km in these circumstances sounded everything except appealing to me.

Fortunately the weather improved significantly so after the chaotic ‘what-to-wear’ session (while working warm crusli and banana into my stomach hoping it will stay there) we returned to the original idea of long pants and Team AprilRuns shirt. What a comfort to participate in a 1/2M race that starts just 2 miles from our house! We parked the bikes, visited the portable toilet, panicked some more about Garmin, iPhone, starting numbers (nothing unusual) and walked to start area.

Some twenty minutes before the shot this is what we saw in front of us:

And this is what we saw behind us:

I suggested to run the first 10k in a comfortable pace and see how we feel. Of course, the reality did not resemble the theory at all: the first 5k was one of our fastest ever, then after a short drinking pause (10 seconds of walking) the second 5k was quite similar. Except for my knee we felt very good. The path was quite nice, leading us through small villages and fields, we even saw deer. And along the path there were lots of locals cheering and offering drinks, fruit, sponges… I absolutely loved the atmosphere and was predetermined to enjoy it all the way.

The crisis came around km nr 12. The black currant gel did not go down too well I guess. Also, there was some wind against us and I’ve noticed we were slowing down a bit. Around that moment, I lost my hand made wrist strap with pace time for my Dream Time of 2:20. Well, whatever – as long as we finish, I thought.

I was encouraging V to run faster but she would not leave me behind. I was guessing that part of the reason being her two tennis matches last night. All the time, even though I ran with an mp3 player and earplugs, I was looking around enjoying the crowds: kids giving us high-five (and begging for sponges and gels), families, older people, bikers, dog walkers, musicians. And indeed, the kick I got when people/strangers clapped and yelled my name is hard to describe. And so my first crisis left as fast as it came.

At 15k we paused again, drank some and from that point somehow I knew we would make it. Suddenly more and more people around us were walking rather than running. I have to admit, watching an athletic guy with muscles that looked like sculpted by ancient Greeks in front of me and then passing him by (with my snail pace but still) – that gave me a kick of a century!

Short after that we crossed the 20k sign and intuitively speeded up just a little as one cannot look too slow down at the city centre. The finishing line was a dream, we crossed it hand in hand, laughing like crazy and utterly happy. We ran our first 1/2M and we did it together: for ourselves and also for April.

And for the statistics (not that time matters so much), the time was 2:14:45.

P.S. Even though this little bit is written all the way at the end, it is the most important part of this post: Thank you, V, for doing this with me. And thank you 12Honza, Shadow, Cheeta, Barborka and ALL other bloggers for your blogging which is a neverending source of inspiration for my humble running attempts.

3 days to go

This morning the organizers of Leiden Marathon sent us a reminder that our race is to start in 3 days. As if I did not know! I have trouble in falling asleep for days already, my metabolism has gone crazy, my legs feel heavy (after 5 km of running yesterday evening I had to stop!), my breath is shallow, both knees aching now, not to mention my mind and the voices in my head that keep telling me that there is no way to manage a 20+ km run! What is going on?

I guess it is the pre-race stress and I keep calming myself down that everybody feels it one way or another and that it is a good thing as it helps me to get focused. Or am I just fooling myself? Let’s not forget I was not making any proper long runs in the last month, my body has probably already forgotten my first (and last) 17km training run…

Nevertheless, on Sunday morning, I am predetermined to be out there and fight everything that comes across my path (myself to start with). My first priority is to finish the race. If things go well I would be very happy with any time under 2:30.

P.S. No explanation for this move – but I did register V and me for the 10 km Mattoni Grand Prix in Prague on September 8.

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…

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