Really enjoyed my first race (short report) (Read 546 times)

Stranger than you know

    I'm just back home from my first running race ever! Totally stoked as everything went well in the end. The happy end was anything but trivial since I suffered through a flu during the days leading up to the race, and felt quite weak as late as yesterday evening. This morning I felt better, if not completely cured, so I decided to at least join the crowd if nothing else.


    The event was the '37th Pääkaupunkijuoksu', a smallish race with several distances: a half marathon and and quarter marathon for runners, and a 6.5 km walk. Since I don't really have that much background in endurance sports, I decided to go for the quarter marathon. A 10 km test run a few weeks ago proved that I can at least run this distance, but with the flu leaving me a bit off balance, I was not 100% sure I would be able to finish.


    After a morning meal of Weetabix, bananas, plums and cookies, I hopped on my bicycle and rode slowly the 4 miles to the start. During the bike ride I realised I was in good enough health to run, at least I would not collapse after 100 m.  I was at the stadium well in advance of the given start time, but spent many valuable minutes walking around and sightseeing. In the end this was probably my biggest mistake ... in the end it didn't matter, but by the time I had changed into my running gear and attached the number bib with hands shaking from pre-race jitters, I heard the 2 minutes to start call. I reached my planned place in the starting throng with less than a minute to spare. Lesson learned: reserve more time for changing clothes next time.


    As this was my first race, I wasn't really sure what to expect. Would I be faster than in training? Would I overextend myself in the beginning and pay the price later? Running in a crowd was a new experience for me too. So I decided to take a rather conservative approach and chose a starting point near the back of the crowd.


    And off we went, some 350 runners all heading for the quarter marathon route. After 500 meters I knew the flu was not holding me back; I could breathe normally and my legs were carrying me past slower runners. After 1000 meters I was sure my strategy of starting among the slower runners was the right choice: I was passing people, one by one, without needing to slow down. And more importantly for a newbie, no-one was passing me. No grey-haired octogenarians were flying by, leaving me feeling slow and feeble. As the run progressed, I was happy to see this pattern kept repeating; I was slightly faster than everyone else I saw. Cool This was of course a tremendous mental bonus. In fact only one person managed to pass me, and that happened in the last 500 meters, when it really didn't matter any more.


    My goal was just to reach the finish line running. Based on the 10 km test run, I thought a realistic pace would be around 6:00/km (3-6 minutes over an hour for the distance). But around the halfway point I spoke with a fellow competitor, who said he was confident he would finish within an hour. Since I passed him without much trouble, I started dreaming of a sub-one hour finishing time. Towards the end, I could even afford to pick up the pace a bit, even drawing a few comments from spectators about nice running form. I think I passed some 15 runners on that last kilometer.


    I tried to sprint the last 500 meters, but while I did not feel tired as such, I was incapable of increasing the tempo much. Nonetheless, I finished with a time of 58:42, impressing myself if not the sparse crowd Big grin. The average pace worked out as 5:29/km, definitely faster than my 6:00-6:30 easy runs. Feeling amazed by how well the run had gone, I grabbed a banana, slices of pickled cucumber, some cookies and a bottle of drinking yoghurt from the food table. And my medal of course! Cooling down and waiting for the elation to wear off, I walked around the field while eating and listening to the announcer call new and times for the steady trickle of people crossing the finishing line.


    All in all, I am VERY happy with my first race experience. I finished on the 82th place out of 162 men running the quarter marathon that day.


      sweet man! sounds like you had a good time. have you signed up for the next one yet?


      p.s. what you said about showing up earlier reigns ever true in bigger races where theres long lines and a jam packed field.

        that sounds like a perfect day to me.  smart choice starting near the back & moving up, congratulations & like Beastie asked,  "have you signed up for the next one yet"?

          Smart race, well done.

          And congratulations on your incredible weight loss!

          PBs since age 60:  5k- 24:36, 10k - 47:17. Half Marathon- 1:42:41.

                                              10 miles (unofficial) 1:16:44.


          Stranger than you know

            that sounds like a perfect day to me.  smart choice starting near the back & moving up, congratulations & like Beastie asked,  "have you signed up for the next one yet"?


            The race season is almost over here in the far north. I could perhaps fit in one more 10K/quarter marathon before the winter if I wanted to. But it's probably better to savour the success for now and spend the rest of the fall building base miles, with a half marathon in may 2010 in mind Smile