Friday, April 24, 2009

Vienna Half Marathon 2009 :)

The hooter rang, or hooted, there was a big roar from the thousands of runners waiting in nervous anticipation, and the crowd started moving forward, one step at a time. The first dozen or so steps were but slow walking, as the multitudes in front took time to gather pace. A few gingerly taken strides at a faster pace, as everybody tried to find their natural pace and rhythm. The walk turned into a slow jog, and then, by the time we ascended the flyover, more or less everybody settled down into their optimum speeds.

I was still trying to find mine, all the nervous energy and excitement of my first half marathon was making me go much faster than was optimum, at this rate, I would tire out very quickly, around the 7-8 km mark. I had to check myself and concentrate. Within a few minutes though, I felt fine, going at a pace I felt was slightly under what I usually started off with, but a conservative approach made more sense when the distance I was aiming for today (21.1 km) was something I had never done, although I had come agonizingly close once, although with too much of a fight and risk of injury.

Around 10-15 minutes later though, I felt a slight pain in my chest, this meant that I was going at a pace faster than was sustainable. This was surprising, but there was no choice but to slow down further. The pain stayed for 10-15 more minutes, and disappeared after some deeper breathing and lessening of speed.

It felt great to running, in Vienna, of all places, in great weather, amongst thousands of similar running enthusiasts, cheered on by so many thousands of people on both sides of the streets. It was a festival, and it felt great to be a part of it.

I reached the 5 km mark in just under 30 minutes, which was my target, so I had underestimated my speed. This was just fine, I was feeling great, things were looking good. A splash of water on my face and some water to drink at the 5 km mark, and I felt good. The next 5 kms were also fairly easy, this was the time when I had settled into my rhythm and warmed up well. The 10 km mark came up soon, again, I was just under 30 minutes, good going, though I had targetted a 25 here. Some more water to drink and splash around a bit, some powerade, and on we went. 11 came quickly, but the next one took a while, and I was wondering whether I was slowing down dramatically or had missed one, when 13 came along. I was beginning to feel tired now, It had been an hour and 15 minutes since the start, and it was getting to me. My shoulders and thighs complained, and a slight something in my left knee reminded me of the injury I was just coming out of and which had kept me away from running for almost 2 months. I was beginning to feel a trace of pain there, and was desperately hoping it wouldn't flare up quickly and prevent a finish, or make it too much of an effort. A similar thing had happened the last time when I had done the much shorter IIMK - NIT Calicut run, and I could barely walk for a few days after that.

The 15 km mark came soon. More water and powerade and a banana this time. 16 and 17 were quite tough, as fatigue started settling in quickly. I was feeling really tired now, and had to struggle to keep going. 19 came along in 10 more minutes, and while taking a turn, I slowed down, only to feel a sharp stab of pain in my left knee. After hobbling 1-2 steps, I picked up pace again, and the pain vanished. I had to keep running to keep it away. But the end was near, 2 kms was doable even in the state I was in, and the new found confidence and joy of the realization that I was going to finish made me increase my pace. I went faster, and overtook several runners who were slowing down. 20 passed, and I forgot all pain and continued along. Soon, the exit came into view. A few large strides as I ran freely and without pacing myself, and I was through and done.

So that's that. Vienna Half Marathon 2009, 2:02:01, after 1 sleepless night crouched in an uncomfortable train compartment, and 3 pizza slices for lunch and dinner together on the previous day (couldn't find anything that I felt like eating). Not great, but not bad either :)

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