For a second year in a row, on Sunday, I participated in a half-marathon organised by the sports retailer SportScheck. It was also my second official half-marathon this year, after the excruciating run in Schliersee in May.
Unlike last year, the weather this time was absolutely perfect for such a long distance. Better still, of all competitions I have participated into so far, I felt in a much better physical and mental condition, both before and after the run. I participated not so much with the goal of beating my pace from the previous race, but to show myself that I’d learned from my mistakes. At the end, I achieved both - a slightly better time, at a fraction of the mental and physical exhaustion from Schliersee.
The 21K started shortly after 8:00 AM. As is usual for these kinds of massive events, the first few hundred meters were mostly walking. Then, slowly but surely, the run began. Before the start, runners had to divide themselves into three groups, based on what finishing time they expected to achieve: less than 2 hrs, between 2 and 2:15 hrs, or more than 2:15 hrs. I had conveniently put myself into the last group, hoping that the smaller pressure from fellow runners, would allow me to calm down, find my pace and slowly start moving forward from there.
So it happened. I found a group to stick to, but not at the price of unnecessarily rushing myself from the beginning, and fell into the flow. Unlike most of the times, I had deliberately decided not to take my earphones. For a while, I simply let myself fall into a sort of meditation, enjoying the sounds of nature around me, and only keeping an occasional look at the 2:15 hrs pacers ahead of me (they carry marking flags on their backs). Other runners would pass by, but I just kept calm and told myself that with a bit of patience, I would meet them again sometime before the finishing line.
And I did meet them, oh boy, didn’t I. If not anything else, long-distance running teaches you patience and perseverance. A lot of people rush themselves early on during the race, and significantly reduce the pace a few kilometers down the road. I met quite a few of those as the race progressed, and each encounter served as an energy boost for my legs. Without a conscious signal on my part, my body sprinted forward on every encounter, only to come back to my regular pace, as soon as I left these early sprinters behind my back.
Step by step, keeping my calm, but also inching forward when I could, I managed to make it on par with the pacers. A few kilometers before the finish line, I outpaced them and left them behind my back. I had achieved my goal for this half-marathon!
I finished with only a couple of minutes earlier than last time, and with a pace that many wouldn’t be proud of. Yet, there was, having ran 21.2 kilometers during an early Sunday morning, fully at peace with my body and mind. There was absolutely no reason, NOT to be proud of myself. I still cannot imagine being able to run the full distance, but I will one day. Inch by inch, I’ll make it to the final.
Looking forward to the next running adventures!
P.S. One person whose support has been instrumental for my running perseverance, is my fiancée. She always joins me on my runs, motivating, cheering and and sharing my running achievement, as modest as they might be. Thank you, my love!