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Yes, I Ran My First Half Marathon… Over a Week Ago – I

Over a week has passed since May 15 and I still didn’t write this post, so let me now try to pick up from where I left off, which was when I woke up, at 6:15 AM. Was on my feet as soon as the first alarm went off, of course, but wanted to set two for the first time in order to feel more at ease, as otherwise I highly doubt I’d have gotten even that half an hour of sleep that I did get.
Was told I should be there no later than 8:30 AM and aimed to leave at 7:30 AM in order to likely arrive around 8:15 AM even if I’ll have to wait a bit at the metro, to allow for a bit of time in case something will go wrong. As such, I grabbed a little something to eat, checked whether anything new was posted, went to the bathroom, checked the bag one more time and made some changes I thought of after getting in bed, got dressed, put two small cloves of garlic in the wrapper of the energy tablet sample that was part of the race kit and shoved that in a pocket along with two mints, went to the bathroom again and then left. Right on time, if I remember correctly.

On the way to the metro I saw the route, which passes through this area as well, still being worked on and a group of volunteers getting themselves organized. Then saw a few people wearing the race t-shirts in the metro from the start, but there were a whole lot more obviously going there after switching trains, recognizable by t-shirts, bags, timing chips on their shoes and the conversations they were having. Of course, the stretch of road between Unirii and Constitution Square was full of even more, nearly everyone heading in the same direction and for the same reason.

Actually got there at 8 AM, so even earlier than intended, since the trains came quickly and I walked at my usual pace, if not even faster. This gave me time to go all around the area twice and also check the map quite carefully, looking for the WWF area, since they were the obvious choice for me out of the NGOs one could choose to support when registering, 10% of the fee being donated by the organizers for this purpose. However, my search yielded no result, even though I had been told they’ll have their area at the start and the others were definitely very visible, with both stands and teams of volunteers.
That was unpleasant, but there was little else I could do at the moment, so after the first search I dropped off the bag, taking a cue from others and writing my name on the sticker with the number, and after the second I also decided to take part in the warmup in front of the stage. Didn’t initially mean to, since I thought it was going to require more effort than it actually did and wanted to conserve my energy, but I went there since there was little else to do at the moment and stayed until the end since it was quite light and took less time than expected, and than the schedule said it would.
That still left me with quite some time until the 9:10 AM start, but I decided to head to the starting area and see what’s going on anyway… And happened to stumble into the WWF area, which I’m quite sure wasn’t there when I first looked and only consisted of a plain background for pictures and one person standing in front of it, holding a camera. Actually walked up to her and the first thing I said was that they sure are hidden, to which her reply was “that’s the idea”. When I asked why, she said it’s because of the main sponsor and people asking them what are they doing at an event sponsored by a fossil fuel company. Which in a way makes sense, and I said so at the time, but on the other hand it’s exactly the sort of place where a strong environmental message is needed.
Either way, from there I went back to the large tent where the bags were being left to grab my cap again, deciding to wear it after all, and then I wanted to go to the toilet again before starting. However, after passing in front of one row of toilets to search for a green sign and finding one, I noticed it was just a problem with the door and somebody was in there after all. Then, when I tried to go in after another person who had just come out of another I was pulled back by the next person in line, letting me know there was a line. And when I stepped behind him and the next person, I was actually shown where the line started, several more people behind and for every single available toilet, making me realize that large group of people wasn’t there to get ready for the start, but for the same reason I was. Was also told I sure am an optimist, obviously for thinking I could just find a free toilet so quickly.
Not that the wait was that long, only about ten minutes, but with the start time approaching and others even behind me, nobody was feeling comfortable. And then there was also the fact that the girl who went before me allowed the door to slam shut when she got back out, and it locked itself, making me have to try to pull it open and pretty much forget how it even worked, since I wasn’t expecting that and being among so many people plus the earlier interaction meant my brain wasn’t really working anymore anyway. That a guy told me it’s locked and that means it’s occupied didn’t help either, but while he simply repeated that it’s still locked when I said the person who was there came out, someone else got involved then and pulled hard enough to force it open… Which I guess had to be done for another a moment later, since as soon as I got in I heard someone else shout that another door was stuck closed. I made sure to hold it open for the next person when I was done, of course.

That left me with minutes until the announced start time, so I made my way to the entrance to the start area for Sector E, where those with a last official time over 2:15 or with no official time within the past two years were supposed to start from, quite a long way behind the start line. Since the crowd went around the square and the tents were in between, we couldn’t even see the start line from there, and while we could perhaps hear that something was being said and how loudly, we definitely couldn’t make out the words… And 9:10 AM came and went, with no sign of anything happening.
At least that gave me a bit of time to try to recover after the earlier events, somewhat less anxious over being in a crowd of people, since none of them had anything to do with me. But I was getting ever more anxious that something was wrong or we were simply being held back, losing time compared to the official start, as until then I still had an ideal target of two hours as official time in mind, which considering my optimistic target of 1:56 as real time meant I could afford a maximum of four minutes to reach the start line and I’m pretty sure it was past 9:14 when I heard something that gave me the impression the start was given.
As it was later proven, I was correct, as I started my stopwatch a few seconds later and when I eventually managed to see the official timer I saw mine was only nine seconds behind. However, I only got to that point after waiting for a few minutes longer, during which time nothing moved not only in Sector E but even in Sector D ahead, and then barely walking slowly until there was enough room to try to start lightly jogging as we finally approached the line. Unfortunately, by then it was already clear that a target of two hours as official time was merely wishful thinking, as my start time seemed to me to have been 5:47, or at least that was what the official timer displayed when I looked up just before crossing the line, though the official results state it was actually about 5:48. Either way, significantly more than the four minutes I could afford to lose, so I settled for two hours as real time instead.

But I think I’ll stop here, at the start, and continue with the run itself and the rest of the day at a later point. Ideally, that will be tomorrow, but may even be next week. Right now I’m content I finally managed to post something about this and I’d rather not struggle with it even longer and risk not finishing today, leaving me to need to get myself going again to continue tomorrow or who knows when and not have anything here at all until then.

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