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

The post’s title states that more than a week passed before I managed to write about this, but in a matter of hours it’ll be more than two weeks, so I have to somehow pick up from where I left off at the end of the previous post, when I was just crossing the start line of the Bucharest Half Marathon, which the official results state happened about 5:48 after the actual start, though I guess a more exact value would be 5:48.50.
Didn’t go through the thousands of pictures posted on the event page and there aren’t any posted on the site yet, but did go through the thousands posted by one photographer and you can spot me in three of those made right after the start. I’m on the far side, with the blue cap; my face is outside the frame in the third picture. Can actually also just spot the cap in the distance if you go three pictures back from the first one I linked to, but in the two in between I’m completely masked by another person. Either way, I was there, albeit starting so far back that I was already disappointed and had to give up on the first goal from the start, as I said in the previous post.

Being in such a large crowd and still at least aiming for less than two hours as real time meant I needed to pick my way through, but at the same time try not to tire myself too much in doing so. Needless to say, that was hard to manage and all the weaving and the speed variations probably took a bit of a toll later, but even so I barely managed to cover the first kilometer in the planned six minutes, and that initial plan was made assuming I’ll take it easy at first, which was not the case. The only thing I was glad of was passing the last group of pacemakers, aiming for a time of 2:20, just as I reached that one kilometer marker.
The next few kilometers were pretty much more of the same and I didn’t even check my time again during that period, since I was getting past just about as many people as I reasonably could and there wasn’t much else I could have done about my pace. Attempting to get past the 2:10 pacemakers and the group running alongside them was quite a problem though, as they pretty much formed a solid triple wall of people that I think I spent some 500 meters struggling to work my way through. What’s strange is that I was sure this took place between kilometers four and five, but I recall running on the tram lines while struggling with that group, and that could only happen just after the first five kilometers, so it may have been between kilometers five and six instead. One of the memories is obviously wrong, but not sure which one.
Either way, I used most of the cup of water I grabbed from the first refreshment point to wash my hands, since there was no way to do that after going to the toilet before the start, and then poured the bit that was left on my sponge, using it to wet my face and the back of my neck. And then, whether shortly or more than a kilometer after finally passing that 2:10 group, I clearly remember finally checking the time again as I passed the six kilometer marker and noticing that, while I had definitely made more effort than I wanted to, I hadn’t actually lost a significant amount of time while working my way through the slower people ahead of me and was still on target to meet the goal if I could maintain the pace of 5:20 per kilometer that I had planned for kilometers five to fifteen and again for the seventeenth.
Making my way past others was also starting to become somewhat less difficult at that point, since the group was becoming less compact, but I know that shortly after passing that marker I bothered someone enough to make him complain out loud about me getting back on the actual road right in front of him after using the tram line to get past. Meant to tell him to stay under 5:20 per kilometer if he doesn’t want me in front of him, but kept quiet and kept going, calmly getting past him again when he sped up after complaining. And otherwise I did my best to stay out of the way of those who were faster and not bump into those who were slower all the way from start to finish and, while I do remember a few moments when I unfortunately didn’t quite manage to do so, don’t recall anybody else complaining.

The first 180° turn was at seven kilometers, then as we turned towards the stadium the road finally became wide enough for passing people to really not be a problem anymore. However, I was still mainly interested in passing those who were still ahead of me but not running at the pace I meant to maintain as we went around the outside of the stadium, so instead of sticking as close to the inside of the road in order to minimize the distance covered, I ended up covering a fair bit more, which was another thing that took a toll later.
Still, after getting back out of the stadium area and returning to Basarabiei, around the nine kilometer marker, I actually saw the white balloons of the 2:00 pacemakers ahead. There was still some distance between me and them and I wasn’t about to run faster than I had to, but I intended to keep my eyes on them and get a little closer each kilometer, with a goal of running alongside them as we’d need to start that climb on Victoriei, after some 15.6 or 15.7 kilometers. Also, had grabbed a water bottle from the sponge point at about 7.5 kilometers, so I thought I had what I needed for quite a while, also ignoring the cups offered at the refreshment point that came after ten kilometers.
Unfortunately, it was just that water bottle that caused problems, because I didn’t really know what to do with it. Took a tiny sip, rinsed my mouth with it and spat it out, wet my sponge, yet it still looked like hardly any of it had been used. So I caused myself a bit of a problem, feeling my heart skip a beat and my breath be somewhat difficult for just a moment, obviously due to the difference in temperature, when I poured just a little bit down my back. However, what was far worse was when I decided to pour a little water right on my face instead of just wetting the sponge and then dabbing that on my face, because this caused me to feel like I was drowning for a moment and I pretty much had to stop and “reset” my breathing, and after that I kept sort of blowing my nose for a while as I was breathing out.
Needless to say, that’s not what you want to do when you’re trying to maintain a certain pace, so I started getting slower and by the time I got back to Constitution Square, at kilometer 14, those white balloons were too far ahead to be seen anymore. But at least, after rinsing my mouth and spitting a few more times, pouring some more down both my back and my chest, under my shirt, and a bit on my head as well but making sure it won’t end up directly on my face anymore, and making sure my sponge was sufficiently wet, I had managed to finish that water bottle before that 14 kilometer marker, so I threw it in the Square as we passed by the start area again, then just grabbed cups at the next points, not wanting to cause myself that sort of trouble again even if another bottle would have been offered. Don’t think I even noticed whether one was or not.
One thing I definitely was noticing at that point, however, was that I rather needed to go to the toilet. Had started feeling an increasingly pressing need around kilometer 13, in fact, which was after eating the slice of orange I had grabbed when I actually saw the fruit being offered and that options other than bananas were available, but it would have happened anyway and it’s quite normal and expected for such distances. Experienced this during or after my longer runs before as well, and I know that garlic tends to get things more or less back in order, so that was why I had those two small cloves in my pocket and I ate them at United Nations Square, as we were approaching the 15 kilometer marker. Was actually just doing that when a woman asked what our time was and I remember looking at my stopwatch, which I remind you I had started nine seconds after the official start, and seeing one hour and 29 minutes. She then also asked whether we were at least around kilometer 18, give or take one, not sure anymore, and I told her it’s more like 14.5, and 15.5 is when we reach Victoriei.
Probably more like 15.7 there, as I mentioned before as well, but 15.5 was close enough, right? And at least the garlic had done its job by then and I no longer felt like I was about to shit myself, so I think I grabbed a slice of apple as well, if not even two, from the refreshment point that was there, or somewhere around that area, and got started on that slope, made worse by the fact that traffic was again a problem. Entirely expected, since a single lane was available and people were slowing due to the slope, but it was unpleasant to suddenly have to once again struggle with the crowd as well when the slope itself would have been more than enough. And the gate marking 16 kilometers, which was supposed to cool runners struggling with the slope with a fine spray of water, didn’t really do anything on the way up because the wind carried the droplets away, to the lanes used on the way down.

Was feeling rather exhausted and knew I was falling behind the target when I reached the second 180° turn, but it did feel a little better to go down that slope I had just climbed, which also implied going through the fine mist created by that gate, which as I already mentioned ended up cooling those going down instead of those struggling to climb. At the 17 kilometer marker, at the base of that slope, it still looked like I could make that two-hour real time target, and I knew I was over one kilometer and therefore over six minutes, maybe even over seven, ahead of the 2:10 pacemakers, who had started some distance ahead of me, in Sector D, and were just starting the climb as I was reaching the bottom on my way down.
Unfortunately, that was the last time I had any hope of finishing under that target of two hours as real time, because by the 18 kilometer marker I had hit the wall. It was also around that time that I saw perhaps the best sign held by someone cheering on the runners: “Smile, you paid for this!” Didn’t help me much though, as my legs kept getting heavier and harder to move and my hands started getting numb. Around the 19 kilometer marker my legs started feeling like they were on fire, and as I was heading towards 20 kilometers I was even starting to feel quite out of it, perhaps my vision narrowing as well, or at least feeling like it.
I know I checked the time at 18 kilometers, but also know I had forgotten it even before reaching the finish line. I remember something about 1:44, but that seems pretty much impossible, as it’d have implied covering over three kilometers, probably closer to 3.5, including the slope on Victoriei, in 15 minutes, since there’s that 1:29 at United Nations Square that I remember very clearly. So I guess I just happened to see 1:44 when I looked before reaching that marker, leading me to the next time I remember seeing, which was 1:47. Again, this is official time, so if I did reach 18 kilometers in 1:47 official time, so 1:42 or even just a bit under that as real time, I was still just marginally on target at that point, as the initial plan had set aside 18 minutes for those final 3.1 kilometers, knowing I’ll most probably hit the wall and fall behind the pace of 5:20 per kilometer.
Either way, I was perfectly aware I couldn’t cover the remaining distance in the time I had left in order to finish in under two hours as real time, and that was even without taking the people that started to pass me more and more often into account. There was even a brief moment when I considered giving up, and more than one when I considered simply walking all the way to the finish, but I gritted my teeth and refused to allow myself to be defeated quite so thoroughly, deciding to keep running, albeit slowly, aiming for an official time under 2:10 or at the very least under 2:15, to at least get the benefit of a Sector D start if I’ll participate again next year and sectors will be split in the same manner.
And that was the story of that final portion, where you can also see me in five pictures posted by that same photographer. Taking it step by step, focusing solely on putting one foot in front of the other despite the pain and the burning sensation and the numbness and anything else. At least after crossing the river and starting the way back on the other side, after the 19 kilometer marker, I was looking at my watch at least every minute, possibly even more often, but I wasn’t really aware of the actual time anymore and definitely wasn’t calculating anything, merely using it as another method to prove to myself that I was getting closer to the finish, since time was passing and I kept moving forward.
At some point after 19 kilometers, perhaps around 19.5, maybe even slightly later, as I was easily passing a woman who had hit the wall even harder, I heard a man who had paced himself well and rushed past both of us say, apparently to her, that there was another refreshment point at 20 kilometers and to use it, and I sure did. Hadn’t cared much for those points until then, grabbing things pretty much just because they were there and, as I mentioned above, not knowing what to do with that bottle, but I definitely needed that one and actually stopped for a moment to get a cup of water, one of juice and a slice of orange. After rinsing my mouth with a bit of it, meant to pour the water on the sponge and then drink the juice, but got my hands confused and accidentally spilled half the juice as well, so ended up drinking only the remaining half, but then I walked for a few more steps as I ate the piece of orange, and this really saved me for that final part.
After that, I struggled to run again and eventually turned right, at around 20.5 kilometers, and the finish started appearing in the distance. Didn’t make me run any faster at first, as it still took everything to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and people were passing me left and right, but just at the end, when I found myself in a bit of space, I did whip myself just a bit harder and stayed just ahead of the next person coming after that five-second gap. May have raised my hands as I was crossing the line, or may have meant to, but didn’t have the strength for it and didn’t really feel them anymore either, so not sure what actually happened. Didn’t even know the exact time, not looking up as I covered those final meters, but correctly assumed it was around 2:08:30 as official time. In fact it was 2:08:27.10, while the official results list 2:02:39 as real time, though the chip apparently registered 2:02:38.60 and I always round down my run times.

Once past the line, everyone passed first through a set of gates where the timing chips were cut away and taken back, then through another where the finisher medals were given, then went past a series of stalls where large cups of water, half-liter bottles of juice and pieces of fruit were offered. As for myself, I grabbed the water and, after keeping the first couple of sips in my mouth for a moment before swallowing, drank the rest right away. Then I took a bottle of juice and just kept it, only drinking it after getting back home. Waited a while before getting to the fruit, since people kept cutting ahead and those of us waiting calmly in line weren’t getting anywhere, but I eventually did what the rest were doing as well, spotted an apple only cut in half instead of four or five slices and grabbed both halves, then a slice of orange as well, and ate all of those. Obviously ignored the bananas.
Feeling somewhat better, I then made my way back to the WWF area, where I had my picture taken before heading into the main tent, meaning to pick up my bag and change. However, the gap that allowed access from the main tent to the bag storage area before the race had been closed, so at first I got back to a line of people I had noticed waiting to get massages, since a medical center was offering them there. Did realize it’ll be rather weird, since I had those trousers on and it’s hard to pull them up, but didn’t mean to leave my spot in order to change until I was told the person handling the line I was in was going to stop offering massages with the person right ahead of me.
It was pointed out that two more were left, so the three lines will merge into two and I could just move over, but I decided to walk away and change after all, returning once that was done, in shorts, somewhat to the surprise of one of the other people from that medical center, who remembered me and that I left just before it was my turn. I ended up at the person who seemed somewhat less interested in giving good massages though, so mine lasted about half as long as the one given by the other guy to someone else at the same time, but it was free and I’m not keen on massages anyway, so it was fine.

And that’s it for now. Meant to also include what I did on my way back, since I wandered around for quite some time, but this is twice the size of the previous post already and I spent far too much time writing it. So I’m posting it as it is and will continue with the rest of the day and the time that passed since then at a later time. When will that be, I don’t know, nor do I know whether I’ll continue with a more generic personal update or stick to that day and how I felt, mainly in terms of my mood, over the next few, but at least I finally managed to post this, just hours shy of two weeks after the fact.


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