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Second Official Half Marathon – II

Picking up from where the previous post left off, I’ll start this by saying that we got moving almost right after the start was given, very much unlike last year, and I crossed the start line after what the timing chip reported as 1:39.90. My reaction times and estimate of exactly when the chip would register crossing the line were also very good, as the intermediate time set on my stopwatch was 1:40.03, so I worked with a start time of 1:40 in order to set my targets. Either way, with a start time over four minutes better than last year’s, an official time under two hours definitely was possible, so despite my earlier poor mood and loss of motivation, I suddenly became quite determined to achieve it.
The targets I used were those I had worked out for last year’s ideal time, only adding up to 1:55:50 instead of 1:56 because the route no longer climbed that steep slope on Victoriei and therefore there was no reason to add ten seconds to kilometer 16 anymore. So I was aiming for six minutes for the first kilometer, then speed up by ten seconds per kilometer to reach 5:20 for the fifth, then maintain the pace until and including the 17th, then slow down by ten seconds per kilometer to get back to six minutes for the 21st, then add 30 seconds for the final meters. And I also meant to stick to my strategy better, not tiring myself early on by trying too hard to make my way past others even if that meant losing time behind them, making use of those I was running behind to break the air and make it just a little bit easier for me, and sticking as much as possible to the parts of the road I had decided were the better option while walking the route.

Due to the crowd, the first kilometer was slightly slower than intended, and I seem to remember a time of 6:03, though I’m not exactly sure of that, all I can say for sure being that it was under 6:10. Then at some point I even followed others who were moving to the emergency lane, outside the part of the road meant for runners, searching for room to advance, but that lane quickly filled as well, so it didn’t help much. It was briefly better after the route turned left at Unirii, but it then turned and narrowed again very quickly, the sidewalk taking the place of the emergency lane as the area used by those searching for room to advance, again with little success. Fortunately, I had returned to the road before the first intermediate timing point, though others were surprised by it and had to turn back and step on the sensors.
I know I checked the time at kilometers two and three, but don’t remember what it was at all anymore. I also know that I then missed the markers for kilometers four and five, so only checked again after six, again not remembering what I saw then. Why I missed the one at four kilometers is quite clear, as I still hadn’t managed to find a way past the 2:00 pacemakers before reaching the refreshment point marked as being at 2.3 kilometers and then dropped farther behind them due to slowing down to drink, so I guess I could still pay enough attention to spot the next one but as time passed and I was still behind I was more and more focused on simply finding my way through, which I clearly remember only happening just as the route turned on United Nations Boulevard. But that happened at about 4.7 kilometers or so, making the reason for missing the marker at five kilometers less obvious, though I guess I may have still been too busy searching for ways through the other people ahead and occasionally turning to check that those pacemakers weren’t catching up.

The next few kilometers were uneventful, but increasingly concerning, as my pace wasn’t quite on target and I wasn’t in the early part of the race anymore. Do remember recovering something, with I believe 5:14 on the seventh or eighth kilometer, but that was an exception, I believe one of the only two, otherwise the entire part which I should have covered at a pace of 5:20 per kilometer including a few covered in 5:19 and the rest in more than the target time.
At ten kilometers it was already an obvious problem, being around or I think already over 30 seconds behind the target time, and when the route turned 180°, around or I think right after 11 kilometers, I decided it wasn’t working and I needed to push harder, even if it might cause me to tire before the end, this at least leading to still being less than 40 seconds behind the target time at 13 kilometers, possibly after covering the 12th kilometer in 5:15 yet then following it with 5:25 for the 13th, as I seem to remember gaining and then losing five seconds in that area. Nevertheless, that provided some amount of relief, as even losing ten seconds per kilometer from then on would have still allowed for an official time under two hours.
Also decided around that time that I needed a much better strategy for the refreshment points, as there were a high number of them and I meant to make use of them, but doing so caused me to lose a significant amount of time, 20 or even up to 30 seconds each time, which I then couldn’t recover properly, and either way trying to do so would have caused me to tire too soon. So I believe I skipped the next one, but then things did indeed improve, even though I kept grabbing both water and juice when I could, as well as fruit when I spotted it in time. Definitely learned my lesson from last year and didn’t grab another bottle though.

The rest of the way was pretty much focused on my pace, searching for the most efficient way past others, and optimizing my use of the refreshment points, to the extent that I can’t even say I exactly noticed the amount of support present along the route, any interesting signs or much about other competitors that I didn’t have a practical reason to pay attention to at that moment. And I always had two targets in mind, one being the ideal time in which I should have reached the next marker and another being the time I should reach it in to maintain the target pace for that particular kilometer.
Since I usually just kept the seconds in mind, that makes it harder to remember times, and the fact that something is obviously wrong with the official intermediate times, probably having to do with the listed distance being wrong, certainly doesn’t help. Still, I know for sure that the worst position I was in was being 55 seconds behind the target time, and I thought that was at 17 kilometers, with a chance of it having been at 16. When I later tried to work it out more accurately, however, it became more likely that it was at 18, though there is that matter of possibly mixing an intermediate time with the target for the next to consider. I’m also pretty sure I had just lost one second over that kilometer and then gained just that one second back over the next.

The one intermediate time I’m absolutely sure of is the one for 20 kilometers, as I know I reached that point in 1:51:27, so only 27 seconds behind the target, having obviously slowed less than the plan allowed for towards the end. In fact, I was feeling really well at that point and pushing even harder, knowing I could keep it up all the way to the finish line, which I definitely did. Since it was obvious that it’ll only cause me to lose time with no real benefits for later, also skipped the last refreshment point, just hundreds of meters before the end, as it was in fact a matter of passing by the one meant for five kilometers again and it still being active, and pretty much sprinted to the line, wondering why had my pace been so conservative before.
Didn’t manage to spot the marker for 21 kilometers, but I know I covered the nearly 1.1 kilometers to the finish in a mere 5:09. Since the target for the 21st kilometer was six minutes and then I had calculated 30 seconds more for those final meters, it means I recovered 1:21 right there at the end, actually ending up nearly a minute ahead of the target time after having been behind it all the way until then. As such, I managed a real time that was even under 1:55, more specifically being 1:54:56.70, while the official time was 1:56:36.60. On the results page they once again rounded the real time up, but I’ll do what I do for my regular runs as well and round down to 1:54:56.

Once past the finish line, I stopped for a moment to arrange the little plastic things holding the timing chip in a way that’d make it easier for the person cutting them away to do so without risking to also cut my shoelaces or even my shoe, then once that was done I advanced to receive my finisher medal, and then moved on to the area offering refreshments to the finishers. Grabbed and drank a large cup of water, took a half-liter bottle of water and one of juice, also a piece of orange which I then stepped away from the line to struggle to eat, then also had a cup of juice from a stall on the other side of that area, which I wouldn’t have noticed without stepping away from the line, and finally returned to the fruit area to grab two pieces of apple. Took both bottles back with me unopened, leaving the water in the kitchen for my parents. The bottle of juice is still here in my room, unopened even now.
Either way, I then got my bag back, checked that everything was still in it and tried to work up the courage to ask someone to take a picture of me, which I eventually managed after standing around two women who were taking pictures of themselves and each other until they finished and one of them walked away, at which point I asked the other. Also asked her to take two or three, in case the camera will corrupt any, and she did, but after taking the first two, including the one I ended up posting, she turned it vertically to take some like that as well, at which point the camera turned itself off and she left when she handed it back to me. That may have been because I had washed my hands before putting the batteries in, so my hands were wet then, but the pictures were saved and I could turn it back on, so I then asked the guy in the sleeveless shirt that you can just notice in the background of that picture, who had a press badge and a serious camera of his own, to take a couple more. He had the same problem though, the camera turning off after two, which he took without me telling him to take more, and he wanted to make sure they had been taken, saying he hadn’t felt the camera actually do anything, but I showed him that they had actually been taken and thanked him.
That done, I put on my jacket, since it looked like it was going to start raining, and changed my shoes, not wanting to use the running ones on the way back as well. And I went into the tent where men were supposed to change in order to do this, also taking my time trying to arrange things in my bag and moving some things from it to my pockets while there, so it took me a while even though I didn’t change my clothes, despite the fact that both my t-shirt and my pants were stained with juice, and possibly also with what had dripped from the orange pieces I had eaten. By the time I was done, I noticed a couple of men who certainly seemed to be Africans on my left, assuming they were some of the elite runners who had taken part, and I was considering trying to work up the courage to ask who had won, wondering whether English would have worked, but when I got up and turned around I saw a few more sitting on the other side of the tent, one of them holding a trophy, so I assumed that answered my question and just walked out.

Yes, not wanting to use my running shoes on the way back means I walked back, taking the same detour I had taken after picking up my race kit, so walking seven kilometers right after running a half marathon, and doing so while carrying that bag as well. That’s not that much more than last year though, since then I walked less than one kilometer to Unirii metro station, came out at Titan, walked to one confectionery, decided against getting anything from there, went to the other to get the two cakes, one of which I left for my mother, then just decided to walk to Dristor metro station, this entire route from Titan to Dristor apparently having some three kilometers, coming out at Iancului and having just under one kilometer to walk to the place I got pizza from and back, then again just under one kilometer left from my metro stop, the total adding up to over five and a half kilometers, maybe 5.7 or so. Or at least that’s how I remember it.
Getting back to the route I took now, it took me past the place I considered getting something sweet from the most before things got nasty, after remembering that the confectionery I initially had in mind had changed their hours and were no longer open on Sunday, but I had already given up on that thought, instead asking my mother Friday evening to make some more pancakes so I won’t spend money on anything else and her making quite a pile. So I just went that way because it was clear in my mind and also took me to the place I was going to get pizza from, which is the same one I bought the one I ate last year from as well.
Interestingly, despite the clouds gathered when I left and the fact that the forecast also mentioned rain starting in the early afternoon, there was none until some time after I got back, the sky actually clearing by the time my pizza was ready, so after keeping my jacket on even while I waited inside, I then took it off and stuffed it back in my bag when I got back outside. Still put the pizza box in a plastic bag I also had with me, but only because I thought it might help keep it just a little warmer than if I’d simply carry it in the open. And I guess also because I didn’t want the box to be visible to everyone, even if what I was carrying was obvious due to the shape and the way in which I was carrying it.

After getting back, I changed and took the pizza, along with four pancakes in which I put honey, plum jam, quince jam, and cherry and quince jam, since there was just a tiny bit of cherry jam left in a jar and I had to mix it with something else for that one, to my room, and slowly ate all of that while watching the Formula 1 race. And yes, probably for the first time, I also posted a picture of food, which actually also includes the pizza and cake I had last year, as I had taken a picture then as well, albeit after eating a bit of the pizza, but had never posted it, so I put the two together now. Still had that fork that broke back then…
And speaking of pictures, didn’t even glance at anything posted by the organizers yet and once again I’m not sure I even will, as last year I didn’t. Still, last year I had found myself in several pictures posted by someone else, while now I only saw albums from two accounts posted on the event page and only spotted myself in the background, out of focus, in two pictures posted by one. Found two pictures clearly showing the woman who took that one I ended up sharing though, so I identified her thanks to the number, but didn’t identify the man. Seeing as he had that press badge, it should have been much easier, being simply a matter of looking at the badge, but I somehow never did and I couldn’t find him in what I saw so far. The other woman, the one who left before I asked to have my picture taken, had grabbed him as he was wandering around, taking a couple of pictures of all three of them for some reason, but I couldn’t identify her to see whether there was anything public on her account either. Quite disappointed by that, since I just wanted to know who took my pictures.

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