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Bucharest Half Marathon 2021

Actually fell asleep quickly, despite getting in bed unusually early, so I got just about an hour and a half of sleep until the alarm rang, at 5:30 AM. And then I rushed straight to the toilet and actually crapped a little bit more. Then I used safety pins to pin the sticker with the number to my bag, since it wouldn’t stick to the material the bag’s made of. After that, had both a banana and an apple, put both almonds and peanuts in dark chocolate in the yogurt and cereals, had some more of those expired nicer biscuits, with added honey, and also took the iron supplement before leaving with dad at 6:55 AM. Almost forgot that loyalty card I was going to use to pay for the food I’ll get after the race, but realized it just after we stepped through the door and dad went back to bring it to me.

Since he drove me there and the roads weren’t yet closed, it wasn’t even 7:20 AM when I was walking through the gate, which was too early. I had expected some checks, but despite being told to not remove the bracelet placed on my arm two days earlier, when I went to pick up the kit, I had both the jacket and a shirt over the t-shirt, so it wasn’t visible at all, and nobody said anything. And there was obviously less interaction, just one person approaching, and startling, me to talk about an app, and the tent of the NGO I had chosen to support was unmanned, so I just walked around for a while, spotting those from Dream Trek in the sponsor’s area and eventually, after seeing someone else who didn’t seem to have anything to do with that group just walk in and take one, asked whether I could grab a protein milk and did so. Then, with nobody else seeming to hand out anything, I took the jacket and shirt off, put them in the bag and left it in the wardrobe, seeing that those who were there were handing out safety pins to participants in order to hold those stickers in place. It was still cold though, so I stood in sunny areas after that, but even though that’d have also helped I didn’t care to take part in the warm-up, just halfheartedly doing a few moves while walking around, before deciding to make my way to the start area before it was over. It was then that I realized I had left the protein bar I had taken with me, meaning to eat it right before the start, in the bag, but didn’t go back for it even though I’d have had the time, instead just walking slowly, waiting in a short line forming at some of the toilets from the park, to avoid what were certain to be longer lines at those from the start area, also making a little detour to a drinking fountain to wash my hands, and eventually getting to the start area with plenty of time to spare.
We were required to wear masks not only while waiting in the start area, but also until the first turn, the announcer alternating between saying the first 100 or 150 meters. But I left my mask in the pocket of my tights and took one of those they were handing out, then made my way towards the front, since there were no sectors and the pacemakers aiming for times under two hours had gathered there, with small distances between the groups. Actually, I could have advanced even farther, to give myself the best possible chance to have an official time under two hours even if I’ll struggle, but there were only seconds to gain and I wanted to start around the 1:45 pacemakers, planning to judge my initial pace according to how fast they’ll pull ahead and then stay ahead of the 1:50 ones at least until half distance. I ended up standing around for quite a while, however, since on top of arriving with time to spare, the start was a few minutes late.

The start time I saw on my stopwatch was 26.24, while the official one was 27 seconds, and since this time around only the seconds are shown, not hundredths as well, I can’t know whether the difference comes from my reaction time or it’s still rounded up, as the time displayed on the classification was before. Either way, it seemed harder to breathe through that mask than through a surgical one, and quite a few had it off all along, but I kept it on until that turn, and while a few bins for masks were placed there, runners obviously being expected to just throw away their masks, I kept it, slowing for several seconds while I folded it and put it in my pocket, which was the reason why I covered the first kilometer in 5:13, ending up worrying that the 1:50 pacemakers were going to catch up too soon, since they had started just a little behind me and their pace was supposed to be 5:11. But then I covered the next kilometer in 5:06, even though it included that climb towards Stirbei Voda and I had done my best to avoid exhausting myself on it. Then I seem to recall 5:10 on the third kilometer, and definitely 5:04 on the fourth, but then missed the marker for five kilometers, likely because it was just after the refreshment point and I was drinking.
Speaking of those refreshment points, there were only water bottles and cups of some other drink, no fruits and no water to put a sponge in, and in fact there had been no sponges in the kit, I guess for obvious reasons. And the lack of those sponge points, which used to be placed between the refreshment points, starting at 7.5 km, meant we just had the refreshment points, placed roughly every five kilometers, though the one that came after ten kilometers was somewhat late, at about 10.5 km, and the last one was very early, at 19 km. But, to return to my use of them, it’s the drinking that’s the issue, as I used to be able to grab a piece of apple or even one of a banana and eat while running, so not having that likely didn’t really reduce my loss of time but might have caused me to have a bit less energy, but drinking meant slowing to a walk while I had the first cup, and if I tried to jog a little after grabbing a second, that only resulted in splashing quite a bit of it on me, so I slowed again to finish it. And since I took two, even if they were identical, from each refreshment point, I knew to just walk while drinking them from then on, though I tended to drink the first immediately, then grab a second from the second table, have a sip and then jog for a bit before slowing to a walk for a few more seconds to quickly finish it, which resulted in splashing far less on me and also seemed to me to reduce the loss of time a bit, though it’s possible that it was a wrong impression.
Back to the run, considering the loss of time at that refreshment point, I was surprised to see that I had covered kilometers five and six in 10:13 and was frustrated that I didn’t have the actual time for the sixth kilometer, since I might have covered it in less than five minutes, which might have been the fastest time. On the other hand, now that I think of it, it doesn’t quite seem to add up, and it’s possible that I didn’t calculate that time correctly, maybe dividing the seconds by two right away, so the total time might have been 10:26, averaging 5:13 per kilometer, which seems more likely. Either way, I did have a 5:01, I believe on the eighth kilometer, making good use of that slope, and maybe also because two runners who had been around me for a while had attracted my attention and it was on Victoriei, before that detour, when I pushed a bit in order to get back in front of one of them and see his number, despite fearing that I’ll pay for that effort later. But I likely paid less for it than they did, since when we reached the end of that detour and had to climb back towards Victoriei I again did so carefully, doing my best to get the most traction with the least amount of effort for each step while they seemed to just keep running, and soon after that they seemed to fade, so I rather quickly got in front of her as well, though she had stayed some distance ahead of me and that guy until then, and when I looked back after reaching Unirii I couldn’t spot either of them anymore… And they don’t show up as having finished… Though they’re actually listed as DNS, and they definitely started and passed at least the first two timing points, so that may be an error, and there seem to have been plenty of those, including for me. But I’ll get back to that later.
The third timing point was right at ten kilometers, at which point I was expecting the 1:50 pacemakers to be pretty much right behind me, being surprised when that wasn’t the case. But I had meant to stay ahead of them until after that refreshment point, and another thing that surprised me was that it wasn’t there, but pretty much at the halfway point, as I already mentioned, so I pushed, at first meaning to stay ahead of them until the 11 km marker, and when I was still a fair bit ahead despite stopping for a few seconds to tighten the shoelace from the left shoe, again thinking, likely wrongly, that it was coming loose, I ended up just trying to see how far I’ll get, eventually reaching 13 km before they were right behind me, and being passed at about 13.5 km. But that was too close to two thirds of the way, so I struggled to keep up until a little after 14 km, the fourth and, interestingly, final timing point also being there, even though there had been one between the start and the first relay change and another between the first and that second one, so I’d have expected one more before the finish.
The wind had been a problem until then, occasionally even on the first kilometers and definitely once we reached Unirii, as we were running right against it on Unirii, Decebal and Basarabia, so I had gotten a fair bit slower despite pushing and trying to stay behind others where possible, but once the pacemakers and those running with them passed me it was easier, since they were blocking a fair bit of it. I doubt it was as easy as the time showed, however, since it seemed I had covered the 14th kilometer in less than five minutes, something around 4:45, but since they should have been running in 5:11 and I had been slower, even if by just a bit, that seemed impossible, so I didn’t even try to calculate the exact time, thinking that I either remembered the one for 13 km incorrectly, had pressed the button at the wrong time or the markers hadn’t been correctly placed. This latter possibility of course also allows for problems with others, and there was one more kilometer, later, where something seemed wrong, but since those markers were all I could rely on, I had to keep doing so.
Either way, the race became rather lonely after deciding I had struggled long enough and allowing myself to fall behind those pacemakers, but the route also turned then, so the wind finally got behind me and things became a fair bit easier, more so than I expected, in fact. At that point, my target was still 1:55 and I was thinking that I might even lose sight of the 1:50 pacemakers after the 15 km refreshment point, but it seemed that they lost more time with it than I did, as they seemed to be closer after it, so I aimed to keep them in sight for one more kilometer… Only to miss the 16 km marker, I have no idea why, and ending up aiming to keep them in sight until 17 km instead. And then 17 km became 18 km and I could still make them out, albeit in the distance, and I was quite sure I was looking at 1:52, at least as real time, and wondering whether I should skip the last refreshment point, not get anything and just keep running, to have a tiny chance at a real time of 1:51. But when that refreshment point ended up being at 19 km instead of 20 km, and I could see the pacemakers actually stop there for a few moments, I also took the usual two cups, then really pushed all the way to the end, repeatedly calculating my time, realizing I did have that chance and deciding I was going to really try for it if the pacemakers will still be visible at 20 km, not taking the turn in Constitution Square before I’ll reach the marker. And that was just what happened, the one on that side maybe just starting to take the turn at that very moment, so I really went for it, hoping I won’t hit the wall by the end, and for the last few hundred meters I also set my target on a guy who was ahead of me, somehow just managing to pass him right before the finish line.
The real time was 1:50:54, with the official one being 1:51:21, and what I had on my stopwatch was 1:51:20, so there was still that difference of just one second, caused either by my reaction time or by them rounding up. Also, on top of managing to stay under 1:51, at first I was listed as 335th out of 1007, and at the time of writing this post I was 339th out of 1017, either of which making me the last in the first third on the road, according to the official time, though a few of those behind me had worse start times and therefore better real times. However, the list has since been updated again and I’m editing this to say that, at least when I checked on the evening of September 10, I was 342nd out of 1021, so three of the four who were added were ahead of me and I’m no longer in the first third either way. The problem, however, is that, besides the start and finish, my time was only recorded at the last timing point, at that second relay change, so it looks as if I cheated and used some other route, avoiding the first three timing points, and the rules state that only the times of those that have all of them are taken into account, so I sent them a message after noticing this and sure hope the issue will be solved and I won’t find myself thrown in the last sector next time, if there will be start sectors again and if I’ll be capable of taking part. I’m yet to have any reply, but with more than 10% of those who finished having missing interval times, it’s quite clear that there were issues with their system and the runners shouldn’t be the ones paying for it.

A few steps past the line, there were several people handing out the finisher medals, but the first one had just dropped hers and that seemed to have distracted the others, so nobody paid any attention to me right away when I got there and I rather ended up taking my medal myself, out of the hand of one of them. Then I went to the refreshment area, where on top of bottles of water and cups of that drink they finally also had apples and bananas, so I grabbed a bottle of water and two of each of the others, drinking the cups right away but keeping everything else for the moment. Then, even though I later saw that we should have been given new masks after the end, nobody did so, or at least not to me, and it’s not like I’d have needed another one anyway. Completely forgot to even put it back on after walking back across the park, retrieving my bag from the wardrobe, eating that protein bar and drinking that protein milk, however, so I returned to that area without wearing one and, even though the signs stated that one should be worn, nobody said anything… And hardly anyone was wearing one anyway.
Then again, even if I’d have put it on at first, I’d have soon removed it, since I wanted to have a picture taken and, after walking past the tent of that sponsor once again and being handed one more bottle of protein milk by one of the girls who were there, I went to the tent of the NGO I had chosen to support, which was finally manned at that point, albeit by a single person. And, after exchanging a few words, I asked whether she could take a picture and she took a few, I also had one more of those biscuits, talked a little more, also mentioning my health issues and hospital visits, and after she said I really should accept hospitalization if it was recommended, also told her about my social anxiety. Then I made my way back to the finish area and spent some time trying to work up the courage to ask someone to take a picture of me there as well, and without the banner I had been asked to hold the first time around, eventually deciding on a woman I had seen taking a few pictures just then. I realized as I was standing around that she had actually just taken pictures of her family, and looked at a couple of others who were nearby and seemed to have taken pictures of other people, but couldn’t get myself to approach any of them and eventually went to that woman after all… But she said that the man she was with, maybe her husband, should do that because he’s better with cameras, and he did, actually asking me to stand so he could take them from both directions.
Then I peed, quite a long time having passed and no line being left at those toilets, struggled to use one of those things to wash my hands a little, then went back in the park and to the drinking fountain I had also used to wash before the start, washing myself better there and then also washing and eating a banana and an apple. Then I placed my bag on a nearby bench, removed my number and medal, took my time to check that I wasn’t missing anything and arrange everything somewhat more properly in the bag, put my headphones on, spent quite a while skipping songs until one came up that I wanted to start listening to at that particular moment, and then finally left the park. I had just taken a few steps, however, when I realized that, with my phone in my backpack, the cable of my headphones had to be arranged differently, so I spent a couple more minutes sorting that out and was finally walking away at 11:45 AM.

Since I had decided on something from there as well, at first I wondered whether to get food from that location of that restaurant, to then just come straight back, only having a look through the Carrefour from Unirii on the way, but quickly decided to go back to the pizza place I had gotten a pizza from while walking the route instead, and then get to Obor on the way back and check more stores while there. So, after spotting another drinking fountain on the way and using it to wash my hands again, I did just that, and the pizza was indeed ready in ten minutes this time around, and 15 minutes after getting there I was walking away, the additional delay being caused by the fact that a different guy was there at the time and, even though I showed him what I wanted to pay with when I said what I wanted, I guess he assumed it was a regular card, so when someone else brought the pizza she also brought the machine used for cards, which he couldn’t use for that one. She had an annoyed reaction when she noticed that, asking why hadn’t he mentioned that I wanted to pay with that and walking away, and he actually ended up asking me whether I knew how to use it, to which I just said I had used it the first time not long before and that it was their own card, showing him the ad for it that was attached to the bill he had handed me. But another guy came after a moment, asked whether I wanted to accumulate or spend points, then took it and returned a little later, with it and the receipt.
The problem was that I already needed to pee again, but only did so at 1:30 PM, in that mall from Obor, by which time I was truly desperate and there had even been a few moments when I thought I might not make it. But I did make it, then found that the pizza box even fit in the cabinet, pretty much exactly, so I didn’t need to leave it sideways, and went in Carrefour… And found some food placed among the expiring products, though it was all made that day, at least according to the labels. Maybe it had been ordered and not picked up, or even returned, but I was going to microwave everything thoroughly, so I got some more pizza and two other things, plus the cakes I had meant to get from there, just one box of two of them being left, all of these costing almost 30% less than the pizza from that other place, though of course I hadn’t actually paid anything for that pizza, while the additional amount I had meant to reward myself with was determined by the real time at the end, up to an amount of 1 RON per minute under two hours, rounding up, then 1 RON per 30 seconds under 1:55 and 1 RON per 20 seconds under 1:50, so a real time that was just under 1:51 meant 14 RON and I ended up spending almost 21 RON, just about 50% more. But I decided that what I found was too good to pass on at that price and bought it all anyway.
Dad called me while I was there and while we were talking I realized I had no way to check both Kaufland and Penny, which had been my initial plan, and still get back by 4 PM, to watch the race, so I decided to just go to Kaufland, getting there at 2:20 PM and buying what I meant to buy from there. The lemons wouldn’t scan at the self-checkout, the bar code being tiny and possibly not even complete, but the employee knew the issue and immediately entered them manually when I called her over, and there were no other problems. So I then peed again, then took quite a lot of time to arrange everything in bags and the backpack, walking away from there at 3:07 PM and getting back here right at 4 PM. I had only carried 12 kg, but had a hard time with it, since I had held the pizza straight all the way, and the rest of the food was on top of it, in that bag, and this backpack offered by the half marathon’s organizers this time around is quite small and has thin straps that really dug into me when I put a fair bit of weight in it. But, while I’m on the matter of weight, I interestingly had half a kilogram more when I got back, after peeing yet again, than when I left, but in the evening, after peeing three more times and taking a crap and showering, I had lost two kilograms. However, when I weighed myself the next day, after really stuffing myself at night and then crapping twice more, I had the exact same weight I had on the morning of the race, 47.1 kg.

Back to that afternoon, in part because I had spent that additional amount and wanted to do something else in exchange for it, I went back out at 5:45 PM, quickly checked a Mega Image on the way and then went to Penny, meaning to get frozen green beans for dad and some canned fish which would have mainly been for me. But it was rather fortunate that none of that canned fish was left, so I got one more bag of beans and also a little garlic instead, therefore having one more reason to feel less guilty for spending more earlier. Might have probably spent a tiny bit less there as well, since the cashier thanked me, maybe for all the small bills, and seemed to ask for 18.20 RON when the total was 18.29 RON, but I was already about to give her the exact amount in small coins as well and just did so before really realizing what she had said. But I ended up getting something for free on the way back, deciding to enter a bakery which was just opening, the announcement stating that the opening will be the next day and they’ll give free bread then, but a guy being there and having some bread even then, and he gave me one when I went in.
I got back just after 6:50 PM, went to the toilet, showered, then after some time on-line had some watermelon and eventually started making salad. So I didn’t have lunch, not eating any of that purchased food during the evening, but started to eat a huge dinner at 12:15 AM. Took a picture as well, though the picture includes everything I purchased, the two things above the pizza box, as in the one that’s still wrapped and the cake that’s still in the box both had been in, being left for another time, which ended up being yesterday, after I went for another, and awfully bad, run. But I had to run then, since tomorrow I plan to go back to the hospital I was at on August 9, and maybe get hospitalized for those tests, if they’ll take me and I’ll somehow be able to handle it.

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