Sunday morning I woke up at 7 to prepare myself a pre-race breakfast of oatmeal and dried apricots. It was quiet. The girls were sleeping, so was the husband. I felt relatively calm considering that the day before I was nervous, anxious, tired and in an incredibly grumpy mood.
Breakfast was nice and quiet. I checked online six more times that the race was starting at 10. I was paranoid that I was going to be late because, of course, I had a bad dream that I had missed the start.
About an hour later the rest of the family was waking up and that is when the nerves started to kick in. I was full of doubt, convinced that I was not prepared, and that it was just a stupid decision to run this race. I don’t know why I was so down on myself, but I just was. I was sad that I wasn’t excited – because I really wanted to be.
I headed out the door around 9. The Sunday morning streets were quiet and the closer I got to the main square the more runners I saw out there warming up. I was relieved to see them and knew that I was on time. The fifteen minute walk gave me enough time to calm down, take some deep breaths and say to myself that I was going to be ok.
I arrived on Jelacic Square to a mass of runners, laughing, stretching, jogging around. I noticed that the organizers did a better job this year blocking off the start area so that there wasn’t a mingle of runners and spectators crammed into the main gate.
I dropped off my stuff and went out for a little warm-up run. I hit the toilets on the way back and did a few more stretches while they were slowly calling the marathoners and half-marathoners to gather at the start. There was only about ten minutes left until the gun went off and I was finally, thankfully, getting pumped. I knew there was no turning back now and I was totally ok with that.
There was a lot of cheering and clapping as the racers ran through the start and there was a lot of people standing on the sidewalks cheering everyone on.
It seemed like there were a lot more supporters out there than when I ran this race two years ago, and that was a nice feeling. I was proud to see that so many people came out, especially since Zagreb is not necessarily known to be very supportive of this event.
Around a mile in I was running through our neighborhood and it is here that I finally put my earbuds in and started getting into a rhythm. I was running a 9:20 pace. Too fast. I knew I had to slow down but to be honest, I thought my Nike+ app was playing games, because I didn’t feel like I was running that fast at all. In fact, despite efforts to slow down, I managed to hold the pace for the first seven miles.
My goal was to make it to the first turn-around. I knew that if I made it to there I would be ok for the rest of the race. About three miles in there was a water stop serving bananas, sugar cubes, water and sportdrinks. I grabbed a cup of water, threw a sugar cube in and gripped a quarter of a banana in my other hand. I had remembered that two years ago I just kinda popped the banana into my mouth and felt sick very soon after, so this time I just took tiny nibbles and ate maybe about a tenth of it before I gave up on it and tossed it to the side. Meanwhile the sugar melted in the water and I had some sweetness to sip on as I ran.
As we trudged along I saw that the elites were on their way back and so I knew we weren’t too far away from the turning point. As more and more racers were headed back the noise picked up and there was cheering and clapping all around. I think that is what I most like about the out-and-back type of race. We’re all there to support eachother and it really does give you a lift when a complete stranger is shouting out GOOD JOB!
At just under five miles the race slowed down just a bit as runners were navigating that first turn. I was so happy. I had run through, what I had considered, the most difficult part of the race. I knew we weren’t half done, but I felt like I had gotten over the initial miles and it should be smooth sailing from there on.
At around eight miles, at the next water stop, I slowed down to a walk, grabbed some more water and kinda gave myself a break. I scanned the runners that passed me and kept an eye on those I thought I’d like to catch up to. It was around here as well that I was again back in my neighborhood, and luckily for me, my friend Katarina was looking out the window from her fifth floor apartment and snapped these awesome pics…
That’s me, all black, white cap
Arrow is pointing straight at me!
I was feeling good as we headed back to the square. I was hoping that I would see my husband and daughters around there but I must have been running so fast that I just didn’t spot them. But we did both see the poor marathoner that wiped out on the course as he was starting his second lap (half-marathoners only had to run one lap, thank goodness!).
As I ran through the square and headed west I was starting to feel not so great again. I knew that I was in those final three miles but something in my head kept telling me that I couldn’t/shouldn’t be doing this. I mean honestly, why am I even putting myself through this ordeal? But I kept going. My time was still quite good and I knew that if I could just hold pace (I was down to about 9:35) I could end up with a relatively good time. But no, my head just wouldn’t let me push through those last few miles and I ended up having two more walk breaks. As I hit the final turn-around I knew that I had about fifteen minutes to go. It was a relief. And at that point I didn’t really care if I was walking or running, I just knew that I would be finishing the race. And I couldn’t have asked for a better reward.
At about a quarter of a mile out I saw the finish line. It took some navigating to get there as we had to cut through runners coming at us, but I managed, though it all seemed so far away. The square was packed with supporters, people yelling and cheering and high-fiving. I finally spotted my family standing at the finish line and I remembered to put that smile on my face because it was the only thing I had promised myself I would do.
Final time, 2:09:59. A PB.
My eight year-old snapped this one
After getting my gear, my medal, and grabbing a bottle of water we walked ever so slowly back home. I barely made it. I was in so much pain, and my legs just weren’t cooperating. When we finally managed to get up the three flights of stairs to our apartment (boy, do I sometimes wish we had an elevator) I threw myself on the couch and just lay there. My husband brought me some aspirin – I never, ever take any sort of medication but these two little pills were so welcome at that point. As I washed them down with some water the whole event started to sink in.
I finished the race. Despite doubting myself I went out and I did it. And there are a few things I learnt or was reminded of along the way. 1: I love this event. I love the training that goes into it and the sense of accomplishment when it is all said and done. 2: I have a long way to go. I know that there is so much more in me. And if I took a more serious approach to my training I could do even better. 3: marathoners are just plain crazy and there is no way in hell I am ever doing that. LOL! Kidding, marathoners are not crazy but I do know that I have no interest in ever running that distance. Well, maybe not just yet.
Now that you’re all up-to-date I’m going to go and re-park myself back on that couch and revel in my 21k experience🙂