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Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Blade Runner

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It has been a week since I ran the 21km at the Milton Keynes Half-Marathon and more or less 4 months since I’ve started with the running “thing”. Oh gosh, it feels longer. All the endless long runs on the weekends, the knee pains, the hip pains, the back pains. But I finished. Yes, I did :-) I know my timing was horrible, 2:50, but I am proud to say that I crossed that finish line without walking any bit of the route.
Anyway, let me tell you the whole story. The stress started 24 hours earlier. Everyone who knows me can testify that I am a super-prepared person. I plan everything of anything. I am that kind of neurotic who wakes up 1 hour earlier just to make sure nothing will happen on the way and start to freak out if the train is 2 minutes delayed. Anyway, when I did a last check at the TFL website just to make sure of my commuting on the next day, the journey London-Milton Keynes was taking 3h30 instead of the supposedly regular 2h because it was a Bank Holiday. What? 3h30? I would have to wake up before 5h to be there on time.
After my total panic-tears-despair moment, my guardian angel/savior aka superman suggested ‘why don’t we rent a car?'. OMG! Really? How could I have not thought of it before? I will jump the part that the service at Hertz was a completely nightmare - and we were mistreated by a stupid and rude receptionist - straight to the relief that was arriving at Milton Keynes on time.
After 1h30 we finally arrived there… and the weather was great! Sunshine and it was about 16 degrees with a forecast of 18C. While Andre was parking I had to go to the start line because the traffic around the stadium was worse than we were expecting. I did my final toilet run, clipped the number on my shirt and adjusted my Polar heart rate belt. It was time!
(Of course, my useless IPhone decided to eat almost all the battery before the race had even started. Consequently, I would have to run without using the Nike Running app so I could have enough battery to listen to some music all the way.)
Punctually at 10am it started. The beginning was very crowded but that is how every race probably is. I read that there were about 3,000 people running the marathon and 2,000 the half, and we all started together.
Since my app was not working and I had nothing to indicate my speed or distance, I tried to keep my eyes on the marathon pace makers as much as I could. I started keeping up with the 3h45, but I lost him. Then the 4h, but he was too fast as well (damn it!). 4h20, 4h45. All gone. Finally I found the 5h, which I managed to stay close at least during the first 10km.

Picture stolen from Google just to show what a pacemaker is - blue ballon :-)
Talking about the first 10km, they were the easiest part. Everyone was still happy, together, full of energy, smiling and cheering. But between the 11km and the 17km, oh jesus, it felt like a horror film. For several different and random reasons. First, the “amazing” weather and the 18 degrees just made things worse. It was freaking hot and I was used to run below 10C, with winds and rain. Second, my knees started to hurt like crazy. Third, part of the route was in a beautiful open field full of DAMN POLLEN!!!!!!! Yes, pollen!!!!!!! My eyes got so watery that I started laughing because it felt like a really bad joke. And last, the hills. Ok, there were no HILLLLLLLS per se, but half the way was slightly inclined and everyone who runs on a treadmill knows the painfully difference of the treadmill completely horizontal and with some inclination.
Anyway, fatigue totally got me between the 11km to the 17km and that was when my speed went completely down. I was so slow that sexagenarians were passing me easily. I thought I wouldn’t make it. I thought what the hell I was doing there and why on earth I signed up for something like that. 
However, when I thought that all my energy was gone, something miraculously happened. I finally got to the point when you turn your brain off and you just run. It took a while, just after the 17km, but I was finally there. I didn’t care about timing anymore, about the pain, about old people passing me or how slow and clumsy I was looking like. I just ran. And ran, and ran. I managed to improve my speed a bit (not enough, but who cares?) and when I realized, the stadium and the finish line were already on my sight.
It was endless. I was sore and when I finished and slowed down it was like I would never be able to walk to the car. But the feeling. The feeling was indescribable. I could try to explain but I don’t know if words would never be able to honestly describe what goes inside your head when you finally cross that finish line, when you see someone important to you there waiting for your arrival, proud of your accomplishment. No, my spirit did not change. No, it was not a life changing experience. No, I don’t know if I will ever have the courage to do that again. But it was fucking awesome. I set a goal and I reached. That was all. I actually did it.
The final score? Two toenails completely dead and five blisters the size of a car, but I will call them “battle scars”, it sounds better :-) After a week my right knee is still showing signs of misuse but the blisters - and unfortunately the toenails - are already gone. I am happy that I did it. I finally did it. The horrible sensations of the 11-17km are still very vivid on my head so I cannot say that I will run such a long distance again. But I cannot say that I won’t neither. I don’t know. I think that after a while you probably forget the bad feelings and concentrate on the satisfactory ones, so you sign up for something like this again and again. That is at least what some people say.
I hope I will be brave enough one day to run a whole marathon. 42km. It makes me lazy just to think about it. Just the idea hurts, but I am sure it is because the 21km are still too recent. Let’s see what the future holds. I may delete this post one day just to forget the pain I suffered and do it all over again. I really hope I do.

The route.

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