Wednesday, September 21, 2011

21km through the Venice of the North

Clear, blue skies. Perfect running temperatures. And a gorgeous city. It's an uncommon combination for the Stockholm Half Marathon, but last Saturday we were lucky, all 10,989 of us. 

This was the 11th year of an event whose 21-kilometer course weaves through Stockholm's center. Around the inner city --- into a tunnel through which hundreds of cars pass on any other day --- over to Kungsholmen island (and just blocks from home!) --- along the water to Gamla Stan (Old Town) and then Södermalm island --- and back to finish in front of the palace in Gamla Stan. Phewwww

Pre-race and feeling great with Tracy and Andre

With a strong start, I sailed ... well, almost .... through the first 7 km before realizing, hey, I've still got 14 to go. This seems to be somewhat of a trend for me with long races (see my post on the Annapolis 10-Miler last year which involved puking 4 times and getting 2 liters IV fluid). 

Around 8km, I started to slow down - and even had to walk at one point - before continuing at a much easier pace. I tried to concentrate on the beautiful surroundings and not the cramp in my stomach - which lasted throughout the race - and the pain in my feet. 

the start of the race, captured by NS; the first finisher came in at 1h4min!

I pushed onward, fueled by a bite of banana, a chunk of power bar, and a sugar tablet - thanks to the 'rehydration stations' spread along the course. The last 5km was painful and slow. My sore legs were fixed in one position; it was all I could do to will one step after another. Even for the final stretch, I could barely muster energy to speed up at all, nevermind finish with the sprint I've been trained to do for so many years. 

but I DID IT! I finished!

no Swedish race is complete without kanelbullar (and coffee of course), available directly at the finish line 
(palace in the background)

2h3min after crossing the start, I finished the loop and crossed the same line to complete my first half marathon. I now have a greater respect for running 21km, and am in awe of full marathon runners. But I still hope to go the distance and finish 42km someday. And I know I'll do more halves... For now, though, I'm just concentrating on being able to walk normally again.