On Sunday last week I took the next step on my way to the big goal this year, the full marathon in Münster in September: I participated and finished the half marathon in Hamburg with some friends.
Preparation and Start
The last 8 weeks I used a training schedule “Run a half marathon in under 2 hours” to prepare myself for the event. I chose the moderate target time of 2 hours because I saw the competition only as a part of the preparation for the full marathon rather than a possibility to check my limits. The things I wanted to take with me from the half marathon were to make sure I could run a longer distance under competition conditions and that I would distribute my power along the complete way.
The preparation worked out very well without any injuries or illnesses (or motivation gaps ;)). The day before the event I met my friends at the registration where we picked up our race numbers. After that we had a nice little barbecue with some beers in the garden of one fellow-runner. Nonalcoholic beers of course! The “Hamburger Schietwetter” ended the barbecue quite early, which was okay as we didn’t plan to stay up too long because the race started at 10 a.m.
We met at 9:15 a.m. at the subway station St. Pauli, the start of the race was right on the Reeperbahn. I was a bit nervous, but less than I was at previous events. Regrettably I missed to warm up correctly, but that shouldn’t get back at me. We just changed clothes, took a nice “before” picture and than we were ready to take off! Chris wanted to run the race under 1:45 hours, so he started in a front block, Maayan and me lined up at the 2:00 hours line and the rest started in the 2:15 – 2:30 block.
10 a.m. sharp the race begun!
I ran the first 5 kilometers together with Maayan till he went for a drink at one of the stations. The time of 5:45 minutes per kilometer was quite easy to achieve. On the first two kilometers we lost some time because of the sheer amount of runners, but we balanced that on the following ones. My target was to run the first half of the race in a speed which is a little bit slower than the one you need to finish under 2:00 hours. The second half of the marathon will be run a little bit faster than the average, so you reach the 2 hours. This tactic goes back to medical studies and is called “51-49” (http://www.runnersworld.de/training/die-richtige-renneinteilung.53103.htm, german). It made perfectly sense for me, when I read it: In the beginning you warm up and get into the race. Additionally even if you wanted you can’t reach your speed in the starting phase of the race very often because of so many other runners next to you.
This tactic worked out great for me. The biggest problem for me was to not run faster than the 5:45 even if I felt I could. But you will need the reserves later in the run and don’t have to be over-motivated. However I was a bit too fast and finished the first half in about 1 hour.
The speed of the second half should be 5:35 min/km. It’s only 10 seconds faster than in the first half, but after having already run 10 kilometers, it’s not that easy to get faster. On the 11th kilometer I missed the time by about 5 seconds. But with the buffer from the first half I knew that I’m still on schedule.
The last 7 kilometers lead us around the Alster. The weather was great for a run with little sun and no rain. The track felt very long but I still had enough power to keep the speed I needed for the 2:00 hour target time. Now I realized the greatest advantage of the 51-49 tactic: While other runners ran faster in the first half of the race, I could now pass them which is a great motivation when your power fades. Additionally, on the last 3 kilometers I reached the famous Runner’s High, so it was a really wonderful end of the race for me.
I finished the race in 1:57:21 and was totally happy about this result. The race went nearly perfect and I was in good company 🙂 The others were also content about their results: Chris reached his target time (1:43), Maayan was just some minutes behind me (2:06) and the rest was happy that they reached the target line in ~2:15 (without much training). So I guess we will run the half marathon again next year! Of course we took a photo after the race. If you compare it to the one before the start you may see that the event left some signs 😉
I feel very well prepared for the marathon now: I managed to distribute my power along the whole race, the 51-49 tactic worked out really great and contrary to my first half marathon (which I finished in 1:43) this one was more fun than hard work. I hope that the marathon will have a similar progress and the weather will be like on Sunday. But right now I’m first of all happy that I finished this race and about a new medal and shirt in my collection! 🙂