Friday, October 16, 2015

RACE REPORT: Stockholm Half Marathon

For the 7th time, I ran Stockholm Half Marathon in September. This is an event which I really enjoy as it's such a lovely city to run around and the race is well supported. The weather is 'most often' good  too, except the first time I ran in 2008 when it was torrential rain!
The course is run through many inner city areas of Stockholm; Norrmalm, Vasastan, Kungsholmen, the Old Town and Södermalm. It's a great location for the start and finish being just outside the Royal Palace. If you pick your head up and look around during the race, you'll see many of Stockholm’s most famous landmarks and buildings; Karlberg’s Castle, City Hall, Royal Palace, Swedish Parliament and the Royal Opera House. This year the organisers modified the course in 2 places and I must say those improvements were a great success.
The organisers say it's a relatively flat course but I think they have not run in The Netherlands as this course has plenty of ups and downs in comparison to City Pier City:)
I had only really put in about a month of running training ahead of this year's event, having spent the majority of my time in 2015 concentrating on improving on the mountain bike for Cykelvasan. But all that base training on the bike helped and I had only to concentrate on getting the legs used to the distance. I'd run home from work in Uppsala and tried to spend the weekends with long runs and the weekdays with slow (painfully slow) base runs, still following my "run slow to race fast" strategy.
In summary, I felt good going into the race weekend and had the benefit this year of not carrying some kind of injury or niggle which I seem to subject myself too every beginning of September.

Race day arrived and I woke up with a 'thick head' and a blocked nose!!!! Aggghhhhhh Nooooooo! Where did this come from? I really hoped this would not hang around and disrupt what I was about to do. Arriving in Stockholm later in the day I was still far from 100% and standing in the starting pen on the bridge I was really starting to doubt whether me running this was such a good idea after all. I knew I shouldn't run if I was sick, but I was also telling myself that I could try the first couple of kms and walk back if it wasn't going to happen.

BANG! the gun went and we started running, for some reason my mind immediately said "you're following the 1:40 pace makers" and the body took off...where did that pre-race sickness feeling go? The adrenaline rush took over, my mind shut down and I settled into a metronomic pace behind the balloons...and soon into the underground world of the Klaratunnel with it's drumbeat of feet on asphalt and the beeping of runner watches as the kms went by.
Hanging onto the back of the pace makers, there was no need to check the watch for pace, a quick glance every now and then at the HR was all I took but I felt the body was ok. Km after km flew by and I spent the majority of time looking around at buildings and the supporters along the way.
Before I knew it we were passing through the parliament at 12km and were buffeted by the wind alongside the palace. The next few kms on Södermalm between 13-16km I always find the most boring of the race. Just a long straight road and not many people about but you know that at 17km the long hill comes into play and you hope to conserve enough energy for that. My thoughts are always to get there and see what happens. I was still in good shape as it approached but took a 'wobble' as we approached the 17km mark. Maybe it was the dextrose tablets that hit my stomach and I peaked. I don't really know.
I slurped down a couple of mugs of water and sport drink and recovered quick but I'd dropped the pace makers at the bottom of the hill. No matter, I ploughed on up the hill being cautious not to try and catch them up again here, kept a steady pace through the undulating streets of Södermalm before the steep downhill into Slussen. The finish is almost in sight from there.
For the first time in a number of years I crossed the line with no cramp together with a best half marathon time in 13years and a personal record on the course...and the pre-race feeling? gone :)

It was then all a matter of picking up my belongings, the race is SO well organised it's a fast and efficient process and head to the station to take the train south for a day with the family at Kolmården the next day. Skins RY400 tights were on and I looked forward to having fresh legs the next day.

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