12. PZU Warsaw Half Marathon – Race Coverage

Warsaw Half Marathon was supposed to be a test start for my main start – Orlen Warsaw Marathon. Such test starts are difficult for two reasons, first – you don’t run them fresh, because you’re in a full training regime for the main start and, second – you want to run them as hard as you can in order to predict your possible result for your main start. For the last two years I failed to run a good half marathon – either the weather was too hot, or I wasn’t prepared, or I was sick or injured, or finally I wanted to run too fast… in other words I was a little bit afraid of this run and I was struggling how to run it. During the week preceding Warsaw Half Marathon I did one run in a predicted HM pace (4:16/km) and I didn’t have any problems with this pace, so I decided to try breaking 1:30:00. Such result would have meant breaking my PR by almost three minutes and would have been a good prognosis for 3:10:00 marathon…

Warsaw Half Marathon takes place in the last weekend of march, which means that there is a time shift from winter to summer time during the night before the race, which in turn means an additional stress connected with waking up at the right time – thankfully this time everything worked as it supposed and the Rock Radio music has flawlessly put me into a good mood. 🙂

As usual, on the race day I was trying to follow my race day routine:

My race day breakfast – first some water, than two rolls with cherry and apricot jam and a white coffee.

I packed all my staff that I prepared earlier, I made a final choice of my race clothes and I went out (actually we went out as my wife gave me a lift to a starting point).

I knew that it was supposed to be cold on that day, but the reality overcame my expectations. As I got out of a car it suddenly became dark – there was still some sunlight from one side, but the rest of the sky was covered with heavy clouds. “Fortunately” the wind was so strong that it didn’t rain, but it felt noticeably colder than those real few degrees above zero.

I have arrived at the race city around one hour before the start, I walked around the place to see what is where and to calm down a little before the start.

Than I went to the changing tents and I I stayed there until there was thirty minutes left to start. I left my bag at the deposit place, I went to the toilet and I started my warmup. Until this moment everything was going as usual, but during my warmup I got so cold from the wind (despite a foil bag I was hiding in), that I started to doubt that I made a good choice with my starting clothes. Luckily, just by the start zone there was a big tent in which people could run a treadmill or a stationary bike as a part of a charity for children. With great joy I combined business with pleasure and I had my last ten minutes of warmup on a treadmill, hidden from the wind in a tent.

A minute before the start a song “Sen o Warszawie” [The Dream of Warsaw] was played. This is a tradition on big races in Warsaw and a very emotional moment for me, as it reminds me of my first Warsaw Half Marathon in 2010 and a great impression that this song made on me sang by few thousands of runners. Maybe this does not matter for some people, but for me it does – I was born here and Warsaw is my home city, so as usual I was singing as loud as I could together with people around me and I felt as everything apart from the race itself was getting unimportant at that moment – I was ready to go.

Starting from the first zone has this benefit that you run among the first thousand of runners and you don’t have to fight through the crowd, although during few first kilometers it is a bit crowdy.

The pace of the first kilometer on my Garmin was exactly as I planned – 4:16/km, but the kilometer mark was ten seconds farther. As it turned out later on, it was caused by me hitting the start button too fast as I confused some cable coverage with the starting chip reading mats…

Next two kilometers were very even – 4:15, 4:14/km on my watch, but at the end of the third kilometer a group running on 1:30:00 has started to close the gap despite the fact that they should be at least a couple seconds behind me. As I felt very good I decided to pick up the pace a little in order not to get caught by them – this way the fourth kilometer was done in 4:09, and then there was a downhill part on Belwederska street on which I let my legs loosely and I increased the pace running the fifth kilometer in 3:49. At the turn into the Royal Łazienki Park I saw Jack in front of me and it gave me additional power – I asked him if everything was OK and I moved on trying to keep my pace, but the gravel paths and plenty of turns in the Park has slowed everyone down and the sixth kilometer was done in 4:18. After coming back on asphalt at Powiśle my pace got back to norm or even became a little faster as the few next kilometers up to the tenth were run in average pace of 4:10/km. Meantime at seventh kilometer I drank some isotonic drink and just before the tenth kilometer I took my gel (HIGH5 isogel with caffeine). This made me survive the Świętokrzyski bridge and the entering to the Praga District. At this point I started to think if maybe I was running too slow, but my experience was telling me not to get exited to much yet. During the next five kilometers only one was run in 4:16 pace and the rest were below 4:10/km. In the meantime me and Jack we passed each other several times and this little competition was giving me additional kick and motivation to fight on. I was still waiting for the crisis, but on the fifteenth kilometer I was still feeling all right. I knew that the weather conditions were almost perfect (apart from the wind), but I was still afraid to increase the pace, because I knew that from the eighteenth kilometer the race will be uphill almost till the very end. I think it was a good decision, because the eighteenth and nineteenth kilometers were lethal for me. Although the pace dropped only by about 10s/km and was 4:18 and 4:20/km respectively, I lost lots of strength there – several consecutive uphills took all my willingness to pick up the pace away – I finally had my little crisis.

After getting back on the left bank of the Vistula River I attempted to get back to the previous pace, but it was not easy. I tried to stick to Jack’s back who was keeping the pace straight as string and I thought that I wasn’t going to let him go no matter what. The nineteenth kilometer was run in 4:16 and on the twentieth one we started to increase the pace – it was run in 4:08 which was a struggle for me, because we were running on cobbles. On the twentieth kilometer I even passed Jack, but he had more fuel in his tank and in the middle of the last kilometer he was in front of me again. The finish was just below four minutes per kilometer – I just didn’t have strength to run faster. I finished few meters after Jack, but I wasn’t unsatisfied – I knew I did more than I planned. After finishing we congratulated each other with Jack. It turned out that we had exactly the same net time: 1:28:46.

I was dead tired but happy – I shuffled through the medals place, then I got water and isotonic drink and I went to get my staff from the deposits. Only in the dressing room tent I felt real tiredness after the euphoria started leaving me be. I packed my wet clothes and headed happy home. Finally, after four bad half marathons I had my new PR – and one that was four minutes better than the previous one. The race itself went almost in a perfect way – I had no issues with my muscles and joints and my legs were like springs – enough to say that the first ten kilometers were only 20 seconds slower than my best 10k from the previous season and I was running with big reserves for the next eleven kilometers. Now I will have few easy days and I polish my form for my marathon at the end of April.

THE POWER IS WITH ME 🙂

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