Around a Castle

I have participated in a half-marathon in Hämeenlinna this weekend. This is a beautiful town with a large medieval castle in a nice shape. I have visited this place earlier and posted a trip report. This was a very important place in the middle ages as a number of countries were trying to get hold of it, including Sweden and Russia.

In addition to its prominent history the town has a very nice nature. The marathon course led the runners through the forest near lakes. It was organized in such a way that runners were in a shadow most of the time. Thus, even thought the weather was quite sunny the running was enjoyable as the temperature was not that hot, only 20 centigrade. Another advantage was the fact that the course was running mostly downhill. This was like a medieval magic – I never got a chance to notice when was is that we actually climbed a hill, except very short stretches. My guess is that the long segments of the road that appeared flat were in fact going slightly uphill but that was impossible to notice. Thus, everything was in favor to achieving a good result. Also, I got serious on eating properly prior to the race. This time, I ate a few hamburgers, a rulla-kebab, and a few sausages during last 24 hours before the race. When I was warming up I realized how much strength I had that time.

Kaupunki marathon in Hämeenlinna is quite popular. An African runner achieved 1:06:17 time in a half marathon. This year over 1000 people were participating. Thus, it was lot similar to Bronx half-marathon in which I participated two years ago. I started in the end of the pack to avoid clashing with fellow runners in the beginning. I have spent almost 20 minutes running the first 3 kilometers. Then I realized that time was running out as the normal pace is 5-6 minutes per km. I started accelerating and continued at a higher pace until crossing 10 km. The feeling of taking over lots of people is quite scary as it looks like you are running beyond your capability. If you overtake a lot of people then it is likely that they will overtake you in the end. They did not. To make a long story short, I have finished in a 150th place. I have successfully overtaken 900 people during this half-marathon.

In the middle of the race I realized that keeping the pace was impossible. Indeed, that part of the course was going through shiny streets of the town. I was pouring a lot of water on myself which definitely helped. However, to save enough strength for the finish which was previously a problem, I decided to slow down. There was a pack of 5 runners going at approximately 6 minutes per km. I joined that group and stayed in it until 16 km. At that point 1 hour and 20 minutes have passed, thus I had half an hour to try to break 1:50:00 time. I did my best to sustain such a high pace during the last stretch and I almost succeeded. The organizers of the marathon are funny people. Even though the course is always going downhill the finish line is located above the start line. I am wondering if there are lots of marathons like this. Typically, the start and finish is the same line. It was like this in Hämeenlinna except that the start was outside of a stadium whereas the finish was on the stands of the stadium. Thus, the runners were climbing their last meters to the stands which was a steep climb. Now I was trying to break the 1:50:00 time climbing the stadium stands after running 21 km. Oh dear… The electric watch showed 1:52:18, but we were using ChampionChip and I started in the end of the crowd. The official results are not in yet but I think I have additional 1 or 2 minutes. Thus, I am near my goal. I am looking forward to getting the ChampionChip timings!

Comparing to Bronx half-marathon in which I participated 2 years ago I have cut 15 minutes in two years! I wish that keeps on improving that well. Another observation is that I am saving lots of energy at the finish line and now I am considering trying a marathon, probably in the fall of this year. However, it might get colder thus I would need more energy. Anyway, a marathon is a challenge any time of the year.

Champion Chip web site has published official results. It looks like I spent a little over a minute on the start line, thus the net time is 1:51:09. This certainly improves my previous result but there is a lot of work to do to break the 1:50:00 time.

Date July 19, 2008
Distance Half-marathon
Time (hh:mm) 01:51