From the brink of collapse to the personal best, in less than 2 hours.
A wonderful half-marathon in a beautiful river park, and a personal best to make me totally happy. This time I was not alone. A vivid runner, triathlon competitor, semi-professional tennis and golf player - all of this combined in just one person named Paul - he joined me this time. We arrived to Taipei on Friday night and checked into Backpackers hostel - a neat place on Minqian street. Some people told us that this is actually tourist area of Taipei with lots of nice food and massaging places. The Taipei Floral Park where the race was taking place was located just a couple of blocks away from our hostel. We had a dinner in some local restaurant and were in a rather cheerful mood. The only concern was a typhoon that was passing near Taiwan’s coast which brought some light rain to the city.
The sound of rain woke me up the next morning. What a disaster! If the rain went on our race could have been delayed. But a miracle happened - the rain stopped almost immediately. So after light breakfast (a 7-11 store was located in the same building) we went to Flora Park. Lots and lots of people! This race (as almost any other race in Taipei) was pretty crowded, as in fact it combined a 21K, 10K, and 3K races. After doing warm-up exerices we got to the starting line. About 10 minutes remained before the start. Then suddenly I decided to visit the toilet. I rushed there, but then something bad happened. The smell in the toilet was so horrible that I nearly threw up! I ran out fo the toilet, to another one which was cleaner. The fact that I did not vomit was another miracle! Anyway, I went back to the starting line, and the race began almost immediately.
Last December I was able to run faster than 1 hour 40 minutes. Was it just luck or I can always run as fast as this? That was the question I wanted to figure out. For me it was additional pressure, as this race turned into a competition in which I needed to beat myself.
My way of running any distance is to start fast. This makes it possible to get out of the crowd and avoid clashing with other people. Pretty soon I was surrounded by professional runners who were running really fast. I tried to sustain their pace, but it was too fast for me! After 5 km I felt tired, and after about 7km I felt twinges in my belly, and I had to stop. What a disaster, I thought! The race was nearly over for me after just 1/3 of the distance. I was devastated. But one should always remember this rule: when you are running always hope for the best! Magic does happen, and it happened this time as well. I went to toilet (again), and after that I felt much better. Probably, some wizard was waiting for me over there, but after visiting the toilet I felt that my batteries were recharged. Miracle!
Soon I approached the turning point. After turning back I encountered the incoming peloton - nearly 1000 people running toward the turning point. This improved my mood - so many people still behind, I thought, maybe this race was not completely lost yet. Then Paul called my name - he spotted me from the crowd. Wow, Paul is pretty fast today, I thought. He was aiming to run under 2 hours - the goal that he almost met, but for some reason he had to slow down in final few kilometers, so he finihsed in 2 hours and 1 minute.
Anyway, after the peloton was gone I found out I was alone - the professional runners ahead, and the peloton behind me. I was free as freedom - run as fast as you can, boy, I thought, maybe it is your day, after all this vomiting and twinges. I ran so fast that I nearly caught a few professional runners ahead of me. Just 5 kilometers before the finish - and I feel more and more happy as I realize I am pretty close to success! The path becomes more crowded as the people from 10K race join in. But this is even more fun, I tell them to go faster (in Chinese), and this gives me additional energy which I need so desperately. The final water station, and just 3 km to go. I decide to slow down for a kilometer, only to speed up at the finish line. This trick works out perfectly - I feel I have some energy for accelerating to the finish line. I do accelerate and cross the finish line at 1:37:59. Yes, it is a new personal best! Ha-ha! Wonderful! (the corrected chip time was 1:37:22).
Wow, what can I say? Miracle it was. The lesson learned: never give up, keep fighting! But yet another miracle was waiting for me. The finisher’s certificates were printed instantly after runners turned in their running chip, and a long queue of people built up. All of them were trying to find their certificates, which were spread over a few tables. The organizers tried to bring order to the process, but since there were so many people the certificates got mixed up. Can you imagine how difficult it is to find the right certificate in a pile of 1000 papers? Nearly impossible. So all the people were digging through the piles of certificates desperately. And so did I. Most people gave up, as the pile was too big. I nearly gave up too, but then - yes you got it already - a miracle happened! I spotted my name on a certificate that one guy was holding! Why did he hold my certificate in his hands? I don’t know. But I shouted - it is me! Give this certificate to me, please! So, yes - now I have the nice certificate with my name and the result printed on it!
Too much magic for just one morning? Well, magic is just icing on the cake, for the rest there is your daily exercise.