And Now for Something Completely Different. I started running about eleven months ago, but besides running hard against the clock and against myself in a time trial manner, I have never bothered with a race. Today that changed and I realised I want to jot down my memories. Here goes.

The race in question is the 10km de l’ULB a 10k race organised by Cercle des Sciences (a student group from the ULB) and the Université Libre de Bruxelles itself. Start and finish is on campus Solbosch with most of the race happening in Ter Kamerenbos, also known as Bois de la Chambre. So quite some trail-like road and lots of going up and down.

I arrived at Solbosch around 9:30, an hour before the start, to ensure I would pick up my bib in time (number 1038). This went surprisingly smooth compared to my usual experience with anything student organised and I found myself having to wait a bit. Got through it by some walking and jogging to get warmed up slowly, culminating in a bit of participation in the combined warmup that the race organisers had prepared. After that it was about time to start and people crammed together near the finish. I was aiming for about 45 minutes and based on last year’s results I figured that would place me around the top 10-15%. So I tried to place myself around what I thought matched up with that and stood at attention.

As soon as the start shot sounded, I felt like I hadn’t placed myself as wonderfully as I could have. Or maybe others had placed themselves too far ahead, who knows. Regardless I found myself swerving to the side to overtake what I think was about 100-200 people who were going too slow to my tastes. It was still a bit busy though, with people “switching lanes” forcing you to suddenly slow down for them, definitely the most annoying part of a race for me. The first few kilometre I averaged about 4m10s per kilometre which felt pretty good until I started the fourth kilometre.

I had gone a bit too fast and I should have realised it since I was aiming for 4m30s per kilometre for the entire race. The excitement of the race had me pushing myself too much I guess. Especially when you consider this also had quite some uphill. I was forced to turn it down a bit, having to let go of a girl that I thought I was able to follow and quickly having to swallow my pride as more people started passing me. At least I was lucky enough that 4.0 to about 5.5 kilometre was largely downhill allowing me some more recovery.

At about 6km, right after another uphill, was a water stand where I gladly took the offered bottle. Turns out I have some trouble drinking while running and, not feeling like stopping, I threw most of the water over my head before throwing the bottle and leftovers into the bin on the side. I still felt the overexertion from before, but the pain was slightly more manageable. Shut up, legs!

I kept on and noticed that I was doing bad on uphills and better on downhills, compared to the people around me. I would go past people in a downhill, have them take me over again in an uphill, rinse and repeat. With about three kilometre to go, the people around me would mostly remain the same for the remainder of the race which was helpful in keeping my pace somewhat similar to others. My average pace at this point had settled at 4m30s per km, which is what I aimed for before the race. Albeit, in my plan I had done that while keeping my punch for last. Not the case.

It’s around this point that I noticed a rather old guy had overtaken me and was running about 5 meter in front me. Going by the results tells me he is 69 years old. Kudos. Another guy was next to him trying to keep pace, but failing around 8-8.5km. This gave me a smile considering he looked like he had blown himself up just to not let the 69 year old pass him. That went differently. A little further, at the 9km mark, was the last serious uphill. About 300 meter at 8% if my glance at the Strava profile is correct. Either way, that suckerpunched me and I too was unable to follow the old guy. I dropped quite some ranks on that uphill, but I just couldn’t do any better any more. After that followed some more downhill and flat which went easier and in which I kept pace with a guy in a bright yellow shirt who had overtaken me at the final bit of that uphill.

The final 200-300 meter was a minor uphill again and at this point I was (internally) screaming for it to end, but figuring I should still try and use every little bit of energy I had left in an all out sprint. The moment to start that sprint came when someone yelled to a girl next to me that she was going to be the third girl to finish. I am not sure whether that girl had just caught up to me or I to her, but when I felt her accelerate after hearing those words (or maybe I imagined that), I kicked into gear to. I left her behind, passed the yellow shirt guy and crossed the finish line completely exhausted grasping for the nadar barriers to steady me.

I walked-struggled to the place where they were handing out oranges and water, drank the water and ate the orange. Grabbed a can of aquarius and drank it. Grabbed another can, and another can, and a final can, and then some more water. Did I mention I drink a lot of water as it is? It took me a while to recover, but I figure that can happen in an actual race. I have so much more sympathy now for the cyclist that finish climbing up a hill and just completely halting past the line. I GET IT!

The complete results can be seen on the ChronoRace website and there is also my Strava activity. I ended up 177th out of 2459 in a time of 44 minutes 52 seconds. The girl I mentioned did indeed get third spot and I was one spot before her by a margin of 2 seconds. Small victories. The old guy finished 164th (I think that is him anyway), 21 seconds faster than me.

Next stops: 15km de Woluwe-Saint-Lambert (10/05) and 20km door Brussel (31/05).