My first real race since the injuries after the 20km door Brussel. My first 5km race. My first race while not following some sort of training plan. Suffice to say I had no clue what to really expect from this one. Oh did I mention it is also largely downhill?
As mentioned, no specific training. I have just been building my base up while trying to avoid a new injury. Closing in on 30km per week again spread over four days of running. Since signing up for the 5k race I also started adding some strides at the end of one run every week. The past week my left leg has also been feeling tight rather quickly, though luckily I noticed nothing of the sort this morning.
Morning of the Race
Woke up at 6:30, with the race starting at 9:30. Bit early, but was heading out for the girlfriend’s marathon start too, which was at 9:00. The usual routine was gone through: heaps of water early enough to pee before start, few slices of bread, and ensuring no porta potty would be needed. Meanwhile triple checking everything was prepped for the girlfriend. Out the door by 7:40 to the metro and arrived in the Parc du Cinquantenaire around 8:20.
After a calm stroll we arrived at the starting area, allowing some scouting out of how exactly they organised that. Girlfriend started some minor warm-ups and then placed herself in the 3h30 corral. I lost track of her shortly after and walked back and forth some more to keep the legs from falling asleep (does that even make sense?). Started my own warm-up at 9:08 by some super slow running followed by some strides.
Wanted to line up ten minutes before the race, but they were doing some communal warm-up with the crowd that I did not feel like participating in (two overly excited middle-aged people on a podium yelling at everyone to jump around is not my cup of tea). Looked from the sideline, frowning at the amount of little children and their slow looking parents that were pushing in at the very front. Could not do much about it and I placed myself behind them after their warm-up had finished. I figured I would pass them easily enough on the wide lanes to come.
Well I was wrong on that account, the lanes did not widen till 500 metre into the race. I was forced to squeeze between groups and slowing down when there was no hole. Very annoying, but all in all I probably did not lose that much time. Once past this bottleneck, that was no longer a problem. Right as the lanes widened I cruised past the last child. He tried to speed up and keep up with me, but I do not think he managed that for longer than a few metre.
At this point overtaking became easier as well as the people being more spread out. I went from group to group, trying to somewhat draft where possible. Not always as easy to do so when you are passing people. I stuck to a path where I was sparsely surrounded by people at all times (think fiveish people in a 10 metre range) to get the worst of the wind that I felt out of the way. This went rather smoothly and I passed the 1 km sign in 3:36.
Around 1.5 km was the first turn in the course (not counting a roundabout) as we headed towards the Royal Palace of Brussels. At this point was the first moment where I actually decided to take a quick breather when I caught up to a group. I trailed the group leader for about 100 metre. Feeling better again, I sped up and turned right onto the cobbles in front of the Royal Palace (3:46 2nd km), passing about three people spread out in the no man’s land between groups. Once past the Royal Palace came a 180 degree turn which I took very wide to avoid coming to a complete halt. The course had now entered the park in front of the Royal Palace and it was slightly going uphill again here, so I decided I could use another breather when I reached the next group, a 40 year old guy and a teenager (both ages estimates). A picture of me behind the kid, older guy on my left.
I was pretty close to settling behind these two for a longer while, when a guy was starting to pass me on my left as we were nearing the 3 km mark. I decided I had recovered enough (whatever that means in a 5k) and came out of hiding behind the teenager and 40yo to follow him. We stayed abreast till the 3 km mark (3:52 for that one) at which point I passed him in the turn and did not look back any more.
From here on out, some pretty serious downhill started. About 30 metre elevation difference in the one kilometre. At 3.2 km I caught up to the next guy who, when he noticed what was happening, sprinted just enough to widen the gap back to 5 metre. I kept my own pace and closed the gap a second time at which point he pulled out another small sprint. Not particularly worried I caught up a third time. Now he decided to do a mini sprint while spreading his arms pretending to be an airplane. Yeah, I am not sure what was going on in his mind either. Regardless, the gap he now created was maybe two metre so I promptly closed it again. He did not have another sprint left so I dropped him and continued on my way.
Next followed around 300 metre of running alone until I caught up to the next guy around 3.7 km in. I was beginning to feel it though, so decided I was happy with staying behind him for a while. We crossed the Grand Place together and when my watch beeped that we had passed the 4 km (3:19), I thought I would have a go at trying to pass him. This seemed to work rather well and I caught up to the female who had been running about 20 metre in front of us. I passed her in a small turn around 4.1 km in.
At the next turn though, only about 100 metre further, the guy I had tried to drop at 4 km passed me again. Clearly I had failed to drop him and instead just carried him along. I decided to stick behind him and hope I could get him in the sprint, just for honour’s sake. After all, it is not like we were going for a podium spot.
As we turned onto the final straight, I saw that we would be around the 20th spot, something I did not expect at all. It did explain the emptiness of the streets from 2 km onwards. Thinking I now really needed to beat this guy, I thought about when to try and place a sprint. He however decided the time was now and sped up a bit. I noticed I could not even follow him then, let alone sprint past him so I stayed at the pace I was running. Him about to cross the line with me in the background. More than happy with the result and probably the first time I crossed the line with an actual “fuck yes” moment. Video of the finish.
The official results place me as 24th out of 2352 finishers in a time of 16:10, 2:50 behind the winner. My GPS has a similar time at 16:15. The GPS however indicates a distance of only 4.5 km. Quite the pity how race organisers ignore this kind of thing, but this race is all about the marathon and half anyway. Especially with the downhill I never planned on using it as a PR to begin with.
I am overjoyed with the result though. I realise a lot of the people that could beat me probably were doing the marathon or the half, but too bad for them! It is a small race on the sidelines of the bigger ones, but it is nice to finish high regardless.
Some results of the people I encountered:
- The guy that dropped me in the sprint crossed the line 3 seconds before me, but it turns out he started out earlier. His final time is actually 12 seconds and three spots behind me! (Eat that!)
- The female we passed in those final stretches ended up as second female, crossing the line 3 seconds behind me and 16 seconds behind me in chip time.
- The kid and the older guy crossed the line 24 and 30 seconds behind me. Chip times 34 and 40 seconds slower than mine.
- Airplane guy got caught up by the kid, but outsprinted him in the final straight. He finished 45 seconds behind me in chip time though, so in a way the kid still beat him.
Update: I contacted the organisers about the shorter distance and they confirmed my suspicion. According to them the race is 4.59k long. Extrapolating my time to 5k gives me 17:37. This of course assumes I would be able to hold that pace for another few 100m.