After the slight disappointment of the Belfius Brussels 5k being about 400 metre short of 5km (officially), this race was to be the redeemer. I wanted to set a proper PR for my 5km distance. Note that I considered this race the moment to do it anyway as the Belfius Brussels 5k course is a considerable amount of net downhill and any time set there could not be called a PR with a straight face.
Besides the 5km, there was also a 10km which simply did the 5km loop twice. The 10km was actually the main event, but I was set on running a 5km. It is also worth noting that both the 5km and the 10km started together. This is not a problem in terms of the amount of people, I believe the combined amount of participants is only around two hundred. In terms of pacing and who to chase, it does make things slightly more confusing.
Training and Goal
Still the same as three weeks ago, there has been no particular 5km training. No speed work or anything of the like, simply building my base further. Due to some pain in my left knee, I had not actually upped the weekly distance since the previous race in order to let it heal a bit. This seems to have been successful. Weekly distance is still just below 30km per week, spread out over four days.
In light of the time I set three weeks ago, I figured a sub 20 goal was the way to go. The girlfriend was also taking part in this race and also wanted to break 20 minutes. This shared goal led to one obvious other goal: beating her time. She had the same reasoning and figured she should beat me. It’s ooooon.
We decided on a shared tactic where we would start together at a slightly faster than 4 minutes per km pace and then see how we would hold up. I was prepared to sprint for bragging rights in the final few 100 metre.
Morning of the Race
The clocks went back an hour the night before due to daylight saving’s ensuring that extra hour of sleep. Always appreciated. The alarm was set for 8 in the morning with the race starting at 11. At 7, my body decided I had slept enough. It is used to get up around 8, extra hours be damned. No harm done though and I went through the usual morning routine of a few slices of bread and lots of water.
Headed out around 9:40 to take the public transport to the race start, this went smoothly and we arrived around 10:20. Bib pick-up was done in a minute and we found ourselves with some time to spare. This was filled by sitting around, some trips to pee, and watching the kids run their short races (400, 800, or 1200 metre depending on their age).
We also bumped into Thierry, a runner from my neighbourhood I had “discovered” through Strava segments and had not actually met ever. He was doing the 10km. We talked a bit and then the girlfriend and I went for our warm up. The start of the race was delayed by quite some time and we found ourselves standing around and cooling down again, grmbl. Around this time I thought I spotted Laurent, another Strava segment discovery whom I had not met before. I was pointing my suspicion out to the girlfriend when Laurent made a hand signal to me and confirmed it. Did not get around to talking at that point and we lined up for the race.
The girlfriend and I lined up together for our combined sub 20 tactic, she is much better at properly pacing herself. Due to a bit of a mess in the lining up, we ended up around row three or four, slightly further back than I had hoped. Worse, I saw some definite slow people right in front of me that probably could have started slightly further back.
The main race organiser gave a little speech about the race and the organisation behind it: La Cité Joyeuse. This organisation was founded in 1914 to house orphaned children from World War I. They still do this, but have expanded to also help children with difficult family situations, handicapped children, and similar cases. All proceeds from this race go to help this charity and the way I understood it everyone organising the race was volunteering their time for today as well. After the short speech, he was going to start the race. To do so he said “On y va” (“there we go”) to indicate he was going to the spot from where he would signal the start. Some people however interpreted it as the start signal, leading to some more confusion, but general hilarity. Luckily there is no disqualification for a false start and after everyone was reorganised, the race started properly.
Caution, Meet Wind
The course starts in a very narrow street for the first 400 metre, making me worried about the slower people in front of me. I thus ended up doing what I think I do way too often: a sprinting start of weaving through people. After about 200 metre, I already felt more at ease and glanced behind me. No girlfriend to be found, so far for that tactic. What to do now?
As we left the narrow streets, I realised I had to slow down a bit at the very least. I was still running around 3:30/km pace and I was quite sure I would not be able to hold that till the end. The course was also still going uphill until about 1.5km in so I was technically running even “faster” than that. Some people passed me again, but I was quite OK with that at this point.
About 900 metre in, two guys were slowly overtaking me and I decided to get behind them and use them as pacers. My watch beeped the first kilometre in 3:46 and I was slightly worried about going at it too fast too soon. I decided to ignore those worries and kept following the two guys, counting on the downhill that ran from 1.5km to about 2.5km.
On the downhill we caught up to a guy in a bright yellow shirt, after which one of the two guys started pulling away. After a moment of hesitation I closed the gap of a metre or two and fell in line. Kilometre two was done in 3:44. Around 2.2km we turned off the road and onto a trail of one person wide. To top it off there were low hanging branches I had to bend under (one guy apparently hit one and ended up taking a trip to the hospital) as well as parts of the trail being slightly elevated with wooden planks that were still dark from last night’s rain. I did not feel at ease on this part, but luckily it ended 2.5km into the race as we turned onto a nicer, wider trail.
Are We There Yet?
I say luckily, but that really was not the case. The course started going uphill again here and it felt nasty. Utterly horrible. I probably have only myself to blame for my wonderful pacing earlier on, but that thought was not helping me much at the time. I slowed down some and had to let the guy go. Worse, the other guy from our early group passed me soon after. The other guy and I never really created much of a gap on him so that was to be expected, but it still stung.
At the 3km mark near the end of that hill, I was about to pass a legally blind guy and his running guide. At the time I was, and still am, more surprised to see that they had been so far ahead of me. The guide looked back and waved at me to pass them as if it were a simple thing to do. I gave myself a slight push and passed them as we turned onto flatter terrain again, finally. Third kilometre in 3:57.
After about 100-200 metre of level terrain, there was a steep downhill. Like, dangerously steep and still on a trail of sorts. The downhill had random cobblestone stairs here and there in order to help pedestrians. All I saw were more opportunities to trip and smack my face against. I ignored those fears and stormed down the hill, somehow making it to the bottom safely.
After this I expected just under 100 metre of flat followed by another nasty uphill. Instead, the course seems to have had a change and the nasty uphill was skipped in favour of some more flat running. My body was quite thankful for this difference, though the bliss was shortlived. At 3.5km, the uphill started again and it was not going to let off until the finish line. I prepared for pain.
The preparation was useless and I had to slow down some to tackle the worst of it which went until the fourth kilometre mark. My slowing down gave bright yellow shirt (remember him?) the opportunity to pass me again, clearly he was doing a better job with his pacing than I was. Watch beeped at 3:57 for the four kilometre mark.
I bit through the worst of the pain and kept bright yellow shirt guy and the slower guy from the earlier duo in my sights, though not getting closer at all. (The faster guy was way ahead at this point) This last kilometre was just a matter of wishing for it all to end, over and over again. I felt so slow at this point, I was fearing the girlfriend to pass me out of nowhere. I am glad this did not happen, it would have likely completely killed me.
I crossed the line, exhausted as is usual, and had to sit down for a bit. Not long after, Laurent crossed the line and we talked briefly. The girlfriend arrived about 1:15 behind me. Victory is mine. She did win the female 5k though, I guess I will give her that.
I stopped my watch a bit too late, it showed 19:09, but I think I was about five seconds slow. Official time says 18:50, but I have a feeling they may have started their timing a bit too late as well. We can meet in the middle, surely? The final posted results did not correct this timing in any way. Regardless, the sub 20 goal has been nicely broken and the extra beat-the-girlfriend goal as well. I ranked sixth overall which sounds less impressive if you take into account the 5km only had 50 people. The winner finished the course in 16:36. Anyhow: A successful Sunday.
After finishing, we had to wait a loooooong time before they got to the awards ceremony. I normally would not wait around for this, but since the girlfriend decided to go and win her 5k, we kind of had to. In the end, she got the trophy and we ran home with it, which happened to be a distance of about 5km. Took it slightly slower than during the race though.