Sunday, November 29, 2009

My first half marathon

This is an article  I’m writing almost half a year after I ran my first half-marathon. Or more exactly I’m using my notes in Czech language to report to you about it. I’ve been busy with my photography and studies last few months. I hope I’ll be able to share with you more about running now.

So the story is that I started running when I got to the New York City in late May of this year (2009). I was proud of myself, so I told my friend Guillaume who I knew was himself a regular runner. And I don’t know even exactly how, but one evening we were on skype and we were signing in for the London half marathon in September (I knew I was gonna be back to Europe). And then I a saw an ad for the NYC Half Marathon on a bus one afternoon. I thought about it for a while and then I signed in!

I used my Nike+ utility to generate a training plan for my half marathon in London, three months to go, I can still do lot of work on my running till then. But because of my adventure of signing in for the half in NYC my training period for my first half marathon was cut down almost by half!

I really enjoyed my training, I could see the progress so I was looking forward to my first half. I tried to finish the distance in a training pace three weeks before the race, so I knew I could finish. What is more, my dad came in for a week and he was there to support me. Days and weeks went on and there we were Saturday night before the race, checking in a hotel nearby the Central Park. Things got little complicated, because we went for a trip to see our friends in Newport on Saturday, so we got back at 11pm. But I was so nervous anyway!

I stopped by at our apartment on the way from Newport to get all my gear for the race and also for our trip to Vegas where we were going on Monday after the race. I organized all my stuff for the race : shorts, top, socks, shoes, fuel belt, anti-shaffing stick, iPod, energy gels, breakfast ... all that to find out hat I forgot my sunglasses in  our apt in Harlem. So I have to hope that my roommates will be able to  get them to me morning before the start. I went to bed at midnight, not exactly perfect since the start was at 7am, but I wouldn’t fall asleep sooner anyway.

August 16, 2009, 4:45 alarm ... open my eyes, stretch my back and get out of bed. Wake up shower and I start feeling better. It’s still dark outside, I can hardly see the contours of the Central Park where I’ll be running in few hours together with 15 thousand people who participate in the race. I’m getting dressed, calling room service to order hot water for my instant oatmeal and coffee for me and my dad. Why is it taking so long? Because they are taking their time, they brought me beautiful plate, thermos of hot water and even a flower to decorate all the thing. I’m trying to persuade my stomach that is perfectly normal to eat huge plate of oatmeal with blackberries at 5:30am. I’m checking all my gear, attaching my number and the chip to the shoe, daddy is taking pictures of me. No time to be wasted, it’s shortly before 6am and we’re walking through the empty hotel lobby, the receptionist is smiling at us and we’re getting in a cab.

6:00 we’re getting out of the cab on the 91st Street on the eastern side of the Central Park. The streets are crowded with runners and their supporters. Having the number 4800 places me among the better part of the starting field. The numbers were distributed according to the expected finishing times. I’m going for a short warm-up, my dad is taking photo of me and NYPD officer in front of the Guggenheim museum. My roommates finally arrive, so I got my sunglasses - potential crisis is over. Saying bye to my professional  fan club (my dad, Sabina & Lada - equipped with my camera and Czech flags brought from Prague) and I’m heading off to my part of starting field. The starting line is five blocs further to the south at 85th Street, but he 15 thousand people are lining up almost to the northern edge of the park. 

I’m getting nervous, I’m on my own now, calling mom back in Prague, last co-ordination with my support team where to run to get photos, cuing for toilet. More experienced runners are raising my spirits, it’s only another long Sunday run. Just a slight detail, it’s the warmest and the most humid week of this summer in New York, but   I’m not giving it any importance right now. The speaker is presenting famous athletes, we all listen to the American anthem.

7:00 - START! The crowd is moving, it’s more of jogging than running right now. No problem with keeping it slow for the first mile. That’s my principal task for the first half - going “slow enough” so I have enough energy for the second half of the race, so I can finish and perhaps even speed up a little. The official timer is showing something over three minutes when I’m crossing the starting line. Fortunately the organization is great, and I have the chip on my shoe that enables the organizers to get my exact time for the 13.1 miles (21,1 km) of my first half marathon. At this moment I’m still happy and smiling.

All the way through Central Park feels great, I’m “slow enough”. Perhaps little slower than I thought, but I try to respect my instincts so I have enough energy for the second half. Eating my first energy gel, than the second ... and leaving the Central Park behind. And now the really new experience begins. I know every turn of the big loop in Central Park by hard. But running on the 7th avenue closed  only for the runners, that’s completely new. There is still great cool shadow between the skyscrapers, it’s slightly downhill all the way to the Times Square, more and more supporters on the way. I feel great so I’m pushing little harder.

Nice surprise waiting for me at the Times Square, our beautiful lovely hairdresser and neigbor Radka is waving at me in the right turn on to the 42nd Street. We’re running on the 42nd Street towards the FDR on the west coast of Manhattan. Unfortunately, it’s slightly uphill between the Times Square and the west coast, I hope it’s gonna be fine, I feel still good.  Here it is the left turn on the concrete of FDR towards the finish near the Battery Park. I have still 3 miles left (little less than 5 km) ... and the concrete of the FDR is not protected from the sunshine and it’s getting later and hotter.

The last three miles seem to be infinite. What is more, more and more people around are evidently out of any energy and will. I can see people who were overpassing me in the Central Park, they are walking now, something went wrong. Did they overestimate their capabilities somewhere? My only thought is to keep on running. My iPod lost its connection with the sensor in my shoe, not important fact on its own, but I have no more music. It’s only me, the pace of my steps and my breath. Mom, help! I wanna cross the finish line ... When I’m getting water I have to fight with the temptation to slow down and walk for a bit. But I am so aware of the fact that if I stop running I won’t be able to start again. And the last two miles by walk would take soo long.

The parts when we run in shade help me to get together a little, but every step in the Sun is killing me. The dream seems to come true, I’m running around the 12 mile mark, but the mile I have left is still  quite a distance. But here I’m, 800 m to go, I’m speeding up a little,  the motivation is so strong. I might have over estimated myself, the last 400 m are so hard. The finish line is hidden behind a slight turn, so no visual motivation. The pain in my hip is getting worse with every step. Unbelievable, I’m crossing the line, I don’t even have enough energy to lift my arms above my head and wave. I stop by the side barrier where by fan club is waiting. NYPD officer is asking me if I’m alright. I say yes, but I’m not really sure. In a bit, the euphoria is here, I did it! At approx 1 hour and 55 minutes I finished my first official half marathon in one of my most beloved cities of the world. I won the fight with and over myself!!!

All the day after I was so excited - the endorphins and adrenalin worked their way through my veins in my brain. I finished totally wet, really completely, I got a Czech flag from my support team and a medal for finishing the race. Decorated like this we went for delicious real Italian espresso @ Zibetto Espresso Bar. I went for an ice bath right after, so my legs don’t get completely swollen only a little. Great brunch @ Brasserie 8 and 1/2 and the perfect party with friends at the rooftop of Bohemian National Hall followed by mini tournament in ping pong in the spaces of BBLA.

My official time : 1:53:41.


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