14th May 2016
Bucharest OMV Petrom Half Marathon
Since this event took place I saw a big wave of blog posts, articles, running reports, pictures, etc. on this topic.
To be honest, I am happy about it. After all, this is one of the most popular running events in Romania and it’s still growing. It’s the 5th edition of the Bucharest Half Marathon, and about 14,000 people attended, from 60 different countries. At least that’s what they say, and I am going with their numbers.
In 2014, I cheered for Mircea (one of my two older brothers), who was running in the relay event. It was then when I decided I want to try running, and, the following year, I was running with brother in the 21k Individual Race.
The course was more or less the same as in the previous years, and it’s also the one used for Bucharest’s main running event of the year, The International Marathon in October.
It was awesome seeing so many familiar faces. They were everywhere. Before the start, while everybody aligned in their sector, during the race, and after crossing the finish line. It was definitely a good place to be, and I had the best time this year (so far).
I was really looking forward to running at this event. I mean, I registered in November, half a year in advance, and the location is here, in Bucharest. No way I would miss this.
Everybody aimed for a personal best here, I guess, and I am no exception. After the last 4 marathons, I was really curious what can I do in a half marathon. The last half marathon was trail and, until July, I didn’t register at any events, except the IronMan. This was my chance to see if I improved any bit.
I was looking for the pacemakers. Red balloons – 1:30, yellow – 1:40, green 1:45. I tried to get as close as possible. I knew that after the start it will be very crowded in first two km.
The best 21k so far was in the Madrid marathon, three weeks ago. At the 21k checkpoint, I had 1:43, and a couple of km later I injured my right foot sole. But today I was feeling great. I was well rested, no pain whatsoever, so I was aiming at that 1:40. I knew it was possible. I checked it on a pace calculator. For 1:40:00 I had to keep a pace of 4:44-4:45/km. I just had to focus and to avoid going overboard too soon.
Over and over again, I was trying to visualize the track. I convinced myself that it’s not that long. Soon after the start, in the first kilometers, I passed the 1:40 group. I was focused on my breath. I was in there. In the zone.
The weather was perfect. Warm and slightly windy. Some runners said it was too hot. I’ve had much worse than this. Sure, at every water point, I took small sips of water and splashed some on my face and legs as well, but I was aiming for a good time.
Now we were running on the boulevard. There they were. Somewhere far, maybe 500m, I saw the red balloons. There were still a couple of kilometers before the first loop, and I saw the elite runners were already coming. I checked the time. I was well under 5 minutes per km. Now all I had to do was to stay here. To focus. I didn’t want to get too excited again. I know so well how that story ends. It ends up with a struggle on the last kilometers while smarter runners were passing by.
After the National Stadium, we were on the loop. What a great view. A huge crowd of runners occupied the whole boulevard. While my legs kept on running, I was looking for friends to cheer them. These kilometers were the best, but soon I got to the hard part. The straight boulevard towards the House of Parliament. That building is big. You may feel that it’s close, but it’s just an illusion.
The crowd was over, and now we were aligned on one side of the road. Here is where we had to be strong. I looked back. The yellow balloons were not in sight. Neither were the red balloons in front. I matched the pace of the runner in front and I let him lead. I felt much better focusing on his running rather than mine. Soon he got tired, so I chased the next runner. Others were coming from the back with full speed. I was waiting. There’s only one uphill on the whole track, and we were almost there.
Going up was easy, and the uphill was shorter than I remembered. I guess the trail running was paying off. Now there was nothing to worry about. Less than 5 km to go. And this is when it happened again. I lost it. I got excited. My pulse went berserk and I was losing energy very fast. I slowed down. Some runners were passing. This was not happening. I tried to do some math. How much time can I lose in three km? But I couldn’t focus on math. I needed an anchor point. I started counting while breathing. 1 to 5, inhale. 1 to 5, exhale. Slowly, I managed to calm down and find the pace.
2 more kilometers. The last loop. On the other side of the river, I saw the red balloons. That’s all I needed right now. Maybe it was 1 km difference. I had a good chance to be well under 1 40. I was anxious, but soon there was only one more km to run.
It was about to end, and I was enjoying it so much. The last km, the last corner, all the runners around me went for it. Nothing bad can go wrong now. I sprinted.
1:35:31 !!! Mission accomplished.