Helsinki City Run 5.5.2012

I’m a happy camper, or I should say a happy runner – I finished my very first half marathon yesterday! :D

The finish of Helsinki City Run was at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium.

Helsinki Olympic Stadium (1952)

Before the race, leaving our bags at the Stadium

Mr James has run half marathons before but as I don’t run (or I do run but just from time to time) I hadn’t even imagined participating in a race such as half marathon. Oh well, for 2 months ago he asked me if I was sure I wouldn’t want to join him and he could register me for the HCR as well. I asked a couple of running friends if they felt I could make it although I hadn’t run during the winter and I’ve been mainly dancing and going to the gym… I’ve done some Nordic Walking as well but running, not so much. They said I’m probably able to finish it somehow with only 7 weeks’ preparation, maybe having to walk as well, so I decided to give it a try. During these 7-8 weeks we’ve tried to have a longer run every Saturday and I’ve run or walked once a week alone or with a friend. Otherwise I’ve been to ballet and contemporary dance classes, and last 4 weeks I’ve mostly missed them as well because of my thesis interviews – clash of schedules. I’ve also suffered from pollen allergy and/or some kind of upper respiratory tract virus.

But as usual, time flies and yesterday arrived. I was quite nervous already on Friday. My legs didn’t feel that good, I had some headache and I had had shorter sleeps Wed-Thu and Thu-Fri. On Saturday morning a friend came over, which was nice as we could chat and think about sth else than the race. I had an ordinary breakfast, eggs and a kind of smoothie because those usually work fine. I had eaten more carbs on Wed and Thu (pasta, rye bread etc) and I could unfortunately really feel it in my stomach… so I decided to go back to basics on Fri and especially yesterday morning.

Well, eventually it was time to head to the Stadium. Mr James’ t-shirt was a bit defective and we had to change it but luckily that went quite smoothly. When we approached the Stadium where we would leave our bags, I could already feel the race fever… 15 000 runners had registered for this race, young, old, women, men, experienced runners, first timers and everyone was either already preparing for their start or walking towards the Stadium to leave their stuff and to change clothes.

The weather was a bit tricky as it was very grey, windy and cool in the morning. Nevertheless, the weather forecast gave +10C and broken skies for 3pm (our start was 3.40) and sunshine for 6pm. It was pretty windy still around 3pm so I wasn’t sure how cold or warm it’s going to get but I decided to leave most of my clothes behind. I chose to run in a sleeveless top and just wear my thin running jacket, which is pretty light if I had to take it off at some point.

I had to go to the toilet still once before we were heading to the start area but luckily I had finished drinking early enough so that was my last pit stop. We didn’t have to stop later along the way either, which was good as there were quite many who had had to stop and queue wherever there was a toilet near drinking stations…

Before the race

Before the race

I was mostly aware of the route as we checked it for four weeks ago. There were some surprises and a small change but I knew how it would start. So I was quite relaxed in the beginning and I was just trying to keep my HR at a normal level and stay calm. HR was a bit high but I was sure (or I hoped…) it would get better as soon as we start running – the waiting seemed to be the worst part.

2 minutes before our slot took off (Mr James ran in my group although his own group was muuuuuch faster and started earlier)

First km felt already quite long but 2 and 3 came surprisingly soon. We decided to start following the time already from the beginning to make sure we don’t run too fast. I noticed that it would have been pretty easy as there were some people accelerating right from the start so we had to keep our heads cool. And as I had guessed, the sun felt immediately quite warming so I decided to take my jacket off already at around 2 kms. Which meant that I had to re-attach my number to my top, still running. Luckily I didn’t stumble!

Some hills in the beginning were so crowded that we felt it was the best to walk some steps – pace stayed the same but walking takes less energy. I was also wise enough to drink at every station, both Gatorade and water. Thinking back, I could have probably drunk even more energy drink but I was a bit worried that I have to go to the toilet if I drink too much.

My knees, calves and other parts that usually cause some problems were surprisingly ok but I guess already before getting to 10km my quadriceps felt bit stiff. And soon especially the upper outer side, probably tensor fasciae latae, started to hurt. More on the left side but both. And I also started to experience these not-very-rare right side muscle cramps, which I usually never get! I stopped counting at around 10 but I must say they didn’t make my running more enjoyable… I didn’t want to mention them to Mr James because I knew he would have wanted us to walk but because I had decided not to walk, I just kept running and tried to both contract and relax my abdominal muscles, straighten my back and press the cramping point with my hand. I was able to get over it…until it hit again.

At some point between 10km and 14km I realized that my legs didn’t feel that good anymore but I thought that the only way to proceed is to keep running. When we reached 14km I realized that this is the farthest I’ve ever run so every metre and kilometre that comes after this is my record. At that point we were running in an area called Pikku-Huopalahti and I had no idea where the route goes. I watched where the runners went ahead of us and kept thinking “I can’t believe this…how come they are THERE, WHEN is this going to END?!”. And again, no other way than keep running. The last drinking station was probably about 5km before the finish and I was still having my muscle cramps but didn’t want to stop and walk longer than what I had to, to pick up my mug. And after this last station there was a short hill and I realized that great…now the back thigh is probably cramping. Never had that either. :D Luckily I had been wise and taken as an extra precaution some salty liquorice (my favourite childhood brand Lakrisal) and I understood that I had reached the time… I got some extra energy from that (I’m not sure how much that ammonium chloride counts for a salt) and was able to continue again 1 km. When we had probably 3 km left I was already very tired and still suffering from those cramps and I knew there will be some hills left…

Some people around us were still/already accelerating but some were certainly having problems. We had kept a steady pace, the second part after 11kms was actually a bit faster than the first one (as planned), so we were somewhere in between.

Before going to the Stadium, the route passes a horse stable and they were having an equestrian competition – at that point I was really hoping I would have had a horse to carry me for a while! :D

Anyway, the route goes first towards Olympic Stadium but just passes it and it STILL does a short round before returning. And I was so happy I knew this because one could really get the hopes up when running next to the stadium… :D And what a disappointment when one realizes that oh no…still one km left! After passing 20km sign I decided that ok, 1km left and I will try to run a bit faster. The route ends uphill before the runner reaches the Stadium and will run through the gate, but my only option was to run although I was already very tired. I didn’t want to give up, I had made it that far already, and on the other hand I’m not sure if I would have been able to start running again had I walked the last hill…

One thing, which I would have wished for, is the cheering audience! I don’t know if it’s just in Finland but especially in the end it would have been so nice to hear and see people clapping their hands, cheering for us and shouting “you can do it, keep up the good work” or something. Instead, people were just standing quietly (probably waiting for their friends and relatives), not saying or doing anything. I definitely learned that the next time I’m standing there I will clap and shout and support the brave runners even if I had to do it by myself alone! I’ve done that before but it feels a bit stupid when no-one around you is supporting…but now I experienced how important it is to hear, if even from total strangers kind words, see funny signs, and I also feel that there could have been more music and other “activities”. The route is IMO nice so in that sense this race is worth participating.

Mr James had told me already before how great it is to arrive at the Stadium and it was, but only after I had passed the finishing line I got tears in my eyes – partly because I was so tired and could stop running but also because I had made it! I, who don’t actually run, who had never before run more than 14km, I had just run 21km. Yay for me! :D

My goal was a) to run all the way and b) to finish at “closer to 2.30 than 2.45”. The result: I ran and I finished at 2:27:31.

Right after finishing the race – tired but still smiling!

I did it!!!

Mr James at the Stadium after finishing the race

Beautiful sunshine and the tower

We got medals and something small to eat, and our only complaint was that after all the sweating it would have been extremely nice to eat asap something salty and carby but the small bags of crisps were already gone although after us there were still probably 1000-2000 runners arriving… But we got bananas, water and quark. Coffee would have been there as well but didn’t feel like it – water was nice. :)

I was extremely happy and surprised to find that a local massage company kindly offered short “shaking” for free and they also had a gift card offer, which I’m sure a lot of people used! Naturally I grabbed this opportunity because my legs didn’t feel that good, and if anyone from Wieru-Hierojat happens to see this: thank you very much! :)

Wieru-Hierojat massaged our tired legs – what a bliss!

After the race we went to a local hamburger restaurant to get something to eat – we were starving. And how nice it was to realize that it was Saturday, our sauna day. Cold water, pool and hot sauna felt so good, better than ever! :)

I swore that this was my first and only half marathon because I do not run but apparently I do so never say never. ;) Now I’m going to take a short break from running anyway, or at least I will take it easier, because I’m behind in ballet. Summer is coming, I still haven’t decided which classes I’m going to take etc.

I’m proud to inform that I was back in ballet class already today… Knees were hurting in the morning and legs were very stiff but we had such an ordinary class that I couldn’t miss it. I’ll write more about it in another post but it was fun…special star guest teaching!

Ps. I apologize for typos, weird sentences and bad grammar – I’m writing this in the middle of the night and I’m pretty tired…


3 responses to “Helsinki City Run 5.5.2012

  1. Congratulations Janina! What an excellent report, and such an interesting race. I had no doubt that you would rock it, and you did. You had a very wise race strategy, and not having to stop along the way was good – the queues are awfully long at the porta potties here too. Very proud that you pushed through the pain and discomfort, and if I had been there, I would have cheered very loudly for you. I might even have made a sparkly sign :-) But who knows, maybe in the future……one of my dreams is still to run the PN marathon in Tuurku one day, and hopefully you might want to join in (with Mr James of course) :-) Well done you!

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