My first half marathon experience in Vienna last year was just overwhelmingly great. So only a few months later, in August 2008 in fact, I decided that, no matter what, I want to do it again. Moving to California and with all the things you have to get done when moving countries and continents, was very time consuming so I did not have as much time as I wanted to train for this event. I was wishing for a new personal record (last year I did the 21,1 km in 2:03:02), but considering the lack of training and that I was still suffering from jet-lag on race day, was not expecting much.
I was not prepared enough, so I thought, but came race day, I decided to change my strategy. The weather was just as great as last year, with blue and sunny skies all day. Almost too warm for running. And with almost 30,000 other runners at the starting line, I decided that I will try to stay under 2 hours. If I can keep the pace (which would be 5:41 min/km on average), that’s great, if I can’t do it, I will just slow down and just be there for the experience.
Looking back at the run, I believe I started slightly too quick. To be on the safe side, I was trying to keep my pace between 5:15 and 5:30, because you lose a little bit of time at the refreshment points and I knew that just after 11 km, there is a very long (about 5 km) stretch from Ringstraße to Schönbrunn Palace, which is also slightly uphill, completely in the sun. I knew this from the year before, this is the most tedious part of the half marathon. I had to slow down a bit and push myself through that part of the race. But slowing down there was not a big deal, because by the time I got there, I had established a lead (in relation to my goal to stay under 2 hours) of over 4 minutes. I literally checked my pace about every minute to make sure I am still on track.
Thankfully, after that uphill part, there is a turn that takes the runners back along Mariahilfer Straße (which is then slightly downhill) to the Ringstraße and to the finish line at Heldenplatz. By then, I couldn’t keep my original pace I started off with and the last couple of kilometres were more a matter of willpower than anything else. But finally, I made it to the finish line, hit the stop button on my watch and it showed me what I wanted to see: Under two hours. 01:55:50. Mission accomplished.