Remember when I ran my first half marathon last year? J and I knew that we definitely wanted to do another one this spring/summer. It took some time to find one that fit our schedules — we didn’t want to do Helsinki again, and a half marathon-ish trail race (the distance is actually 23.4 km — random) interfered with J’s exam schedule. Then we discovered a race being held for the first time: the Rakvere Ööjooks (Night Run), which offered three distances (5k, 10k, half marathon) and was taking place the night before a big song festival in Rakvere that my choir would be participating in. Perfect!
But of course race prep doesn’t always go smoothly. My left IT band (which connects to the knee) started bothering me and I had to skip many training runs, especially longer ones. My knee would be fine up to a certain point, but after 10 km I’d start to feel tightness and then pain. I started stretching and doing exercises to strengthen my IT band. J also had some issues and had to stop training for a while. At one moment it seemed like we both might be dropping down to the 10k or even the 5k distance. A week before the race I ran 10k with no pain and decided to go for the half. J, unfortunately, decided not to run at all. However, a friend of ours was also going to be running, and just before the race started we decided we’d start off together and see how it goes.
I was worried about so many things. I worried my knee pain would get so bad I wouldn’t be able to continue, or that I’d just be too tired. The race was starting at 9:30 on a Friday night, and it had been a hot and tiring day. I’ve only even done long runs when I’m well-rested on the weekend! And what if my training hadn’t been sufficient?
Well, I needn’t have worried — we rocked it! My friend and I ended up running together the whole time, keeping a slow, even pace. We only walked at water stops. After about kilometer 15 we weren’t talking as much anymore, but I think having somebody to run with helped to motivate us both. I never once turned on my iPod, which was so surprising — I never run without music! My knees (both of them!) started to hurt around kilometer 13, but it never got so bad that I was limping. The course was full of rolling hills, which of course sucked going up but felt nice going down. The last 4 km were hard, but we just kept trudging one, and even managed a sprint at the end. He crossed the finish before me, but our official time was the same: 2:12:10. That’s 15 minutes off my time from last year!!
Overall I have to say the race was a huge confidence-booster for me. The half marathon distance still intimidates me, but even in less-than-ideal conditions I managed to do really well. I’ve clearly developed as a runner, so hopefully the next time I do a half I won’t be so scared beforehand!