Leiden Half Marathon

Last weekend I ran my third half-marathon in Leiden, the Netherlands. It has been 4 years and one baby since I last did a race. It was both challenging and rewarding but the most important thing is that I did it and I can say that one of my goals for this year is completed.

I wanted to do a half-marathon for a while but last year we moved to the Netherlands and I did not really have time to have a proper training system in place. This year, in January, I got a moment of courage and signed up for a race in May in Leiden. I used Nike training plan for half-marathon running: the whole training was supposed to take about 14 weeks but I started training about 17 weeks before the race – knowing my daughter’s ability to bring all kinds of fun viruses from the daycare, I had to factor a few weeks of being sick. I usually did one recovery run, one interval run, and one long every week. Additionally, I went for a swim once a week to strengthen my back which was one of my biggest pain points.

Generally, my training was going well pretty much until I went on a work trip to Barcelona. I got very sick at the end of April so I was out of running for about two weeks right before the half-marathon. What was supposed to be my peak shape pretty much turned into one of the worst nightmares I had in my adult life. I did a few short runs before the race but that was it – I had to rely on previously built training.

On the day of the race itself, I was feeling pretty great – I had a light breakfast and we drove to Leiden an hour before the race to get my bib. I got to the starting line, put in my music, and off I went. I was doing quite well until at around the 3-kilometer mark, I started feeling like a ball of needles fell in my stomach. I was not yet fully recovered form my sickness and one of the consequences was this weird stomach ache. I started feeling spasms and like I was going to throw up but kept telling myself that it will go away if I can at least make it to the 10km mark. I seriously evaluated the possibility of giving up but I did not. I got to 10km and realized I can’t breathe anymore. After a quick water stop, I kept on going and around 12km, the spasms were gone. I could not believe it – I felt like I was floating in a cloud. That went on until 18km and then I hit the mental wall: I knew the rest of the race will be a mental game of convincing myself to get through. One tricky thing that I found is that all other races that I did before were along a long boulevard where you can see a finish line from far so even when things got tough, I knew I was close. It was not like that in Leiden at all: I saw my watch hit 21km but the finish line was nowhere in sight. It was just around the corner after all but it would have been much more motivating to see it!

My final time was around 2 hours 20 minutes so 20 minutes longer than my previous races but as long as it was under 02:30h, I was good with the result. My friend told that he would be surprised if I manage it with my half-assed training. My training might be half-assed but my stubbornness is in full swing haha.

I think perhaps my favorite part of the race was the people. Dutch people went all out! Part of the race was going through the city of Leiden and part through small villages: people from nearly every house were out. They set up water stations for runners to refresh, and they put water hoses along the route so that we can run under because the sun was so hot, many kids were giving high fives and those who had musical instruments, were out drumming away. I think they might have melted my heart a bit – people say that the Dutch might be rude and direct but I think one thing that I noticed about them is that they know how to take time to celebrate things and I love it, because why not?

Sofia had the best of her time too – first popsicle and rambling the streets of Leiden while I was running my heart away. The reason why I wanted to do this race is because I had this vision of crossing the finish and seeing my daughter there showing her that she can do whatever she wants if she puts her mind to it. I know she is too young and probably won’t remember this moment, but I will. And that matters.

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