My training program during the summer months was so low key, that I can hardly call it a training program. I went regularly for 4k runs at slowest pace, sometimes with walk breaks in between. My only "real" training was a weekly interval training with a running group, and a weekly 3,5k pace run, also with a running group.
With all my training runs over the last couple of months being shorter than the race distance of 5k, I wondered how I would do. I squeezed in a 8k run two days before the race, just to make sure I can run the distance without collapsing.
The last time I ran a 5k race was the Iftar Challenge 5 years ago. I remember, it was my first run before my son's 1st birthday. My finish time back then was 25min 05sec. I wondered if I could beat it.
Race day approaches. The race was scheduled for 8pm on the local car race track. It's known as hilly, because the rest of Dubai is as flat as can be. I have run there before. The question is always if the organizers would make us run clockwise (very bad hills) or anti clockwise (do-able hills).
I woke up very excited. I was looking forward to the race in the evening. But everyday life caught up with me in the course of the day when I got a light stomach ache at around lunchtime. I tried to take it as easy as possible in the afternoon, but the pain would not go away. By the time, I was getting ready for the race, I doubted if I could run.
Nevertheless, I got ready and went to the race. I was hoping that the race atmosphere would help me overcome the pains. I would make a decision after my warm-up run if I'd manage to run 5k or not. I arrived early and was sitting in the car for some time, trying to relax myself and my tummy. I had a suspicion, that those stomach pains was nervousness because of the run.
When I got out of the car and met friends and fellow runners, the excitement increased and made me really want to run this race. My race number was 21, and friends joked that this was my attempted finish time. The pain seemed to subside a little. I did a warm-up run and decided that I would do the race.
The weather conditions were as bad as it could be: 35C/95F and very high humidity. Most runners were already drenched in sweat when we lined up at the start. There was close to 300 runners. We ran 2 laps clockwise which meant bad hills (at least to those who never run the tiniest ascents). Two laps of 2,5k had to be completed, which meant those bad hills had to be done twice.
The gun went off. I usually start very fast the first couple hundred meters until I settle into my pace. My stomach ache wasn't too bad. I felt OK. There were no kilometer marks on the course. I only wear a regular stopwatch, so only after completing the first lap I'd know my average speed and could estimate a finish time. I was absolutely thrilled to see me complete the first lap in 11min 20sec. I didn't expect to be so fast. In the same moment, I doubted I could keep up the speed or if the fast first lap would come and haunt me later.
My stomach ache got worse during the second lap. It felt like having a metal cube in the tummy. My legs got tired, I was out of breath, I just wanted to get this whole race behind me. The hills on the second lap were killing me. I couldn't gauge my speed but I noticed that no-one overtook me and the runners in front of me stayed pretty much in the same order. That gave me some comfort, as I felt absolutely exhausted. I kept telling myself that I had just a few more minutes to run. Then it would be all over.
Finally, the finish line come closer. I finished in amazing 22min 36sec. I was thrilled, and very proud that I did the second lap in about the same as the first. It surely didn't feel like that while I was running. I finished 7th in my age group. Being in the Top 10 makes me happy.
It was a good race to start off the season. But 5k is probably not my favorite race distance. I prefer to have a little time to settle into a race, like I would at a 10k or half marathon. With 5k you just have to run as fast as you can from beginning to end. You snooze, you loose. Thank God, I didn't :-)