This morning the 2009 edition of the annual Shanghai Marathon took place. This year a group of 15 Spil Games Asia staff had decided to run the half marathon (21.1 km), and of course I also joined the race. Because of my ankle injury in early October I could not practice a lot (I had to stop running for 5 weeks), and I did not have high expectations of the run. I told myself I would be content with a time below 2 hours, and happy with 1:50-1:55. But even though the race was a lot harder than previous half marathons, my final result of 1:43:51 was much better than I had hoped for. As a comparison, in 2007 I ran 1:42 with about 6 weeks of practice, and that race went much more easy.
The marathon started at 7:30 AM on Nanjing Road, but most of the Spil Games Asia crew met at 6:15 already for a final briefing and for some pictures. Shortly after 6:30 I went into the start area to secure a good starting position. Because so many people participate in the Shanghai Marathon (about 20,000 this year, according to yesterday’s Shanghai Daily) you can lose a lot of time at the start if you’re not in the front of the pack. I decided to stand on the side so I could talk to my wife a bit and so I could give her some of my clothes. It was quite cold this morning (about 8 degrees) so I was wearing some clothes over my running clothes. Only when start area got really packed around 7 AM I took them off, because the body heat of all the people raised the temperature a lot.
Peter Driessen, Spil Games co-founder and CEO, had flown over from Holland for the race and we stood next to each other before the start. It was his first half marathon today actually, but he did not seem nervous about it. Around 7:15 Shanghai TV started its live coverage of the marathon and next to overview shots of the runners they also had a camera with an interviewer walking around. For some reason the TV presenter walked up to me and put a microphone in front of me. She asked a couple of questions (where are you from, why do you run the SH marathon, what do you think about the event etc.) that I answered in a positive way. Not long after that there was a Haibao dance (Haibao is the mascot of the 2010 Shanghai Expo) followed by the Chinese National Anthem (everybody sings along loudly in China, very different from Holland) and finally there were some obligatory speeches. At exactly 7:30 a gun was fired and off we went.
My wife was back at home already by that time to pick up Scott, and she watched the start on TV with him. And guess what? The camera showed me again! The first few kilometers of the run were quite difficult. I was cold and I could not really get into my running rhythm. I did not know exactly what my pace was because of all the others around me, but after 5 km my time was about 23 minutes, so it seemed I was well. I did not feel well though, my shin splint was hurting a bit and I still felt cold. Some sports drink at the 5 km point helped a lot though, maybe I did not drink enough before the start. From 6 to 12 km it went fairly easy, and I passed the 12 km point in 56 minutes. Much faster than I had expected, and probably a bit too fast. I also met my wife and Scott around 11 km, Scott was so happy to see me that it gave me an extra boost.
After 12 km I suddenly did not feel as good anymore and I had to slow down a bit. Around 13 km my colleague Joop Dorresteijn (Twitter: @joop) overtook me, but I was not able to keep up with him. If I had been in good shape I would have stayed with him, but I just could not speed up. From about 15 km onwards running was not fun anymore, all my muscles were hurting and my body told me to stop. But of course I did not do that and tried to think about nice things, such as the food I would eat after the run. I was so tired that I did not even see my wife and Scott at the final turn into Minhang Stadium! I finished in 1:43:51 (net time), much faster than I had hoped for and I was happy about that. At the finish I saw Joop, who had only finished about a minute earlier, he also slowed down a lot in the last kilometers as well apparently. Congrats with beating me Joop, you were stronger today. See his blog post about today here.
After getting my certificate, medal and gift bag (no running shoes this year, just a pair of socks) I went out again to watch the finish of the full marathon. The winner finished in 2:10, not a top time, but not too bad either. Surprisingly he didn’t seem very tired after the run. Soon after some more Spil Games Asia staff came in, and some colleagues had quite impressive times. Several of the girls had never run a half marathon before and had also not trained sufficiently for a good time, but still came in with times between 2:15 and 2:20. Almost everybody finished within 3 hours (the cut off time), just one or two were stopped and had to end the race in a bus. We all had some snacks and drinks after the race and took one final group picture before going home. Thanks to all the Spil Games runners and also to the group of 25 supporters that followed us from 6 AM onwards and who took a lot of pictures. It was a fun event and also good for Spil Games Asia’s team building.
This afternoon I took a hot bath followed by a Chinese body massage, and I now feel like reborn. Too bad there is only one long-distance running event in Shanghai per year, I would not mind running more often without having to first take a plane or a long car ride.
For more information about the Shanghai Marathon see also my blog posts from 2005 (full marathon) and 2007 (half marathon). I just realize that during both races I had just recovered from an injury as well, I totally forgot about that already.