Against doctor’s advice, who last week told me not to run for at least a month, I decided that the pain in my ankle had reduced so much that I would give the Shanghai marathon a try anyway. I promised my wife I would stop when it would start hurting too much, but I was lucky because I hardly felt the injury during the run. And yes, I did it: I finished the marathon with a net time of 03:59:28
We had to get up at 5 to be on time at the registration. I did not feel very well last night and could not sleep until 4 AM, so with only 1 hour of sleep I started my run this morning. Interestingly, the registration desk that you had to sign up for before 06:30 did not exist. For some reason this was cancelled, but nobody knew for sure. So I had one hour before the race would start and I walked around a bit, talking to some other runners and watching a performance. 10 minutes before the start I entered the start area, that was quite full already. After a short ceremony that included singing of the Chinese national anthem the race started. It took me a little over a minute to pass the start line, and almost 10 minutes before I could run at my own pace. Some people in front of me started to walk almost right after the start. They should not be allowed to start from the front, because they brake the speed of everyone behind them.
After the first 1o minutes I found a small group to run with. We were running at a pace of just over 12 km/hr, very nice. The weather was sunny but it was still a bit chilly. The start was at the Bund and from there we ran all of Nanjing Road until Yan’an Lu. I was thirsty and had my first drink at the 5 km point. After 59 minutes we passed the 12 km sign, and I felt great. Qi handed me some Gatorade at the corner of Zhongshan Lu and Hongqiao Lu, and would meet me again at the 17 km point where the full- and half marathon runners split. Because of the high pace I was there before her, and she waited for an hour before realizing I had passed. After the half marathon point (in 1 hour 46 minutes) I still felt fantastic, but got a bit hungry. Qi was supposed to give me a banana at 17 km, but because I did not see her there I was without food.
During the race there were lots of people cheering the runners. Many schools had given their students flags and drums to beat on, and everyone was cheering “Jia You!”. In difficult moments that helped a lot.
Soon after the half marathon point it got more difficult. My muscles started to hurt and the pace went down quite a lot. At the 25 km point I decided to drink a lot of Gatorade and walk for 2 minutes, that helped a bit. But aroun 30 km my legs were hurting so much that I started to worry about being able to finish. But luckily I met Qi at 33 km and her cheers (you are almost there!) and refreshments made me feel a lot better. However, the pain got so bad that I had to slow down my pace even further. At the 40km point I realized I could just make it within 4 hours, and I decided to give it a try. My body protested, but I did not to give in. It was extremely hard, but I managed. Although my gross time was 4:00:32, my net time was over a minute faster. I was very happy!
I could hardly walk anymore and totally collapsed on a towel on the grass (because of the nice temperatures it felt like summer, except for the Christmas songs piped out through the loudspeakers of the shopping center opposite Minhang stadium). After relaxing in the sun for 20 minutes I could not get up anymore, and had to ask someone to help me! Then Qi arrived and we went to get my certificate. We had to wait in line for 1.5 hours for this… This is almost dangerous when you just finished a marathon. And what I feared happened: a older man a few spots in front of us suddenly collapsed and had to get CPR. Shortly after that another participant was carried away on a stretcher into an ambulance. This was totally irresponsible, and the organization should learn from this and send the certificates by mail.
At home I had a long hot bath and then slept for 2 hours. Feeling a bit groggy now, but still plan to have a nice Italian dinner with Gary Wang later (he also wrote on his blog about me running the marathon I just heard, but it is in Chinese: http://www.toodou.com/channel/index.php?blogId=121 – and when you are there anyway also check out the interview Gary had with Pacific Epoch, it is the blog entry right below this one). And after that I plan to have 12 hours of sleep! Tomorrow will be a busy day again: I need to change my laptop, then an interview with a Dutch journalist at China Bay and maybe later Toodou, followed by a meeting at China Bay, and at night drinks and dinner with Ninie Wang, a succesful entrepreneur from Beijing and INSEAD classmate from Qi.