I like a physical challenge every now and then, so this morning I ran the Shanghai Half Marathon (21.1 km), starting at Nanjing Dong Lu and ending at Minhang Stadium. Because of the knee injury that I got in Tibet I had not been able to practice for almost half a year, and only 6 weeks ago I started training seriously again. Actually too short to run a half marathon, and certainly too short for a full marathon, so I dropped the idea to participate in the full 42.2 km event. And that was a good idea, because the half marathon was hard enough.
The start was at 7:30 AM, and I was surprised to see that former Dutch prime minister Ruud Lubbers was the starter! I knew that Mr. Lubbers was in Shanghai (I got invitations for both a breakfast and a dinner, probably like many other Dutch business people here, but did not go), but had not expected him to to see him here. Later I noticed that a large group of Dutch runners participated (The Rotterdam Ambassadors), maybe this was related?
I had a good starting position, and 15 seconds after the start I passed the start line already. Immediately I started with a relatively high speed, and it felt good. However, my shin splints started to play up a bit, and I had to reduce the speed in order to make the pain more manageable. It took a few kilometers before the pain went away, but then I also started to realize that I had started to quick. The first 5 km I ran in about 22 minutes, and then I slowed down a bit. At 6 km I clocked in at 27 minutes, and I stayed in that tempo.
The weather was nice (about 15 degrees and sunny), but I still needed to drink a lot. I know that I need a lot more water than most other runners in order not to dehydrate (see also what happened in the Macau marathon a year ago), and every 5 km I made a short stop to drink at least one cup of water or energy drink. Especially after 10 km and 15 km I felt a lot better a few minutes after drinking some fluids.
Like two years ago (when I ran the full marathon here) the traffic police did a terrible job, and for several kilometers the runners had to run in the fumes of cars that were stuck in traffic jams caused by the marathon. Why they cannot close some roads in advance I don’t understand. Two years ago I sort of decided not to run Shanghai anymore because of this, and although the problem during the half marathon is not as bad as during the full one, it’s probably not very healthy to run here.
Overall the race was not easy, and especially the last 7 kilometers were quite difficult. Then you realize you did not practice enough, and certainly not at higher running speeds. But ‘no pain, no gain’, so I pretended not to feel my legs and kept the same speed. The last 500 meters I gave everything I had, and passed several other runners that had been in front of me for the past kilometers. I finished in 1:42:14 (after time correction), which means an average speed of almost 12.4 km/h. Better than I thought, because I went out on a 1:50 schedule, and in my mind I would have been happy to finish within 2 hours. Next time that I run I will practice a bit more though.
Thanks to my wife and to Gary who both got up very early to support me today. They drove me to the start, tried to meet me half way (they were one minute too late, because I was far ahead of schedule) and they supplied me with food and drinks afterwards. Gary, next year you should also run!
Some Shanghai Marathon pictures can be found here.