In preparation for the Berlin Marathon in September, my trainer decided that I should try to run approx 2 races per month over the next few months. I’ve never been good or fast at racing, but I do push myself harder than if I was just trudging along by myself. Here’s a recap of my first race in January, and the lessons I learnt 🙂
Race #1 – #IGNITEDXB Puma Night Race 5 km, 17th January 2017
Having taken up running again in early January, my first race was the #IGNITEDXB Puma Night Race 5 km run in mid January. The race was set to loop over Meydan Royal Bridge in Dubai. Finding the location was the first challenge, but thanks to Google Maps I found my way through the crazy mid-week, after-work Dubai traffic. This is a really cool location. If you’re into photography, you may want to check out this site for some cool photo opportunities.
The race was well organised, sending out any essential info on race day via email. The welcome pack included a Puma badge and a Puma technical T-shirt. Nice shirt, Puma – thank you so much! Just one question. Why make a running shirt for people who live in the desert black??? Race number pinned on, and timing chip attached to ankle, off I went to warm up. The crowd was a good mix of pros, amateurs, and pram-pushing walkers, which made me feel a lot better. I was never going to place, but I wasn’t going to be last either 🙂
The 10K group started first, followed by the 5K group a few minutes later. The race was off to a rough start, as the first part of the path led through a completely unlit street, in the pitch black, with various booby traps (drain pipes and serious pot holes) – I am still surprised that I didn’t hear of anyone breaking an ankle. Past these hurdles, the rest of the track took us over the bridge, which is in great condition. The view over the Dubai skyline was great. At several stages we took downhill exits off the bridge, just to do a u-turn at the bottom to ascend back up the bridge.
Upon completing the race, everyone received a medal and a free food and drinks voucher. They set up a huge buffet which served a proper big after-run meal, and the bar served not only soft drinks but also alcohol to my surprise. It was a very nice after party with music and prize giving. Overall, definitely well organised and enjoyable. The only downsides I found were the pitch-black path at the start/end of the race, which I think was dangerous, and the fact that they had tons of photographers present but only photographed some of the people, resulting in numerous disappointed runners including myself.
Here are some harsh lessons I learnt from my first race:
Check the race map. And although I looked at the map of the track, I did not realise how many inclines there were going to be. Finding myself running down and back up several sections of the bridge messed with my pacing and timing. Next time, I shall study the track properly.
Pace yourself. I know I am bad at pacing myself in races – this was a major failure in the half-marathon I did in 2009. This time I had my Garmin Forerunner on and aimed to pace myself to approx 6:00 min/kim throughout in order to achieve a 30:00 time. I did quite well, but the unexpected inclines slowed me down. I think I did alright though for a first race, and although I was pretty puffed at the end I managed to finish off on a nice sprint, finishing in 30:10 with an average pace of 6:05 min/km.
Eat right. I had a busy day at work, involving a rushed lunch. I had severe stomach cramps as soon as I finished the race, which lasted for hours. Never have I experienced this after running. I didn’t know if I should curl up in the foetal position or throw up or or or … it was pretty bad and didn’t subside until the next morning. After reading up on this issue, I see that it is a common problem that can be alleviated with proper food and hydration.
Hydrate. Again, this comes down to the busy day at work and inadequate preparation. I was not properly hydrated before the run, and did not want to fill my stomach with liters of water just before the run, so I ended up with a good headache and the ridiculous stomach cramps afterwards.
Watch your technique. As soon as I finished, with that beautiful sprint, I noticed a pain in my right foot. The pain was along the bottom of my foot, towards the outside of my sole. Every step I took sent a shooting pain through the sole of my foot. I had started working on changing my running technique just recently, and had started feeling this (what I believe is a) tendon become tender while applying this new technique earlier in that week. I didn’t want to waste time in implementing the new technique slowly, so I tried to run as best I could, only using the new technique that I was still learning. I am pretty sure that this, plus the spring in the end, aggravated the already tender tendon even further. It took three weeks to settle down completely, and stopped me from running for quite a while. Not good.
Now, with the foot back in good shape, I don’t have an excuse anymore and need to start getting back into it. But how hard is it to get up at 5pm to go for a 1 hour run at 8 C in the pitch black, when your bed is so comfy…?? I had almost forgotten how hard it can be.
As I am off on a 3 week holiday from mid Feb to mid March so the next race isn’t on till April. Hopefully, the lessons learnt here will make race #2 a more enjoyable one.
The only picture of the run that shows that I was actually there… front right, second row, turquoise shirt, black head band 🙂