Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Lisbon Half Marathon - Race Report

After wandering around Lisbon (around 5 miles in the end due to a miscalculation in the distance) on an overcast, windy and wet Saturday prior to Sunday's race, I got a sunburnt head. So did eatingtrees actually. Plus LG's face was pretty rosey too. Silly. Everyone knows you burn in overcast conditions but I thought, 'well if that's the worse that happens, it'll be a great weekend'...... And it was. Awesome food, fantastic company and a great city although I have to say I preferred Prague last year.

Once we'd found the expo and got our race numbers, timing chips and had eaten more traditional custard tarts in Pasteis de Nata than I will ever admit to on here, a couple of things struck me. Firstly: Why no technical t-shirt? A black and gold trim Adidas affair is not exactly what I was looking for. In fact, I doubt that cotton t-shirt will ever see the light of day again! The second black mark was the timing chip. I love the ones you put on with sandwich ties. So easy to cut off at the end and no having to unthread the damn things from your laces!! We had the unthread your laces ones. Mind you, that may have saved me come the end but more on that later. The third black mark was nowhere to store anything. Basically, whatever you took with you to keep you warm/dry/fed/watered for the hour or 2 before the start, you carried or binned come 10:30am.

What we thought was going to be a tough journey to the start however, was very easy. Plus with the sun starting to shine (although half of the bridge was covered in mist), some music blaring, the helicopter circling and a generally great feeling among the athletes I had a big smile on my face. This particular event had been my idea, a PB was a very outside possibility and the start was over a brigde that spanned over 2km. I don't care what anyone says, that's an amazing way to start a race and such a cool thing to be a part of.


The start to 3km was all good. Great atmosphere and a great feeling. Then we hit concrete where there was an instant rise in temperature (later confirmed around the 18 degrees but hotter in direct sun). 3km to 5km was still OK. Timings not amazing but OK. 5km to 7.5km started to hurt but that's when I saw LG, camera in hand and cheering loudly which really helped. The next 2.5km was OK too as I knew I'd see LG again in a minute. More photo's of a fat bloke running (yep, me) and I was gone.

10k time was somewhere in the 54/55 minute region which in that heat I thought was respectable. I just needed to get through it. 11km was EXACTLY 1:01:00. I now had a 10k to do and I was home. I knew there was no PB anywhere near at that point because I was already slowing badly but little did I know what was waiting! The longest bit of the course goes from 8.5km to 18km in one long straight Not a corner in sight! I was at 11km, already struggling and knew I had another 7km before I could even turn back round and aim for the finish. It was horrible!!! The train that LG was on, ran parallel to the course and when I next saw her at 15km, there was no camera and a large look of concern on her face. I must have looked a complete state for her to look that concerned. I later found that she'd seen me when the train had gone past and I had looked awful! She even tried to run a few steps with me as support which was lovely but I told her to stop pretty quickly. A pregnant lady in jeans should not try and run with their half-dead looking boyfriend in direct sunlight!

However, it got worse, by 16km, I just wanted to stop, find a curb and cry. I have honestly never felt like giving up on anything more than during this race. Around 16.5 - 17km I did something that I had never done before. I stopped and walked for 30 secs or so. I have always been so proud that I'd never walked during a Half Marathon but I can say that no more. As soon as I did, I knew I'd made a mistake. My legs were like jelly and my head was extremely dizzy. I think there was some dehydration there although I made sure I drank at every water station as well as carrying my own bottle all the way round. I got running again but really wanted some water. I had to wait until well after 18km until I found some. Then I devoured some while walking for the 2nd time ever! I kept half a bottle with me though in case I saw eatingtrees. I had no idea where he was as I'd been in my own world for so long, he could have gone straight past me! I did see him on the other side and after getting his attention, I gave him the bottle because if he was suffering anything like I was, he'd want the water. I ambled on and after one more quick walking stint around the 20km mark, I came over the line in 2:09:44. A personal worst and 15 minutes over my PB. I felt awful and not just because of the time. This one hit me mentally. If LG had been able to get anywhere near the finish line, I think I would have just grabbed her and sobbed. Remember the second black mark and the timing chip??? That's what saved me from bursting into tears! The concentration required to get down there and undo, unlace, re-lace and re-tie my shoes stopped me from breaking down. When I saw eatingtrees once he'd finished, all I could do was apologise for suggesting the damn thing in the first place.

As this reads like a cry for help, I feel I need to finish on something slightly more positive so here goes. Firstly, I don't own a better looking medal than this one and as for Lisbon, it's great. Go there and do the Half Marathon. It's a really quick course and you'll enjoy every moment of it. Tadese certainly did... he broke the world record at exactly the same moment I was starting my rapid decline. Well done to him and everyone else who completed it, there were many unfortunate people that didn't.


  1. you've got to have the lows to appreciate the highs. sounds like it was a tough one, rest up, think about what you learnt then think about the next time...
    I am aware I sound like a teacher, but I mean it!!
    and above all, WELL DONE. you didn't give up.

  2. Seconded, WELL DONE! You finished, you were proper brave and didn't cry, AND you had custard tarts...

  3. Nicer medal than you get for the Reading Half ;-)

  4. cracking review Hauling, sorry it got you shaking hands with your dark side but hey, that's running! Sounds like a good weekend out anyway barring the glitches. JG

  5. Wait for Brighton and no gears, then you'll know suffering!!
    Sorry it was a poor race, hope the weekend made up for it - with that heat after our winter and knowing how much everyone I know suffered in last year's London Marathon in the same temperature, any finish is a result, I reckon.

  6. Nice review mate,

    dont know how you made it through that last straight section in those kind of temperatures without stopping!

    I remember I did a 10k in Everton once in 20 degree heat but it might as well have been 50 seeing how hard the run felt!