The coolest Half Marathon ever – by Cristina

Popular WITC’er Cristina Moldoveanu looks back at a memorable – and freezing cold – 2013 Warsaw Half Marathon

Did I mention it was -7 outside in the morning” The WITC crew brave the wintry conditions before the race

[I have] a story to tell… feel like today’s race deserves one and I want to remember most of it!

Last year I somehow managed to keep running through the winter and had the privilege of having Lizzy Shackelford as my race buddy – can’t thank her enough for encouraging me all the way [you can also read our write-up of last year’s race here].

This winter has been a bit too brutal for my taste and I barely put any km in these legs.
Top it off with a sunny getaway (can you blame me?) 2 weeks before the race – where running is a hilarious story in 40 degrees and 150% humidity …and this completes the picture of how prepared I was to just come and do a half marathon.
One long run the week before was all I had the chance to do …so I knew this was a race I’d have to do on my own…
Oh, did I mention the -7C outside in the morning?
So I’ve not really set a goal for today but I know doing worse than my last run would be demotivating so I shall try not to end up there.
Here we go…a short chat with Natalia Burcovschi before the start – whom I somehow convinced she has nothing else better to do in such a lovely weather but to join us for the race, and realizing we won’t be able to chat anymore (did I mention the cold?)… we start running.
It takes a while before we actually start running – as more than 10,000 people showed up today(!) – but…the race is on!
Off we go…trying to get into a rhythm and trying not to go too fast, that’s always a risk, but with that many people around you it’s actually not that hard today.

Only after 5-6 km do people start to spread out and I realize I’m going a bit fast but I’m comfortable by now and the flags marking the distances just keep on coming.
I don’t know when we got onto Wybrzeze, but we’re running along the Vistula already and it is KM 8. To break the monotony a band plays beautifully and I can’t help appreciate the gesture and wonder how they put up with the cold (did I mention the cold?)…when someone taps me on the shoulder. Well, if it isn’t Tristan Sakura from underneath all those layers! Saying to me: “wish I’d worn my T-shirt”. He has a few T-shirts on, so I wonder if he meant the club’s T-shirt or if he’d rather run in just one T-shirt?…I’m about to answer: “well, you wouldn’t win the prize for the best outfit today if you were”(did I mention the layers he had on?) but I just mumble “yeah” and watch him going.
I’m still running too fast – but I know the time when I’ll slow down will come so better build some buffer now. And then there’s the hill… OMG, the Belvederska hill…

Km 13 – little not so fresh anymore, but hey, half of the half is left behind and here comes Lizzy to cheer me up with “only 7 to go!”. Back to my race…”I wonder how Nata is doing?” and “Where is the pace makers team running for 2:00, they can’t be that far behind?”.
Another brilliant band rocking the way (the guys playing the electric guitar was awesome!) but not a lot of time to enjoy that cause here it is: the mighty Belvederska hill!

To my knowledge there’s just this one hill in Warsaw and the organizers thought to spice up things a little bit and throw it in at km 15?!
Here we go, just don’t stop running! Dragging my heels up the hill, pretty much “in the zone” when Mark Poczman calls my name! hardly a proper “hi five” – Mark, I know I did not look excited to see you, trust me I was – just not able to show it that much. :)

Thank God, the hill is gone…hmmm, what is this friendly cool breeze doing here …and why is it following me? Great, some cold wind was all we needed, can’t feel my hands by now.
At this time we start seeing spectators again, but it’s not like I actually see or hear anyone anymore…I’m in the struggle zone. I need to get more air, there’s only this cold one available (did I mention the cold?) and my lungs are not enjoying it, I can tell you.

Passed the palm tree and I’m on the bridge! Normally this is like “you’re on your way home” but I know the last 3 km are not going to be bliss, to say the least. My legs are tight and I feel I’m starting to run out of gas…

“Do you mind some company? ” Ewa Smiechowksa all of a sudden asks. I’m thinking “Is she serious?” In my dreams I can catch up with her … but not in real life so her gesture to slow down to my pace when I know how she can easily put a 3km finishing sprint on just moves me. I’m trying not to slow her down too much and she offers me some energy gel – which we both know won’t help much at this point – but never underestimate the Placebo effect :)
I know I’m slow so there’s no point in checking my watch, I really don’t want to know now….almost there…The official time right before the finishing line showing 2:08 is confusing me for a few good seconds …before my dizzy mind realizes that’s brutto time and it took long before I actually started running…phew, we’re good.

There should be a sign for km 21 for people like me unable to sprint before the last 100m. Time to give it all now…aaand happily cross the finishing line!!!

Taking out my chip is just a pretext to crash for a while…I’m dizzy as I make my way to collect my medal but to be honest the plastic sheet we receive to cover ourselves with – that is the best thing now. (did I mention it was cold? I did? …several times?)
Marching though the snow and the puddles – ah, so much for my dry feet – along with the hundred people coughing – is it the cold? – passing the trucks(!) the Powerade is being distributed from, with just the though of handing over my chip and going to get warm!
And slowly getting immersed in great mixed feelings of achievement, exhilaration and relief.

oh, yeah, the time you may wonder : 2:02:30 – new PB!!!

Showing off those hard-earned medals after the post-race curry – and feeling a bit warmer by now too!

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