Friday, 26 May 2006

Copenhagen

It has been drawn to my attention that I have fallen silent. It may have seemed that I took early retirement after New York, but in fact I was only playing possum. There was a humble 5k in Charlottesville on New Year's Day, not an auspicious race as I was several pounds overweight notwithstanding the gastrointestinal virus I'd had for the preceding couple of days. Then I did some training, and managed in a civilised time a couple of 20 milers, one in Wymondham (ear Norwich. Norwich? Imagine Britain's a bunny rabbit, facing left: Norwich is the tail. Picture it?). Another somewhere else. Then there were a couple of ten milers, and a 10k which was more or less straight uphill for the first half. That was the first race when I was with the leaders at the end of the first kilometer (with about 1200 people behind us) ... and then they speeded up. And then there was Copenhagen.

The Copenhagen marathon started at 9:30 Denmark time last Sunday. It was windy but not yet raining. Many of the runners seemed quite tall. The race organisers decided that, as my birth year is 1966 (Pomerol, please), I should be in the 40-44 veteran category. When I first saw this, I had some faint hope of getting some silverware at the end. However, the race included the all-Denmark championship, so every fast forty-year old in Denmark turned up at the start line. My optimism waned.

Without going into details, it had been a bad week, and there was less adrenaline in my reserves than was optimal, but, always game for a bit of self abasement, I started with the 3-hour pacers. For the first half of the marathon I ran at a pace of 4:14 per kilometre, which is one second a kilometre faster than 3-hour pace. Odd, then, that when I crossed the half-way line in an immaculate 1:29:26, the 3-hour pacers were visible on the horizon at that point. The course, which consisted of three loops, the first and third more or less identical, was fairly flat, but quite windy. The winds cut along the main canal, where we ran along the water under the shadow of the diamond -- the national library, which leans out over the water so the reflected light strikes upward on the ceiling and ripples across the building -- and past the statue of a woman driving a team of oxen -- she turned her relatives into oxen, then used them to cut a furrow between denmark and sweden. They could have saved an awful lot of money on that bridge if she hadn't done that.

After the half-way point I slowed by about fourteen seconds a kilometer, adding 5 mins or so to my second half. many others (including the two Kenyan leaders, who crashed and burned within a couple of k of the end, leaving victory to a Dane) seemed worse fated ... I passed eighty odd people (thirteen of whom were over forty) in the second half, and came in 166th out of 4600 or so finishers, and 31st among the vets. I passed the line in 3:03:54, which is seven and a half minutes faster than I've done it before. The three-hour pacers were six minutes in front of me (and no one was with them by that point). Next year I hope to break 3.

At the finish line I exchanged a few words with Sara from Essex, whom I passed near the end, and who had very nice form; met Lauren and Marchamont, got dressed, ate some things; we went for a coffee, then a one-hour boat trip around the canals of Copenhagen. As we pulled back into the harbour it was thundering with rain ... and the finishers were still coming in, wet, cold, beaten by the wind, limping and probably fantastically bored. I think these people who can run for five and a half hours are amazing.

To see the photographs, go to:
http://www.photomotion.dk/
and type in my number, 1157
where it says "Indtast deltager nr." (which means enter runner number)

The medal, with a red and white ribbon, shows the team of oxen separating Denmark from Sweden.

J

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