For 2016 I decided to have a few international races in my calendar, and one of them was the Moscow Half Marathon. The idea for this race came from my girlfriend, to combine a weekend in Moscow together with a race. It would be the second race outside the Netherlands, after my Strong Viking adventure in Belgium in April.
The journey started on Friday 13th of May by taking my flight from Amsterdam via Paris to Moscow. Arriving in Moscow at the end of the afternoon marked my first visit to this mighty city. On Friday evening we visited Red Square before we went for some nice pasta at Jamie’s Italian. For a 21,1k race you need some good carbs in your body.
On Saturday I picked up the race pack at the expo near the Luzhniki Stadium. The race number 1619 would be my lucky number for 2016. I had just recovered from an throat infection about a week before, and had to take in antibiotics for 7 days. I didn’t have any trainings in the last 3 weeks, so my goal was just to finish the race and hopefully in a time close or slightly under 2 hours.
Race Day, ready or not?
Sunday, the race day. It is always an exciting feeling before a race, some adrenaline and anxiety in your body: am I ready, did I do enough training? In what manner shall I start, slow or fast? How will my body feel and react to this track?. You don’t want to start too fast, as you want to keep some energy for the final kilometres, nor do you want to go too slow. How do you divide your energy and make sure you can finish bearing in mind that this is an unknown track, what can I expect? All these questions always strike my mind, every single race.
So I changed into my race outfit, put on my orange compression tubes for my calves, got a good luck kiss from my girlfriend, and headed to the starting area. And then it started. We ran away from the Luzhniki Stadium towards the Luzhniki embankment, making a left turn after 400m to run along the Moskva River. I made a careful start as we were running in a big group and I wanted to find the right pace. I did my first kilometre in 5:34, a bit too cautious, so I speeded up a little. While running alongside the Moskva River over the spacious Frunzenskaya embankment towards the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, you have a nice view on Peter the Great, a monument of enormous size.
Those kilometres I managed to speed up a little with an pace of 5:20/5:30 per km. The first 5k went good and I felt perfect, making it within 27:40. I felt comfortable to reach my goal. At the 6th and 7th kilometres we took a left turn towards Red Square, and then, right before it, turned left again to go over Bolshoy Moskovertskiy bridge, crossing the Moskva River to walk on the right side of it. This meant a little elevation gain on the bridge, and slowed my pace to 5:37 on this part. But when we passed the bridge, I gained my pace again and ran the next kilometres in 5:20 to 5:30. Running on the right side of the Moskva River on Raushkaya and Kosmodamianskaya embankments we passed the 10k mark at 55:22. After 10,7 kilometre we made a 180-degree turn to run back and headed back to where we had started. It gave me a good feeling as I knew how I could spread my energy over the rest of the course, with only a small elevation at the bridge again, but the rest of the course flat ground and music along the way.
The kilometres passed by, running still in the 5:20/5:30 per km up till kilometre 16. It became tougher and I felt like I used all my energy. The outside temperature was around 14 degrees, but the sun was shining. At the 16th kilometre I had to slow down a little bit, doing it in 6:09, but I gained my speed again for kilometre 17 making that in 5:39, before kilometre 18 became really hard and I had to slow down massively, taking this kilometre in 6:52. I saw my goal almost vanishing before my eyes, but I wasn’t going to let it happen. But while I was approaching the 16th kilometre I saw my girlfriend standing alongside the track and cheering up for me. So knowing that she had to rush back to the finish line, I wasn’t going to let her wait for me. I found my energy back and I finished the 19th kilometre in 5:37 and the 20th in 5:51, and took the final sprint on the 21st kilometre in 5:15.
I finished this marathon in 1:59:25, just under 2 hours achieving my goal and being the happiest guy to run into the arms of my girlfriend. The medal of the Moscow Half Marathon 2016 was not too big and heavy, but still it was an important one to add into my collection. It marked the end of a nice adventure and a great race, one of which I would definitely consider one of my favourite races, even that it was only my first in Russia ever.
Since I have never been in Russia before, and a running experience through super spacious streets of Moscow was my first, I decided to come back some day. So in 2017 I returned in Moscow and completed Half Marathon again! Better trained, I achieving a PR, as this track would be very suitable for that.
Are you interested in how I achieved a PR at this course? I will tell you about my 2017 adventure in Part 2!
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