City-Pier-City 5K

To say I ran the City-Pier-City is a bit of a misnomer. For one thing, I only ran the 5K not the full half marathon, which is what most people assume when you say you ran the CPC, and for another, the 5K doesn’t actually make it as far as the pier anyway. That aside, it’s the most famous local race, and one I’ve been planning to do for years. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll actually go for the ‘real’ thing.

My current official 5K PR is 33:02, set last March at Zandvoort. My unofficial 5K PR is 32:20, set 4 weeks ago at the 10K in Groot uit Schoorl. So, going into the race, the thoughts in my head were, ‘new PR – got to be more than doable… sub 31:00 would be brilliant, but I’d still be happy with sub 32:00… sub 30:00? don’t think I’m quite there yet… but you never know’.

One nice thing about this race, it’s only 15 minutes away by train and on familiar territory. I’ve never run in that area, but I used to live a couple minutes walk from the finish, and the route went past the English church, where I used sing.

After yesterday’s gardening I was pretty stiff this morning, but was loosening up nicely by the time I got into The Hague. I decided not to mess around with bag drop offs, and didn’t carry anything with me – with such a short train journey I figured I could live without taking a book to read, and since the sun was shining I figured I didn’t need to worry about taking a sweater.

When I got to the start there were already a lot of people filling the corrals, and since I didn’t have anything better to do, decided to also line up straight away. I’m sure the corrals were supposed to be segregated, but there was no sign of that, and people were just lining up from the start, so I followed suit. I was pretty shocked when I realised how close to the start line I was, since I’m used to being so far back I can barely see it, and worried about getting in people’s way, so I figured I’d just hug the right hand side and try not to be a nuisance!

So, a long, long wait whilst they counted down the clock, organized a few Mexican waves… the usual loud music and bla bla bla over the loudspeakers, and we were finally off. Even thought I was near the front it took a minute or more to cross the line, longer than I’d expected. I couldn’t see a clock, so I had no idea for the finish what time I should be looking for.

I was in the middle of a very mixed bunch – lots and lots of kids, never seen that before, but apparently there were a lot of schools taking part (I heard announced at the end that one school had over 400 kids running!). I very quickly realised that I shouldn’t be worrying too much about holding other people back because I was really struggling to run my own pace, thanks primarily to the number of people running in groups… at an even slower pace than me (who’d have thought it was possible). Bizarrely enough, I was overtaking people every time I got a chance, including a lot of walkers. I’m used to seeing people walk a little, especially further on in a race, but not in the first 1km, and certainly not when starting at the front of the pack.

The first km I was pretty sure that I should put thoughts of a PR out of my head, as my experience in the Rotterdam Ladies Run last year (slowest non-triathlon 5K ever) showed me just how slowed down you can be by the crowds. Still, I did my best to keep my own speed, and try to get around those holding me up, and before I knew it the first km was already by.

The second kilometre is mostly already lost in memory, but took us down towards the peace palace, along a bit of road I used to cycle down twice a week. All I can remember from that part of the race is the hassle of getting stuck behind people – I’ve been very lucky to date that this hasn’t been much of a problem, but I have to say that it rather spoilt today’s experience for me. Whilst the atmosphere at a big race is great, I’m very much coming to prefer the more low key events.

Kilometre number 3, and we turned off to the right and ran past the English church. Quite a funny feeling, since I realised that the Sunday morning service would be taking place, and that friends of mine would be inside singing in the choir. The road was slightly uphill, and also brick, which is never that nice to run on. Part way along I veered off onto the cycle path which was slightly smoother running, but it still wasn’t that comfortable. I’ve been spoilt with my trail running of late!

I was beginning to feel the results of my efforts at this point. I still had no idea what sort of pace I was running, and if I was on target or not, the only thing I could do was continue at the same pace.

Finally we hit the 4th kilometre marker, and I knew we were on the homeward stretch. Apparently I gained some speed back in that km, with an average pace of 6:00 min/km. I was really at the point where I was hanging on for dear life… I became aware that the sweat was pouring down my face, as were the tears – always a constant factor when I run, but by some miracle my nose wasn’t running like a leaky tap – definitely a first, I can’t remember when that last happened!

It was pretty hard hanging back at the end, but I knew I’d blow up if I tried to speed up too soon for the finish. We came across a random time clock, which was reading 26:50 as I passed… of course I started wondering, how far into the final kilometre were we? Surely not halfway… anyway, I realised as I was pondering what this time meant, I had no idea when I crossed the start, so it was all pretty meaningless.

Finally I turned the corner back onto the Maliveld and along the final stretch to the finish. Distance markers counting us down to the end. I tried to hold back, couldn’t. Slowly sped up, and a bit more… tried to read the clock in the distance. 32 something? Hmmm… that means I didn’t do so well as I thought. No, hang on… 30 something? Really, could it be possible? Yep, saw it tick over onto 31… gave it everything I had for that final stretch, saw the photographers on the side… a bit too late… threw my arms in the air and crossed that finish line.

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And then fumbled, and staggered. Tried to get the phone out of my pocket, unlock it, stop the clock. Should have got it out when I was running, but it would have been too distracting. The time: 30:17.

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What I posted on DailyMile on the way home: “crikey, blimey, WOW! Only hit phone out of pocket when I stopped, how long did I fumble I wonder? 18s worth???!! Doubt it! Either way HUGE PR and so, so close!!!!”

Afterwards I wandered around the Malieveld for a bit trying to find the tent to pick up my race t-shirt, and kept my eyes peeled for my fellow DailyMile runners, to no avail.

The final results:

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Conclusions: I wouldn’t do the 5K here again unless they organized the start better, tripping over all those people through the race was annoying, but I guess it wouldn’t be an issue at the 10K or the Half so much. But I’m glad to have finally ticked off one of my more local races, the one that everybody around here always asks if you’ve done.

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