Leiden 5K – 34:54

I’ve been obsessively watching the weather forecasts leading up to the Leiden Marathon today. After a couple days of downpours, I woke up to more of the same this morning… not too promising. Nervous Facebook checking confirmed that fellow runners Emmy (Leiden half marathon, and the person who got me running again – thanks Emmy!) and Josie (10K in Nijmegen), also had nothing but running and weather on their minds!

I headed off for Leiden early, so that I could collect my start number and watch Emmy at the finish of the 21.1km. She was looking in impressively good shape, as Jamie’s photo (taken a little earlier) shows, and finished with a time of 2:04:47. Despite the crowds we managed to meet up at the end and killed some time before my race started an hour or so later.

So, then it was my turn. My expectations weren’t too high – I haven’t run seriously in over a year (since I ran the 10K last Spring) and I haven’t managed enough training since I decided to sign up for the 5K. Still, I was determined to give it a good attempt, and hoped I wasn’t going to come in last.

Standing on the start line was exciting, but nerve wracking. Never mind that you have nothing to lost, and nothing really to prove, standing on that start line gives you butterflies. After 5 or 10 minutes jiggling impatiently before the start, the runners joined in the final 10 seconds countdown, and we were off!

The course took us through the centre of Leiden and through some residential areas. It was fairly easy running, aside from one cobbled area and the four or five bridges we had to cross. The lowest point in the race for me was a fall, somewhere around the 1.5km point – I turned my ankle and fell flat on my face (or more accurately, my left knee). The resultant stinging took my mind off muscle ache, but also broke my pace. Still, I was up on my feet pretty quickly, and didn’t pause to catch breath before starting running again. Although it took me a little time to find my balance back, the fall left me doubly determined to complete the course.

At the 4.5km mark, the encouragement of spectators along the way spurred me on, and I managed a final sprint to the finishing line, getting in just under 34 minutes (33:54). My final position was 778 out of 922 – less than half as fast as the fastest runner, but about twice as fast as the slowest! For interest, I’ve produced a rough graph showing the distribution of the times.

As I hoped, the experience has fuelled my enthusiasm for running again, despite the impressive colour of my knee. I’ve signed up for the Rotterdam Ladies Run in June (5K again, don’t think I’m ready to tackle the 10K just yet), and now, of course, I have the incentive of beating my time from this race.

Gadgets and Widgets

In an effort to get a little fitter before my holiday in November, I have now signed up for the fitness club at work, and, even more unexpectedly, joined the running club. I must admit that I attended my first running session with quite some trepidation, not in the least because I am the only beginner in the group and my recollections of school athletics classes were not encouraging. Still, I have now survived three running sessions and I begin to feel that there is hope yet!

Ever one to require verification of my progress through measurement, I have also acquired a Nike Plus sensor (and, ahem, a beautiful shiny blue iPod Nano). I took them out this evening for my very first solo run, and here are the results.

On a more indoor note, I have recently received my marks for the latest Open University course, Molecules, Medicines and Drugs, (I passed!), and am now embarking on a new short course in Nutrition, as well as challenging myself to a longer course, Understanding Health Sciences, which will take 9 months to complete.

As you can see from the nutrition chart (from www.2000cal.com) , the “measure it” principle doesn’t only apply to running, and the Nutrition course has lead me to investigating websites which will log your food intake, and give you a nutritional summary. A nice feature of the course is that part of the assignment involves analysing your own diet (or that of a willing guinea pig… any volunteers?)

Analysis of over the last week already shows that my diet is low in Vitamin A (interesting, as Vitamin A is good, amongst other things, for night vision – something which I’ve always had problems with). Although walrus liver is apparently a good source of Vitamin A, I’ve decided to go for the more practical, not to mention palatable (I hope!) approach of drinking carrot juice (guess there’s some truth in the saying the carrots help you see in the dark, after all).