Göteborgsvarvet 2013

I did it again.
I am happy that I finished without exhausting myself.
I am happy that I adjusted my pace and made sure to drink plenty.
I was very happy indeed when I saw the thunder clouds come sailing in and realised that the last part of the run would be blissfully free of sun.
I am happy that I felt well after the run.

My time and the feel of the race itself?
Less so.

Göteborgsvarvet is a yearly half marathon taking place here in Göteborg in the middle of May. 2013 was my fourth time running, my first time being in 2009. I missed 2012 because I fell ill. Before 2012 a half marathon was actually the longest race I had ever participated in. Interestingly, during 2012 and 2013 I participated in three longer races but not a single half marathon. The experience of running 21 kilometers seemed oddly foreign, especially with the feel of 50 kilometers fresh in both body and mind. I expected it to feel short, but otherwise I felt very new to the whole thing. Should I try to go really fast? Should I take the time to drink much? Would I take long to get going because I had been running much longer races recently?

I quickly realised that this was not a day to hesitate about losing a few seconds to drink. Even less so as I quickly brought myself out of any illusions about being able to improve my times. Göteborg showed itself from its very sunniest and hottest side, the heat being even more pronounced by arriving just days earlier after a pretty cold spring. It was hot and mercilessly sunny, and even while I was waiting to start I was worrying about getting too much sun and heat. I started relatively fast, but even from the start I felt that the drive and energy just was not there. It was not going to be a quick and euphoric flow to the finish line. This was going to be energy management and a fight with myself.

What fascinates me, sort of, is how my motivation seems to be a pretty early thing to go when the going gets rough. Sure, I was warm and all that, but I was not feeling seriously ill, dangerously dry, in pain or anything else. But there clearly is a type of exhaustion where my motivation just dries up. Sure, I always wanted to finish, and was never seriously doubting my ability to do so (just the pace), but I did play with the thought of not finishing and wondered what motivation I had. Breath was shallow, arms were tired, body was warm, the velcro straps for the timing chip was gnawing at my wrist … I ended up in an interesting place: I was neither going to run faster than ever, nor farther than ever. It was all going to be shorter, slower and warmer.

So, what to aim for?

Where to find motivation?

What I arrived at was finishing in a good way. To not exhaust myself completely, but sense my limits and act accordingly. To run like I had actually learned something from running long distances and being in touch with my body. So I slowed down. I drank a lot. I even walked a few times. And I did get the slightest bit of energy back. I did start running again, and I did not feel horrible when I finally reached the goal. Again, I was not particularly happy with the time, but I did finish in a sensible way. I want to be good at this part, too. I seem to be getting there, because I have only felt better about the experience as it has sunk in.

This is what I do, right?