This was the first international race I have run that has been a distance shorter than a marathon. Normally, I would not have considered traveling internationally for a race of this distance or less but this event changed my mind! It definitely helped that this is my “home-town” for a while so my “travel” to get to the starting line wasn’t all that far!
I will be doing a race review later this week that will focus more on the race itself and not have my personal race times in it, but since many have asked me how the race went, I thought it would be easiest to put a race report up here of the aspects of my race in addition to the actual race.
Thessaloniki Half Marathon
There were many aspects of this race that drew me to want to run it. It was a night time race (which sounded cool), it was to have over 8,000 runners (in both the 5K and half), it was a loop course (three loops), and it was not far from where I am (big plus!). I selected this race about 7 weeks out (back during my little Iceland Marathon challenge) and knew I was only going to have about 4-5 weeks of good training after my Iceland Marathon for this race. My goal for races like this is to want to always do better than before, even when my training may not be as good as it should be. That is definitely not a good way to approach races because I always tend to go out harder than I should.
Prior to training for this half, I finally got a coach to help me train more specifically. I know that my race times can be lowered but I also know that I need to target my training better. Having a coach would help me to accomplish that. So, we had about 5 weeks of his training schedules before the half. At the beginning, he asked what I thought I could do. I told him that my PR was 1:37:40 and I thought I may be able to do that with my fitness level. He trained me towards that goal and my training commenced.
The race began at 6:42PM – just about 20 minutes before dark. It worked out perfectly as the sun was a bit warm, even at that part of the day. My coach told me to hit the first 10K at a pace of 7:30-7:35 per mile and then try to drop it after that. That was really hard for me to do since I always try to “bank” my time (bad move, I know – banking involves trying to run harder for as long as possible for the inevitable time that you are unable to sustain it and will begin to drastically slow) but I knew better than to go with my gut over his instruction.
I did my pre-race warm-up and some strides and lined up (almost 3,000 runners in the half-marathon – largest half I have ever run!). We were packed in there for about 10 minutes waiting for the starting gun. When it went off, we took off to the cheers of the very large crowd that surrounded the starting line. We headed down the street on our first mile. The big problem was that (as with many races) many slower runners lined up near the front and they were right in the way of all the other runners that were faster and it became very congested for the first 1/2 mile.
The course was a loop of about 4.3 miles each. The elevation was minimal and the streets were well-lined with spectators cheering us on. It was really nice to run these well-lit streets at night – streets that are normally some of the worst traffic streets in the area. The first loop was just a good time to figure out what the course held for us and to concentrate on staying around a 7:33 pace. I was really anxious about keeping that pace since I would need to do a 7:24 pace to hit my goal. However, I was a good boy and kept that pace for the first 10K.
I had one main goal for the loops and that was not to be lapped by the leaders. Fortunately, that goal came true! I knew there was a chance that I would be lapping other runners on my final loop – I just didn’t realize how many I would be passing! When I took off on my third (and last) loop, I started my real race then. It was a great help to have another runner around my age that I had been around most of the race. We both started to make our move at the same time. We kept pretty close for the last loop and really turned it on for the last mile or so. He ended up edging me by 10 seconds but he was a huge help to me to push me and he told me I was a help to him as well. We passed many runners – that definitely made me go faster and stronger! The one thing I felt really bad about was all those runners as they passed us walking to get our medals knowing they had to go one more loop even as they saw many runners celebrating their finish.
Overall, the race was excellent! Look for a race review to come later this week and how you can run this race should it become a race of interest. In the meantime, here are my mile splits for the race and my results.
- Mile 1 – 7:31
- Mile 2 – 7:35
- Mile 3 – 7:25 (oops!)
- Mile 4 – 7:29 (I was really trying to stay in the 7:30s!)
- Mile 5 – 7:30 (there we go!)
- Mile 6 – 7:30
- Mile 7 – 7:12 (now I was allowed to run)
- Mile 8 – 7:19
- Mile 9 – 7:11
- Mile 10 – 7:18
- Mile 11 – 7:00
- Mile 12 – 6:55
- Mile 13 – 6:55
- Mile .1 – :40
Time: 1:36:16 (a new PR by 90 seconds!)
I was very pleased with my new coach! Something that was amazing to me was that my last 10K was actually faster than the one I ran back in NY in the summer – and took 2nd place on my AG then (it had not been my best 10K but the 30 year olds in my area aren’t that fast Needless to say, I was very excited about this race as I had not had a good race in over a year. Now I am really looking forward to seeing what will happen in Dubai! Thanks for reading – I was excited enough about this to share it. Watch for the race review later – the Thessaloniki Half Marathon is a great race!