Utrecht Science Park Half Race Recap

Today was a first for me. A first DNF. But then I guess there is a first time for everything. I ran a 5 k and a 10 k race last weekend, on the same day, and I was fine. Sure, I didn’t get a PB on the 10 k, but you can’t always run a PB. I knew that to begin with, because I have trouble running during the winter, so during spring I’m not in the best shape yet. I run my PBs during autumn. And I’m fine with that. I’ve had enough rest in the past week, although I could have slept more I suppose, but I’m currently working 60 hour weeks, so that wasn’t really an option. So, the point is that I probably could have finished the race. I’m not injured and I wasn’t in any pain while running today. The point was the race, or to be more specific, the organisation.

The Utrecht Science Park Marathon isn’t the biggest race. There are about 2500 runners for the full and the half combined. The marathon is 2 loops and the half is 1 loop. Their website only gives a cut off time for the full: 5:30 and you should have finished the first loop after 2:45 if you’re doing the full (which makes sense). There was no specific cut off time mentioned for the half, but I assumed it to be 5:30 since it’s the same course and you start at the same time as the full. So all those marshals ect. will be there anyway for the full marathon and the roads will be closed anyway.

It was 12 degrees today. That isn’t a bad temperature for running, but it was very windy and the wind was very cold. What didn’t help was that the bag drop was 1 km from the start. So you needed at drop off your stuff about a half an hour in advance, because you need to get back to the start and you generally need to be at your corral about 15 min in advance. So this resulted in me being incredibly cold for over half an hour before the race. Not a great start.

I’m in the last corral (as is often the case), but that’s fine. At least I generally have the space to move around (although this isn’t always the case). But after the start I quickly notice that I’m getting quite far behind on the rest at there are about two other people around me and that’s it. So it seems that the rest of the corral is pretty quick in comparison to other races, since I’m running my normal race pace. Yeah, sure I’m always towards the back, but even for me this is rare.

Two km into the race and there’s a cyclist from the organisation next to me checking if I’m not doing the full, because if I was I obviously wasn’t going to make the cut off in their eyes. Since I’m doing the half he lets me be for a bit, but the sag wagon is right behind me the whole time and the cyclist returns a couple of times.

Since there is quite a gap between the 3 of us at the back and the rest, the comments from the spectators aren’t getting any better either. There’s even a couple with a child (which I guess is around 4 years old) telling their child “Look, this one’s not even running anymore!” when I pass them by.

After 4 km there’s a police officer on a bike next to me. Telling me I shouldn’t be walking at all, I at least should keep moving. This seems to be the new kind of encouragement people give at races: “Don’t walk!”. I’m sure they mean well, but it’s really not helping. So after 5 km I decided to step out of the race. I wasn’t willing to be herded like a piece of cattle for another 2 hours. So I told them I was done and got into the sag wagon, which would take me to the 10 km point where there would be another van to take me to the finish. In hindsight, it probably would have been better to keep going until the 10 km point and just get in the second van there, but I didn’t know this at the time. While in the sag wagon I noticed they were timing one of the other runners to see if she was running under 3 hours or not.

I really don’t get this. If your course if going to be open anyway and all marshals in place anyway, including all other facilities. Why get so fed up with the half marathon runners? Why not let them be, instead of continuing to push them about their time? And if you do have a specific cut of time in mind for the half, at least clearly state this on your website.


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