Leiden Half Marathon Race Recap

After my last half ended in a DNF and being so busy that I basically only trained the last 3 weeks for this race, I wasn’t sure how this race would go. But I just decided to go and see how far I would get. I knew I wasn’t going to run a PR with just 3 weeks of training, only goal was to finish (if possible in under 3 hours) and if it would end in another DNF, so be it. Website of the race said “there is no time limit for the half marathon”, so that sounded promising.

I never really know where I should start in the corral I’ve been put in. Should I start in the front so I have some space when I start running, but then when I have to walk people start pushing their way past me (even if I stay on the right hand side) or should I start in the back so they don’t have to push their way past, but then I quickly end up being the last runner and the organisation starts commenting on it? I’ve tried both and both have their pros and cons. Maybe it depends per race what would be the best thing to do.

I started in the back this time, in hindsight I should have started more to the front to get a head start on being the last runner. Since there wasn’t a time limit there were also a few speed walkers. I was happy with them being there, because I thought the organisation wouldn’t bother me if I wasn’t the last person. But at km 3 this police officer on a motorcycle came up besides me and told me I was the last person. I told him that wasn’t true, since the walkers were behind me. “No, they got dropped, you’re now the last runner. If the gap between you and the rest gets too big we need to drop you too.” I thought: “This is interesting for a race without a time limit. Anyway, I’ll just keep going until they pull me out of the race”. They decided the gap wasn’t that big and therefore I could stay in, which meant I had a cyclist behind me with a sign that said “last runner 21 km”. I’m a true introvert and don’t really like attracting attention, but that’s pretty difficult if you’re the last runner and that cyclist is behind you.

At km 5 I passed a few runners, which meant that I at least got rid of the cyclist, since I wasn’t the last runner anymore. I kept passing some more runners and by km 10 I had passed about 8 of them, but I also noticed that the cyclist had moved further up ahead of me.

By km 12 a marshal told me: “You realise you’re out right?”

To which I replied:”Uhm…no not really”

Marshal:”They didn’t tell you?”

Me:”Uhm… no…”

After which he grabbed his radio and started communicating with the rest of the organisation.

Since I could still see a few runners in front and behind me and they were all still running I decided to keep going. At km 13 another marshal told me that they would reopen some of the roads and that I would be continuing at my own risk and that I had to keep to the right. I knew that further along the course the half would reunite with the full marathon and that at that point the road would still be closed off and that the water stations and the finish would therefore remain open. It would only be about 5 km that I had to watch out. Since the route of the half marathon goes through the city of Leiden, through the fields, through some surrounding villages and back trough the city to the finish, that wasn’t too big of an issue since at that point I was in one of the surrounding villages and thus there wasn’t that much traffic on a Sunday. Only issue: I also had to try to navigate the route myself. Luckily, some of the marshals were still in place and there were a few runners in front of me who I could follow.

At km 15 I passed another runner. The girl didn’t know the route and asked if I knew. By then we were on a part of the route which is the same as the 10 km race (which takes place later in the day). So there were no 10 km runners, but I did the 10 km last year and luckily I remembered parts of the route. This saved me, because the route zigzags through a few streets and this makes it harder to see the runner in front of you. If I wouldn’t have known I surely would have missed the right turn.

At km 17 the half joins the full again, so I didn’t have to worry about the route any more and there were more runners around me. Last stretch is through Leiden itself along the canal (Leiden looks a bit like Amsterdam, only the city center is smaller). In Leiden and the other villages there are a lot of people along the route and they are all very supportive. I know from experience that isn’t always the case with people along the route of a race, but today they were surprisingly positive. “Just catch your breath, go your own pace, don’t mind that cyclist behind you”, “you’re doing great, just keep going” and every time I would start running again there would be a lot of cheering. I even got an high five from a marathon runner who was crossing the finish at the same time.

I finished at 2:53:05. Not bad considering I hardly trained for this race and I had muscle cramps for the last 6 km of the race. I understand that at some point roads have to open again, but I find it a bit unfair when you say there is no time limit but then tell runners they have to fend for themselves. Some sort of marking of the route would have helped in that case. It’s a nice course and a nice medal though.


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