Background: Due to pregnancy, childbirth, getting back to running, and a pandemic, I haven’t raced since the Crouch End 10k in 2019 (at about 11 weeks pregnant). I’ve been feeling the itch to compete again, mainly to motivate myself. So when I completed a recent Strava challenge and it plugged the Wings for Life World Run, I quickly signed up. The basic idea is everyone starts at the same time and you have to keep running until the chase car catches you. My good friend Hannah ran Wings for Life live a few years ago, and I remember her talking about the strange experience of having to just keep running until being caught by the car. Due to the pandemic, this year’s event was run virtually; the app tracks you via GPS and tells you when the car catches you.
Goal: I’m not in racing or long distance shape, so my goal was to make this my longest run of the year (and longest post-baby run). The app told me that if I wanted to do 15k, I would need to average 6:07/km. On the day, I decided to aim for at least 14k (to complete my weekly mileage goal) and not push the pace too much.
Race strategy: Try to maintain an average pace of around 6:00/km, break the race into thirds (I figured I’d be on my feet for about an hour and a half), and enjoy it. A challenge for me was the 1:00pm start time – not my body’s ideal running time – so I knew I’d have to just see how I felt after setting out.
Weather & outfit: Classically, it turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far. After weeks of cool weather, the heat was turned up to about 25C/77F (maybe more) by the 1pm start time. It was sunny with a bit of haze. I wore shorts, my Heathside club vest (for nostalgia! I’m no longer officially a member since I don’t live in London anymore), and my Brooks Ghost 13s, my everyday running shoes (remember, I wasn’t really “racing” this). I took a couple of shot blocks and my running water bottle.
The race: I had originally thought I’d run laps around the Aasee but I knew it would be packed at midday on an unusually warm Sunday in May – not social-distancing-friendly. So I opted for an out-and-back along the Dortmund-Ems Canal that flows through Münster.
I felt sluggish and a little bit nervous all morning, even though this wouldn’t be an all-out effort for me. But I was a bit anxious about the midday start time and whether my various niggles would hold up over a longer distance than I’d run in a while.
The first couple of kilometers were indeed sluggish, but once on the canal I got into a pretty good rhythm. The World Run app would check in every kilometer with a cheesy motivational statement, which was slightly annoying but also somewhat amusing!
After the first 5k, I knew I’d manage at least 14k, so I decided to keep going down the canal and turn around after 7k. There was a bit of a headwind on the way out, which had a cooling effect; I definitely felt the heat more on the way back and was glad I had my water bottle.
I took a shot block and a short walk break around 10k. I was actually still feeling quite good, although the fatigue started setting in around 11.5k. When I got off the canal and headed back towards our neighborhood, I was ready to call it quits…but I had to keep running until the car caught me! I surged a bit to run through my 14k goal, and then pretty much shuffle-jogged my way through the rest, waiting to be caught by the virtual car.
The result: I was (finally!) caught by the virtual chase car after 1:32:50 and completed 15.26km (9.48mi) in that time. That’s an average pace of 6:05/km or 9:47/mi. It’s about what I was aiming for.
Post-race: I finished in my neighbourhood and walked the last steps home, where F presented me with a big glass of cold sparkling water. After a shower, I devoured half a Laugenecke and a Käsebrötchen with a boiled egg. F took E out for the afternoon so I could sit with my legs up and recover a bit.
Next up: It’s unclear when races will resume in our part of Germany, so this is a big TBD/TBC.