Helsinki City Running day is an impressive (and very popular!) event with something for everyone. There is a 1K mini-marathon for kids in the morning. Then a half marathon, full marathon, marathon relay, double (half and full) marathon and a 5K.
We did the half marathon which was the second event of the day (after the kid’s mini-marathon). The half was split up into 5 waves with the first wave starting at 11:30 am and the last one at 12:10. We were in the very last wave based on our projected finish time (i.e. slow).
Unlike at the race we did in Belgium, the lines for the port-o-johns were really long. We also quickly realized that it must not be taboo to wear the race shirt on race day in Finland. Maybe that’s only a U.S. thing? Anyway, I’d say at least half of the crowd was wearing the purple race shirt.
Even with so many waves, we were pretty bunched up for a while at the beginning. It didn’t bother me at all though. Brian and I were running together and he was counting on me to set the pace (he’s notorious for going out too fast). I had settled into my all-day-ultra pace (pretty much the only pace I know these days). A little exercise and a nice tour of the city was all I was looking for.
What was strange was how quiet it was. We were in the very last wave, where, especially so early in the race, just about everyone is usually chatting away. But we were the only ones talking. And we tried not to say too much because everyone could hear what we were saying (because nobody else was talking!), which was awkward. Plus we didn’t want to be the annoying loud Americans. The spectators were quiet too. A few people would say “hyvä” in a normal speaking tone as we ran by. Hyvä translates as “good” but we reasoned it must mean something like “good job” in this context. Even the music was quiet. Strangely, someone early on was playing the “Footloose” album for us as we ran by. I definitely approved!
We ran through a park by some marshland,
followed a paved bike/pedestrian path, skirted the water,
ran on some soft dirt (heavenly!) through beautiful green woods,
crossed several bridges,
ran through some not-so-pretty areas of the city with quite a bit of construction and finished up back at the Töölön Sports Hall.
There were several water stops along the way with Sportyfeel and water. I had some Sportyfeel at two of the stops. It tasted fine. Kind of like Gatorade. But both times I drank it, I got a side stitch. So I switched over to just water after that.
It was really hot out. I kept hoping someone along the course would have a sprinkler on so we could run through it. No such luck, but at one point there were a couple of people with spray bottles offering to spray down runners legs. Brian and I both said yes to that! It felt really good. With about four miles to go we ran back by the water. I told Brian that if the finish line was anywhere near the water I would definitely jump right in as soon as we finished. Unfortunately, it was several miles away.
The last three miles were pretty excruciating. I thought I was just dehydrated because it was so hot and I wasn’t carrying any water. Less than a mile from the finish line we turned a corner and I suddenly felt light-headed. I told Brian I needed to stop for a minute. He was carrying a couple of bottles of Carbo Pro. I always make fun of his Carbo Pro. It is supposedly flavorless but has calories and carbohydrates. So basically it’s water with calories. I prefer my calories to have flavor. I don’t understand the point of Carbo Pro. Just before the race he had asked me what it would take for me to drink some. I told him I would just have to be really, really thirsty. And now I was. I drank some stupid Carbo Pro. And it actually tasted like sugar-water as opposed to plain water but I’m not sure that’s really any better. Regardless, he felt pretty smug and I felt a little defeated, but also physically a little better.
He asked me what I’d had to eat and I told him nothing. I had a couple sips of Sportyfeel twice. Maybe 8 ounces total. But it was just a half marathon! I thought that I had read that they would have gels at the water stops, but I guess I was wrong. But I hadn’t thought that I would need anything, anyway. I really thought my problem had more to do with dehydration than lack of fuel.
But once we finished, I realized that we hadn’t started running until 12:10. I would have been fine if the race had started at 8 or 9. Probably even 10. But it had started after lunch time. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. It was close to 2:30 pm and I’d been running for more than two hours. Of course I needed fuel!
After we crossed the finish line and were handed our medals, we were led through another buffet line of goodies. I downed several cups of water and a vanilla recovery drink and started feeling much better.
Helsinki City Running Day was (mostly) pretty awesome!