Prague Half Marathon
Prague, Czech Republic
Saturday, 7th April 2018
Race report by Louise Lennox
It was well before Christmas when I booked up for the Prague half marathon. I was full of optimism for a potential PB with plenty of time to train and what looked like a fast course, with the bonus of beautiful scenery along the route.
The first thing I have to say about this race is that the prices are eye-watering. If you hit the early bird deadline, it’s a mere 50 Euros … the second wave goes up to 70 Euros and the final entry band is 90. I managed to persuade myself that cheap accommodation and everything else when we got there would balance this out – and to be fair, it did. Still…. 70 Euros!!!
Fast forward to January. The niggle that had been hampering my running became a full-blown injury – and I had to stop altogether for 6 weeks. Not the preparation I had envisaged. I was beginning to wonder whether I would even be running at all by the time April 7th arrived. Luckily, I began to see a light at the end of the tunnel about half way through March and I was given the all clear to start running again. I had built up to being able to run 10 miles by March 25th. 2 weeks before race day. Another 10 miler wedged in to the following week, and I began to think I would get round the 13.1 miles after all.
We arrived in Prague on the Friday and made our way to the impressive Expo, which was in a beautiful building with a dramatic stained glass roof. The fun fair that had camped outside and the numerous stands selling food, running kit and pivo (beer – it’s everywhere!) also suggested that this was going to be quite some race. The weather forecast of 21 degrees and glorious sunshine indicated that it was certainly going to be a warm one.
On the Saturday morning, we followed swarms of other runners to the start area. Organisation was great –there was lots of flag waving, enthusiastic introductions of the elite runners and pacers, and music to get everyone going. I found a short stretch of road to warm up and then made my way to find my start pen. It was a bit bizarre that there were people who weren’t doing the same – this was 9:45am for a ten o’ clock start and there were plenty still making the most of the free kinesiology taping and massage!
Once I found my starting area, I crossed the start line in the usual mass wave of people, trying to weave through the crowds of runners all trying to find their pace. This was a bit frustrating for the first few minutes and there were cobbles underfoot making it a bit dicey in places. Some parts of the route were narrower than others, but for most of the way it was fine after that first half mile. My first mile buzzed in – not too far off what I had been hoping for. The 1:40 pacer was still a bit ahead, and I was hoping for somewhere around that as a realistic goal given the lack of training. Along the route there were plenty of refreshment points – the booklet said every 5K, but they seemed more frequent. Cups of water (slightly sparkling – apparently the Czechs love it) – which I found impossible to drink, Gatorade (yuk!) lovely sponges, which were my salvation, and cut fresh fruit as well as lots of friendly faces at the sideline for most of the route made this a well-organised race.
I passed the 1: 40 pacer at about mile 3 and decided to push a bit to see how I went. The route itself is a great PB course as well as offering some beautiful scenery along the riverside in places. Some parts are cobbled, but there aren’t many inclines, and they are balanced by plenty of gentle descents and flats. You cross a lot of bridges – this makes it ideal if you have travelling support! Along the way were motivational cheerleaders and live bands – if you haven’t heard a Czech version of ‘My Boy Lollipop’ before, this could be your only opportunity!
At 10 miles, my legs were predictably starting to show signs of lack of training, but I’m nothing if not stubborn, and managed to keep fairly consistent splits – the flat course certainly played a part here! The heat was also starting to make life a bit difficult – we certainly haven’t had much warm weather training in Newcastle recently!
800m to go …. my legs were really tired, but I did my usual 2 laps of the track mantra… I could see the finish arch and began to push a bit harder for the line. Oh. It wasn’t the actual finish arch after all – just an impostor! Thankfully the real McCoy was only about 70m further round the corner, but it nearly did for me! The finish section is on a lovely springy red surface, which was a nice touch. I even managed a smile for the finish line camera. I had finished in 1:36 29 (chip time) which was well within my target. And the sun was shining. I grabbed my water (sparkling – the Czechs don’t seem to do still at all) and meandered towards the free massage area to sort out my legs of jelly.
The race motto ‘All Runners are Beautiful’ was strangely fitting as I joined hordes of other exhausted, sweaty folk who had all been through their individual 13.1 mile battles as part of the 11, 000 who crossed the finish line. A fantastic experience, highly recommended for a fast half marathon, or for a really enjoyable race in a beautiful city .
Thanks to Rob Savage for the race photographs.
Full results can be found here