So the actual race morning was a lot less, well, nightmarish. I would have liked another hour of sleep but Sophie doesn't allow that sort of behavior from Mummy at this age. We had a nice breakfast at the B&B and then I got dressed for the race. We went back to the race expo so that I could exchange my race shirt for a smaller size (it's always hard for me to guess whether I belong in M or S), and then I found the entrance to the start. Lined up behind the 1:55 pacers as according to plan and then was surprised when we all started running at 10:28...
Leiden is a pretty big race - my number has five digits, and they started the half together with the full marathon. So that was another reason I was glad to have the pacers as we fought through the crowds. I only had to keep track of them and didn't have to think of much else. They ran the first kilometer about exactly on spec (5:28) but most of the rest of the time they were going too fast. I did notice this but decided that, since I secretly hoped to beat 1:55 and they were well on their way to doing just that, I would stick with the pacers most of the way around at whatever speed they were going and then try to put on my acceleration in the last 3-5km or so.
To be honest I didn't notice a lot about the race and the course except that it was indeed flat, and windy. There were people cheering and clapping along most of it along with several brass bands. The sponge posts had sponges shaped like a runner - I really should have got one just for that. The pace was about right for making me feel mildly uncomfortable but not straining to keep up, and I just sort of noticed km after km tick by, almost all of which were faster than target pace. I did notice that there was a weird part of the course description where it seemed to be sending us over a spot on the Rijn where there is no bridge according to Google Maps, and I couldn't figure out how that was supposed to work. It turns out that they did indeed set up a temporary pontoon bridge at that spot, looked like maybe some military vehicle for the purpose. That got a laugh out of me. I also tried to make a point of high-fiving any kids I saw holding their hands out, and I was a little surprised how few other runners were doing the same. I like acknowledging the spectators and sort of wonder why other people don't.
Around 16km there was a funny little loop on the course that was clearly there to make up the distance, and when we got there it was a little congested so I decided it was safe to get in front of the pacers and run my own race for the rest. I'd been afraid I would fall apart if I didn't have my 'safety' runners to track anymore but I felt surprisingly okay (though obviously really tired!) At 19km I got a nice little surprise, where Mike & Sophie had found a spot to cheer for me! I made sure Sophie saw me but I think I passed by too quickly for her to register immediately, but I'm told she was very very excited to see Mummy run! They saw me again just before the finish but I didn't see them that time.
The finish was a bit uppy-downy (by Dutch standards) due to all the canal bridges in central Leiden, but lots of people, lots of crowd energy, lots of cheering, and I was able to find a little acceleration for the finish (although I wouldn't call it a sprint.) The clock read 1:56:23 when I crossed the line but my chip time was 1:53:43, decently under the 1:55 that was my official goal. Apparently this puts me in the top 20% of women finishers, which is a better result even than the Zürich 10K in April.
So all in all I am pretty pleased! I wish I had felt less tired throughout, but that is typical I suppose, wanting to feel effortlessly speedy instead of having to work for the speed you've got. I told myself some time ago that I wouldn't think about doing a marathon unless I had reason to believe I could finish in a time that qualifies for London or Boston, and this half time is still a few minutes outside that so I'm off the hook for the time being. ;)
I made a reservation yesterday at the best Dutch-pancake house in Leiden for dinner, so we duly went along this evening and I had two very fine pannenkoeken as a reward for my efforts. Even so I think it will be some time before I run for longer than an hour - the 10K was more fun all round and I bet I could beat my PB if I tried...