We made our way from one tube station to another. The stations were choc-a-bloc. My stomach was similarly crowded. With butterflies and moths. Butterflies trying to migrate hope into my mind, the moths doubts. Being bitterly cold, the moths were feeling more at home.
Getting out of the Staromêstská station, the starting line beckons and the surrounding area is a little town waiting for some 10,000 runners. It does feel good to carry a number that for the day is the passport that allows you access to this exclusive area. We’ve made it in good time, familiarise ourselves with the facilities on offer, and in no time it’s finally time to get changed and hand the bag over. Following that, it’s admittance that the time has finally come to start.
This is my sixth half marathon, and the third one this calendar year. Rubbing my shoulders alongside 10,000 runners I should be in my element after getting so immersed in this graceful sport. And part of me is. The other part knows though that at some point during the twenty-one kilometres staring in front of me, my reserves will have to be questioned and will have to dig deep to let them do their work.
It then started. The road is smooth, and I remind myself it is a privilege to be running in the city of Prague with the roads closed for traffic. Runners pass me by, I pass by others. But I time myself for the first kilometre well.
A few kilometres more down the line, the road changes and am reminded that this is a medieval city. The tarmac changes into cobblestones and gets unforgiving as a big city like Prague can be. They are uncomfortable and more effort is required.
More kilometres are covered, alternating between tarmac and cobblestones. I am on time, but I am feeling my energy levels going down. At around the sixteenth kilometre, the guy pacing for 1:40 pass me by. He is still close, but it is the time to ask my reserves to get out. They don’t let me down by any means as they’ve been trained but they can only grind rather than flow.
I go through a mine, my Garmin loses connection. The wind is felt strong against my face and chest. Were it a mere feeling or a fact, I’ll never know. I am partly disappointed seeing the numbers on my timer getting higher, but it’s time for the last push, and from the cobblestones I transport myself to the blue carpet closing home.
I finish at 1:45:13. Almost four minutes askew my personal best achieved last February. But as I walk towards the Czech volunteer with the medals in her hand, I do feel good, and remind myself I’ve just lived an experience that will stay with me.
It’s no time to pop champagne corks but the sweat is still all mine and at this time it's warming me.