Wings for Life 2016

The weather forecast looked promising. For the spectators at least. Every model predicted BBQ, cold beer & ice cream. For us, runners of the Wings for Life World Run, however, all that would have to wait until after the finish. And for once, that would come sooner for the slower amongst us. I guess that’s fair, in a way. It didn’t always feel fair during the race though…

I knew up front that the heat was going to be hard on me. It always has an impact on me, especially the first heat of the year, as if I need some time to get acclimatised. Still, I knew it would be even harder on other people, so from a ranking point of view, it wasn’t all bad. But when it comes to total distance in this weird concept, and how long I was going to be able to maintain that 4 minutes for every kilometer pace… a whole different story.

Still, I decide to stick with the original plan: 15k per hour for as long as I can manage, and for the first couple of kilometers, I’m managing just fine. I catch up with Misha, last year’s 2nd, just within arm’s reach back then (an arm of 130 meters that is). We have a short chat and stick close to one another for a while. Suddenly, I hear someone yell my name and spot Sander, standing in the middle of the road, his awesome son in his neck. I high-five them and charge on. And then slow down again, best not to get over excited! There’s a plan, let’s stick to it.

But things quickly start to take a change for the worse. The thighs just don’t feel fresh and the feeling doesn’t fade. I check my heart rate: 162. Nope, not today. I try to keep up the pace up for a while but eventually decide that the smart thing to do is focus on the heart rate instead of the pace. When we’re heading back to Ypres, I considered calling it a day. My quadriceps are pretty much killing me and the mantra-like rhythm of last year was nowhere to be found. I’m not doing myself, or my body, a favour here.

But in the centre, Kim & Sander cheer with such fire that I just can’t step out. At the next supply post, I pour some water on my legs and Kim brings me something to drink and I try to focus again. Miraculously, things start to go better, driven by fresh energy, fresh legs and, when the cycling companion of the guy running in front of me throws a bottle in the fields in the middle of nowhere, fresh anger. I catch up with him, tell him how fucking uncool that actually is and leave him behind like some environmental superhero or something.

Superhero’s, too, have their weak spots. And mine are quite a few today, the heat not the least of them. I somehow reach the 30 something kilometer point and good and bad moments take turns. I reach 35k. I reach 40k. I’m around 14th position when a cyclist catches up with me. “The car is about 600m behind”. I push it a bit harder and overtake some runners.

“How fast is the car going right now?”, I ask. Turns out, 20k an hour. Some quick calculus tells me I have to hang in there for another 8 minutes or so. I slow down a little, still running about 14k an hour. I overtake another runner. I pass the 44k sign, a long way from the 56 I did last year. 45 Sounds better to me. It’s nothing like 56, but definitely better than 44. I give it my everything and reach 45k just before the car catches up with me.

45.08. It’s a long way from last year’s 56k. Is my current shape that much worse? Or was it the heat. Food for thought. Still, I’m not entirely unsatisfied. 11th out of 3300 in Belgium alone, 343 out of over 90k world-wide. It’s not all bad.

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