Date: 06.09.2020 Time: 1:23:41 Distance: 21.1km
The vast majority of races around the world have been postponed, or outright cancelled. Conveniently for me, one of these postponed races was the Müggelturm Half, which was due to happen in spring, but got pushed back to later in the year.
I hadn’t entered until the day before but got myself down to race HQ, paid my €30 (a lot for a half marathon, but that’s what you get for entering so late), and secured my starting number.
On the day it was almost perfect weather, if a little warm for running. But it was a sunny and crisp morning. Given that the race HQ was a lakefront bar I was eagerly anticipating my post run beer & veggie burger before we’d even warmed up.
One of the changes that had been made due to COVID-19 was the introduction of a socially distanced start line. This actually worked pretty well, with people following the rules and wearing their masks properly. Everyone stayed a good distance from each other and wore their masks until after the start. We were organized into three lines, with each runner starting 1.5m behind the next. Thankfully I was able to get a spot just a few rows back for the start line, putting me in a good position to see the race unfold, while staying in the mix.
After an enthusiastic rendition of a German folk song (which was not the strangest start line* I’ve experienced but it was certainly up there) we were off. It only took 500m before a front group of four was established.
The group was; myself, Andy and two others who we didn’t know; one strong runner in the half marathon (who we later found was a cool guy called Matthias) and a younger lad racing the 10k. I later discovered the young 10k runner was the German national U16 cross country champion. He left us for dust at the 5k point.
That left three of us, and given we couldn’t see anyone behind us we were pretty confident that the podium was sorted, but in what order?
The course was a two lap affair, mostly off road, with the first lap taking a slight detour to go up the Müggelturm hill. But the three of us stuck together for the first lap, all seemingly in control and even finding the breath to chat and crack a few jokes. But around the 13k mark Matthias began to push the pace.
Slowly but surely the pace increased and Andy began to fall back. Just a meter or two at first but by 16k the gap was ~100m and it looked sure that he’d come in 3rd. I was quietly confident that I would be able to push the pace in the last few Kms and pip the win, if only by a small margin.
And this was exactly how things played out for the next 3km. Andy was out of sight, out of mind, and I sped up just enough to mean that Matthias fell off the pace. The win looked like it was in the bag. What I didn’t account for was Andy’s ability to kick out a seriously strong sprint finish when he really wants to.
I was aware that I had slowed down a little, only by about 5sec/km, but a quick glance over my shoulder showed that I did not have the comfortable gap I’d hoped for. Andy was bearing down on me fast. In the final two Km I felt like a buffalo being chased by a lion. I certainly sounded like a buffalo.
In the final 400m Andy came storming past me and I had no way of responding. All I could do was watch while he powered away from me, running 3min/km and finishing a good 10 seconds ahead of me in the end.
Look closely and you can see me doing my best impression of a buffalo.
After the race I did get my hands on the beer & veggie burger that I was hoping for. It tasted all the more delicious in the sunshine, overlooking the lake, with Andy & Dan (who finished with a strong 1:28).
In the end I won a free entry into the sister race, the Müggelsee half in mid-October, for taking 1st in my age category. Andy will also be there and it’ll be time for a rematch…
*my strangest start line experience was probably the Etna Ultra Trail, where they had the local priest / pastor / unspecified religious leader come and sprinkle us with holy water before the start.