The half marathon I did in Ljubljana last Sunday was…
A) The most fun race I’ve ever done.
B) The most crowded race I’ve ever done.
It was quite the event for such a small city like Ljubljana. In total, there were 22,500 runners doing one of the four events–marathon, half marathon, 10k, and a fun run for schools.
Training Leading Up to the Half
My training this time was pretty rough. I haven’t participated in any kind of race since November of last year, when the hubby and I ran the Big Sur Half (you can check out my race report here), which was very odd because normally we do several shorter races and a couple longer ones every year. After Big Sur, I took more than six months off of running and focused on a strength training program. Then with the move and everything, running was set on the back burner. It was very difficult for me to get back into it once I had taken that much time off.
That being said, for the past 12 weeks I’ve been training religiously. I did miss one tempo run, and ended up replacing it for a short session on the rower, but other than that I really stuck to the plan.
Since I hadn’t been running much, I was worried my runner’s knee would flare up again. It gave me a little trouble in the first couple weeks, but nothing too painful.
This time around, I did not improve as quickly as I normally do. My runs were painfully slow, and I had pretty much accepted that I wouldn’t PR. I figured the slow progress was due to not having as much of a base that I normally do before I ramp up the training.
The race didn’t start until 10:30am, and this weekend was “Fall Back” in Ljubljana, so that means it really felt like 11:30. I had a ton of time in the morning. I got up at my normal time and made breakfast. I always eat oatmeal before a race–it’s just a thing I do and it works for me. So I made this Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal, which is one of my favorites (especially for this time of year)!
It was cold! We’ve had sort of an Indian summer in Ljubljana, and the weather has been VERY nice lately. Except for last week–there was a storm on Tuesday that caused flooding and loads of damage to the city, and it’s been cold ever since.
Because of the cold, I opted to stay inside the apartment as long as I could. The race start was less than 1/4 mile away, so I wasn’t too worried about being late. I made up my 10-ounce hand-held water bottle filled with some Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix (I like this stuff way better than Hammer or any other brand–they have a real food philosophy and it doesn’t upset my stomach like other brands do).
I left at 10:20.
That was a mistake! The crowds were so thick trying to get to the starting line. The corrals were closed off. I ended up starting waaaaaay at the back.
Once we got going, it was definitely a “shuffle” for a long time. It was so crowded I could barely move my feet. If I were to have fallen, I don’t think I could have gotten up and would have gotten trampled. Maybe the picture below will help show how many people were stuffed onto one road…
On the plus side, all those people around me meant that I was warm from the very beginning! No warm-up needed when you have 5 other bodies pressing against you.
I spend the next 13.1 miles in a series of mini-sprints and sidewalk jumps, followed by periods of more shuffling at turns and bottlenecks and whatnot. This is when I started to really remember and respect the race organizers for the Big Sur half last year–they did such a great job spreading things out that it wasn’t even crowded from the beginning. I think that would be impossible here though, there were just So. Many. People.
After the first 5 miles I realized the crowd probably wasn’t going to let up. I gave up on a PR (wasn’t really expecting to get one anyway) and decided to just have a ton of fun. And I did. I mean a TON of fun!!
This was the most energetic race I’ve ever done. I think it mostly has to do with the sheer number of people on the course. It was electric. I let that energy carry me all the way through to the finish. I stopped looking at my garmin and just ran with the 22,000 other people around me.
And you know what, I actually ran faster than I have been in my training. All that energy on the course really helped me ramp it up.
Here are some highlights that I remember on the course…
1. The little old lady bundled up in a wheelchair waving a flag and yelling “Bravo” at the top of her lungs.
2. All the people on the streets yelling chants and cheering on the runners.
3. The homemade baked treats some people were handing out.
4. The guy with the beer that was giving runners sips as they passed by.
5. The happy dog that was running with one of the racers.
6. After the 16 Kilometer mile marker when the crowd finally let up some and I was able to start running a little faster…and then it got all crowded again at 19K.
7. The drones that were filming the race zooming over our heads.
8.The homemade “aid stations” that some people had set up, with their kids frantically filling up water cups (THANK YOU!!!!).
9. When the 1st marathon runner crossed the finish line at the same time as I did. Yep–he ran literally twice as fast as me and twice as far–and we both finished at the same time! That was pretty cool!
My Mile Splits…
By the way, I like racing in Europe…Kilometer markers tick down WAY faster than mile markers! I know it’s all in my head, but it didn’t feel nearly as long since I was passing another marker every few minutes.
After all that, my final time was 1:54:19. That’s 34 seconds slower than my PR at the Tom King Half in Nashville. I’m really happy with that, because like I said, training was really tough this time and I wasn’t making the gains that I normally do.
It’s too bad I won’t be here next year to run this race. If I was living here for longer, I’d definitely participate every year. The Ljubljana Marathon was a blast! Next year is the 20th anniversary, so I know it will be good!
Thanks for reading!
You might want to also check out these other race reports:
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