My first 15K – Bruggenloop Rotterdam

Race day is here! I’m feeling fully prepared for my very first 15K race: Bruggenloop Rotterdam. I never ran this far and this race would not be an easy route. There are three large bridges to cross through the city of Rotterdam. But, I trained well and even added my own little trial bridge run. I am confident to be able to finish the race within the limit of two hours. My goal is to run at an average pace of 7:50 min/km, just a bit faster as my regular long run pace of 8:10 min/km. 

Race day – preparation

This is my third race and again I’m debating what to wear. The weather forecast is unclear. It could be sunny, it could rain, but it would definitely be very windy. I decided on an outfit and put it on: T-shirt, longsleeve thermoshirt and a capri. I was still unsure so I decided to bring a few other options as well: a different shirt, long tights and a rain jacket. Besides this I have my headband, neck scarf and gloves as flexible items to warm or cool down during the race. I know there will be water stops at 6K, 9K and 13K, but as I’m used to drinking small sips during my runs I will be bringing my own drinks. One 0,5L bottle of water, which will probably be too much, and 0,2L sportsdrink. 

The race starts at 15:30 in Rotterdam, which in normal driving conditions is a one hour drive. The organization advised however to come by public transport due to limited parking availability. Public transport would take me at least two hours and would limit my flexibility as the fastest connection only went once an hour. I decided to go by car and leave at 12:30 for a quick stop at the supermarket, then continue to Rotterdam. I would be way too early, but I prefer that over cutting it too close. 

After a 30 minute drive I got stuck in a bad traffic jam with barely any movement, confirming my choice to leave early. It gave me about 20 minutes delay. As I drove further I passed a few large bridges that had significant speed limits due to strong winds. Great, I’ll be running up and down some major bridges with these winds. 

I arrived at a parking lot near the start/finish of the race at 14:00. I laughed a little at myself for worrying about parking space as the large parking lot is almost completely empty. I got out of the car, took my backpack and started walking towards the starting area. It took me about 2 minutes of walking to decide the outfit I picked out would not be sufficient. After finding the changing area, which was thankfully well heated, I changed my capri for long tights. I still wasn’t sure about my rain jacket, but I figured I could just take it off if I got too warm. I didn’t want to leave my bag here and since there was enough time I walked back to my car, dropped off my bag and got a little warming up in on my way back. It was now about 15:20 and I made my way to the starting area. I’m starting from the last wave of 12K runners, so I still had a little walk ahead of me. As I reach my wave the warming up starts and soon after at 15:30 the first runners start the race. It’s a long wait until I’m able to start as well. It’s cold, windy and I’m getting a little stiff and anxious to start. I’m jumping up and down, from one leg to another, etc. I’m ready to go! 

The race

It’s 16:00 and I finally cross the start line, the race starts! It’s crowded and I have soon figured out I’m way too far in front of this third wave for my speed. I try to keep out of the way of the faster runners, but they are passing me left and right. I keep reminding myself to stick to my own pace. This lasts for about 1K, we have already climbed the first bridge and I felt strong! As I was speeding up on the downhill I was passing most of the people that had just passed me on the climb up. Somehow it seemed I was going downhill a bit more efficient as the others. As soon as the road got more flat I slowed down again and I was being passed left and right again. I always thought the slower runners should keep to the sides, but no matter how far to the (mostly right) side I ran, someone would want to pass me there. 

About 20 minutes have passed and I keep checking my watch to see my pace. It says 7:10 min/km and that seemed a little bit too fast to me. I felt good and comfortable so I decided to continue and just be sure I don’t overdo it on the uphills. The iconic Erasmusbrug can be seen up ahead and I’ve been told it’s a steep climb. Some people jump out to take pictures, but I don’t want to stop as I’m in such a good flow. I’m running up the bridge as I look around and take in the scenery. I’m enjoying these downhills as I’m usually not able to pass this many people. I was checking my watch again on this second downhill and saw speeds between 6:00 – 7:00 min/km. Fun! After the downhill I settled on a 7:30 min/km pace and watched everyone pass me again. 

 

The next part is mainly flat and it’s already dark out. I’ve already taken off my jacket, gloves and neck scarf a while ago and they are mostly pushed inside my flipbelt, together with two bottles of water/sportsdrink, my phone and car key. It’s a little annoying as it’s definitely a bit too full in there. I’m still messing with my jacket as this is wrapped around me, but the wind keeps flapping it up and down. I took the time to distract myself of my run with trying to stuff my jacket in my flipbelt as well. I managed and felt more free. I considered dumping a bit of the water, but what if I needed it later? 

Every runner was given a green light to wear and some runners were even wearing several of them. As we are circling through the city I can see a long line of green lights up ahead of me and a short line behind me. It’s a great sight. 

I’m still at an average pace of 7:30 min/km, but the next bridge is coming up. The Van Brienenoordbrug. I knew it would be the hardest one, but I had no real clue of what was ahead of me. As we are coming up towards the bridge I check my watch again and I’m a little surprised. I’m almost at the 10K point and I am well below my current PR of that distance. With still 5K to go, this felt really good. At 11K something happened, I felt a soft pain in my knee and slowed down. As I kept on running the pain changed seemingly random to a sharp pain and then back to soft pain again. I told myself I just had to reach the top of the bridge and just hope that this would be the final bridge. This bridge just went on forever. I am so relieved when I reach the top of the bridge. It is really windy up there, out in the open, and that’s not making this any easier. Unfortunately, the downhill didn’t really feel good on my knee either. I stopped a few times to stretch, but that didn’t do anything. I kept my pace slow and focused solely on reaching the finish. 

Those last 4K felt much longer as the first 11. My knee felt tight and was still producing a constant soft pain. As I finally reached the 14K mark, I get a text message from my mom. I had setup Livetracking before so she could follow my race, so I assumed I was getting a message like “Almost there!”. I checked the message and it said “How did it go?” Uh, still going, mom! It made me smile though and gave me a little energy again. With only 1K to go, I told myself I could speed up a little again. Within a few steps my knee corrected me, slow down. 

The finish line was finally in sight, but the road there still seemed very long. I pass a few people, a few people pass me. Could be the same people, I am not paying attention to anything but that finish. I put my hands up. I made it! 

I have just described the entire race, but I still haven’t found the right words to describe how I felt when I crossed that finish line. As I was driving home I called my mom and a friend to let them know how I did. I remember saying it was horrible and awesome at the same time. I guess that’s basically it, but that feeling of… accomplishment when I reached that finish line was just incredible. 

Summary

I just ran 15K, my longest distance ever. I beat my best 10K time, from my race in October by at least two minutes. The official time said 1:15:14 for the 10K and 1:56:16 for the 15K. This means I ran the 15K at an average pace of 7:45 min/km, even with my knee pain I beat my intended pace. My Garmin even gave me a faster time for the 10K split: 1:14:29. That would mean I’ve already reached my goal of beating the 1:15 for my next 10K in January. I think I’ll choose to believe the official time though.

Overall, I have never been more confident I will run my half marathon next February. 

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