This is the starting line area the day after the race, when it was warmer and the skies were clear. The morning of the race was colder than most expected, with fridgid winds blowing across the Danube and occasional quick cloud bursts of drizzle keeping our skin covered in Goose bumps. I had layers but I expected the temperatures to rise 20+ degrees and at a certain point you have to hand over your race bag – thank Vienna Marathon for having the trucks so conveniently close to the start line!!! So then I stood around in my warm plain plastic trash bag for a half hour, jealous of the people who had branded colorful trash bags from Reebok and Gatorade.
Standing in line to pee before the race was different. I really didn’t see as many portapotties as I’m used to, though there were some special Ironman branded flatbed facilities (I’m not sure if they were open to all or just people who have participated in IronMan events.) For the guys, there were blue plastic sheet barriers set up in the center of the two main race corrals to screen big pissing tubs, half which had dividers, the other half looking like the worst backyard kids pool you have ever seen. I would have though these free for all troughs would have kept the line moving, but it seems some guys get performance anxiety…I don’t know, it was a much longer wait that I expected for the size of the line.
It’s been a while since I’ve run a race large enough to have corrals. That was an odd set up and I don’t think it was as effective as others I’ve been in, especially since it took over 40 minutes to get to the start line from the first gun. There were two lanes, each with 3 corrals 2,4,6 in one lane 1,3,5 in the others and the two lanes didn’t really merge until after the bridge and the first Kilometer but instead of just loosing the corrals as the road became free, there gave each set of corrals its own “Start” ceremony which seemed to take longer than it should have.
Running over the Danube at the beginning of the race was certainly thrilling with some beautiful views to start off the race even with a stiff wind throwing us back. I tried to get runners to huddle together and rotate from the exterior of the group to the interior with limited success. Right after the bridge you are races through the historic streets of Vienna where no two window cornices are the same.
As with many big city races, the half marathon runners were with us for the majority of the first 12 miles. Vienna was a little more friendly amongst the runners than Milan. I realize as I’m whooping it up in English, that it might be a little intimidating to runners unsure of their English. Certainly, the last thing I want to be doing when I’m running is thinking. I did have a couple Americans and Canadians run up and start talking to me. However one of my favorite things during a race occurred. I’m running a long focusing on my breathing, checking my stride, when all of a sudden behind my left ear I hear somebody say “Were you at the Milan Marathon?” Thousands of runners and someone recognizes me!!! As I turn around I recognize the guy, his name is Ludo and he is from Milan, he was either a relay runner or supporting relay runner’s in Milan. He’s slightly taller than me, which always stands out, but he was one of the spectators who started to cheer when I was cheering for the relay runners! We ran together for about a kilometer, but he was a little faster so we started to play a little leap frog with my running and walking pace. A little bit later, I think I was singing some Frank Sinatra and somebody joined in on the chorus – another Italian, from Milan but working in Vienna. We talked for a while and when we caught up with Ludo I introduced them and I think they ran the rest of the half marathon together! I passed them right before the half marathon turn off where I was churning along trying to nail my half marathon time. Ciao Amici!!!
Volunteers were still an in interesting mix. They truly just don’t seem engaged here in Europe. Water was set out on the table (except the second water station, that was a mess) not really handed to runners and volunteers were kind of standing back, smoking cigarettes, and looking unimpressed. I tried thanking them in both English and German (which I know, can be questionable), but everybody seems to speak English, and most volunteers seemed confused that I was thanking them. The exception to this was the last 4 miles of the race. Here you saw enthusiasm, here people were cheering or clapping as you progressed. Most of the rest of the course was silent. It reminded me that 20 years ago when I was performing with an international cast in Germany and Holland, audiences were eerily subdued throughout the performance until the finale when they went absolutely berserk during the end and the encores.
Two problems I had with the support tables – plastic cups and bananas. The cups with the water were a thin plastic that easily broke and then it became sharp. I cut my fingers two or three times. I’m also used to crumpling up the cup so it stays put, instead the winds blew the cups all over the place making clean up difficult. At least three or four of the water stops had bananas, which is great, but people were just throwing the banana peels in the street – a clown’s nightmare. There has to be a better way of doing this; it was seriously dangerous with slick trampled bananas all over the road.
I really must also thank my host, Sabine. I had put a call out for help hosting on one of the Up With People cast boards and she had noted that I was going to be in a bunch of cities all around Vienna, but that it looked like I was purposefully snubbing her city. When I flippantly asked if she was going to host me, she was surprised but insisted on hosting me and was going to move heaven and hell to make sure I got into the marathon. Not only that, she joined me that last 2 miles of the race, cheering me on, stroking my ego, egging on the spectators and volunteers to cheer for me. I may not be allowed to post a photo but I can openly profess my love for you here on my blog. There is no chance the borg is reading my blog.
Official chip time 5:58:51. Faster by almost 40 minutes over Milan. I am somewhat disappointed since I hit the half at 2:32:30 so that was a 3 1/2 hour second half. Miles 18-21 felt like molasses, but I picked up the pace and made the cutoff time with people behind me so I wasn’t dead last. I’ll take this as a win and head to a half marathon next week in Dubrovnik.