Sunday, February 19, 2012

Heart Breaker Half Marathon

Cold February Sunday morning, 6 AM.
Hot shower, banana and some water.
The usual pre-race ritual.
Rolling calves on my water bottle. Spreading a little Vaseline on my feet, putting ankle warmers on and heading out, barefoot.
It is brisk outside, a windy 35 degrees.

Heart Breaker Half Marathon story

About a year ago, first week in January 2011, I signed up for the traditional Portland's winter half marathon - Heart Breaker Half. I was feeling great, ready for my first half.
That was week 26 of my transition to barefoot running and I ran 35 miles in it.
Too much.
Too soon.
My right fibula did not like the pressure and cracked. Stress fracture just six weeks before the race. That reminded me I was still in my early transition to barefoot running and to take things slowly. The dream of running a half marathon did not happen at that time.
A year has passed.
I got stronger. Faster too. Somehow lost interest in running on pavement anymore. Have been running mostly trails.  A trail freak - some friends call me. Ran my first trail half marathon last year in July and did pretty good.
However a road half marathon is still somewhere on my list.

6:55 AM
All this is in my head as I am walking slowly to the race registration booth feeling the cold pavement under my feet. Sun is still down but it is getting lighter outside. Downtown streets are calm and quiet and the only busy area is around the World Trade Center where the race starts.
Lately I have been feeling really good on my runs. It feels like I finally got over all the growing pains in my transition so last night I decided to grab the opportunity. I am going to find out how a road half marathon tastes like and run it today.
I strap my Five Fingers to my arms as emergency shoes and I am ready to roll.

7:30 AM sharp and off we go. A pack of about 500 runners slowly spreading out. I start somewhere in the middle. 35 F. It is cold but the pavement is dry so feet will warm up in no time. It is the perfect running weather.

At the start

Mile 1 to 5
All flat. I am quite familiar with this section. I have run it twice before at 10k races so I know what to expect and where. There are some rough pavement areas so I occasionally stick to the nice, soft, painted line saving feet for later. At one aid station they are offering fresh strawberries which is nice so I grab one and save it for later too. You never know.

Mile 5 to 10
Climbing up 600 feet. At the beginning I quickly eat my strawberry convincing myself the fructose rush is going to help me to conquer the hill. The placebo effect works its magic. I am really enjoying running uphill. All 5 miles I keep passing the runners in front of me.

Mile 10 to 13
Fast downhill all the way to the finish line. Pavement, pavement and more pavement. My feet get bored and I have to find a way how to entertain them somehow to compensate for the missing trail elements (mud, sharp rocks, slugs). I start running on raised curbs wherever possible trying to keep balance as long as I can and when that is not enough I run zigzagging the road. It is nice to have some fun on a run.


Strawberry is long time gone but adrenaline still works so let's sprint to the finish line.
My time right under to hours is about the same I had on my trail half marathon but the feeling is different. 6 months ago after finishing the trail race I had to massage and roll my calves heavily to deal with cramping and balls of my feet were sore for the rest of the day.
Today I feel great. So great I go playing soccer right afterwards. This is the way running should be. Easy, comfortable, relaxed and FUN !

Hopefully I inspired some people :-)

Race stats:

Distance  13.1 miles
Time  1:57:09
Pace   8:56
Placed   23 / 39 in my AG
            182 / 464 overall

Course map

Aerial photo

Course profile


  1. nice. now you just need some fans holding up "go dan go" signs.

  2. I also overdid it. I'm early on in the transition and ran far too much, too soon, simply because I could (or so I thought). No knee pain. No back or hip pain so I just kept going and now I can't run at all for 2-3 weeks.