RACES: La Santa Races– Half-Marathon

Monday had gone and we had faced another lightning storm over night which cast serious doubts on whether the half-marathon would go ahead as planned at 08:00 Tuesday.

I considered this event the best chance Aoife and I would have for completing a long run while on the island. Like most of the Canaries, Lanzarote is a volcanic island consisting mainly of rocky desert, lava fields, sand and the black soil left behind by the last eruptions in the 18th century.

The main roads are in good condition, if undulating, but the side-roads are painfully broken up, seemingly consisting of pieces of rubble embedded in tar, making them particularly painful to bike on. The half-marathon route would cover both terrains and take us up the dreaded climb to the village of El Cuchillo as well as two laps of the lagoon (one on the way out and one coming back) to complete the large circular trek.

Half-Marathon

In the end, the storm desisted enough for the organiser’s to set us on our way and it was a small band of hardy souls who were first thrown into a strong headwind for the first 10km before the baking sun finally showed it’s face and dominated the return journey.

We had to start with three laps of the track during which three tall skinny runners, one German and two Danes, set the pace. I fell in behind the group immediately, having decided to hold the strongest possible aerobic pace throughout and just live with whatever pace that meant. I was hoping to break ninety minutes as that would be a solid training run, but knew the route could defeat any time planning.

Coming out for the final lap, I noticed the trio ahead were setting a harder pace than I prefer for the first 10k of a half-marathon, so I decided to let them go and see if I could launch my trademark “squeeze” with 10k to go and reel them in later. As the best quality roads on the island took us towards the climbs, this proved a lonely choice as the trio disappeared in the distance.

Having lost sight of my “rabbits” between the many corners and undulations, my concentration had to be directed at the four kilometre climb to the zenith of our journey – El Cuchillo – which stands 100m over the main plateau of the island. Most of the ascent was gradual, but a few parts forced kilometre paces well over 5 minutes, ending any ambitions of crunching out strong split throughout.

Still feeling all deserted, I finally caught sight of a black speck ahead whilst leaving the village and starting my descent on the broken-up roads; the sun now lending power to the desolate desert landscape. The German runner had been left for behind by the Danes, and it was now up to me to make the score Denmark 3 – Germany 0.

Despite this being a training run, I wanted to take at least a podium spot for no better reason than it was there to take, so I sacrificed one water station trying to keep full momentum on the descent. Yet my black front-marker seemed to draw no nearer, the squeeze seemed to powerless in the Canarian sun…

Luckily, the half-marathon rewards those of endless patience, and first we returned to better roads, then Club La Santa came into sight as we strode downwards with the faintest hints of a receding gap now registering on my inner eye. By the time we passed the bridge across the lagoon for our final few kilometres circuit, this dissipated into nothingness “Patience,” I thought, “only go past when you are fully committed”. Then we were running as one and I pushed away with one strong effort. 19.6km had passed by and it felt almost unsporting to pass someone so late.

My Danish compatriots cruised in almost hand-in-hand and given one has run 1:13 for the half-marathon (he seemed to be pacing the younger Dane who rewarded him by outsprinting him at the death), it’s safe to assume I did my best in finishing third after their 1:28. The half-marathon, especially tough routes, is not forgiving to those with tired legs, but running strongly for my finish time of 1:34 meant this was another terrific workout and should not be looked at with denigration compared to my 1:22 best.

Uwe Sander, my German adversary, arrived half a minute later and then Aoife as first woman. We didn’t stick around to wait for the last runners but instead treated ourselves to an ice-cream and a quick nap so we could be ready for the afternoon’s many activities.

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