Running buddies – Team Harmony Run and Team Sparkasse – Me (with the red head) and Ellen (with the beautiful smile)*
„Only“ a halfmarathon, but again a great training experience, especially on this hilly and scenic route. My goal was just to run it and enjoy it as a training run - one step more towards the big goal. With a 10 hour-walk 2 weeks ago, a 12-hour run coming up next weekend in Basel and a couple of extra pounds I had no intention of trying to beat last year's time. (My final time: 2:28 - way at the end of our age category even, but I was happy! It is not the result but the attitude that counts, I have learned or am still learning.)
It was great that Ellen, an on and off running buddy since about 2 years when she or I are not travelling, was able to run after an injury. Although we promised to run at our own pace if one of us felt like going slower or faster, we ended up running almost all the way together. In the beginning I pulled her and slowed down a couple of times, towards the end, when the sun affected my cardiovascular system, she was pulling me and finally even went ahead a few hundred meters. (I just hope the 80 km running part in August will be afternoon, night and morning.)
The weather was great – cool and sunny in the morning, warming up, but with a fresh breeze and some hazy clouds towards the end. Nature was gorgeous: the trees had just put on their ligth green spring foliage, fragrant white and mauve lilacs were greeting us from the gardens along the Neckar, apple and cherry trees were in bloom ...
The first 7 k of the course are basically flat - through the old city, across the old bridge, back along the Neckar for a loop through Neuenheim, where friends spotted us and cheered us on – nice energy boost!
Spectators seem to become more enthusiastic from year to year: there are grown up people (and of course lots of children, too) banging on children's and other drums, clapping away with all kinds of instruments, cheering, calling your name which is printed on the number, offering water, coke, bananas, apples – on halfmarathon day the whole city seems to becomes a joyful, dynamic, selfless family.
After this „warm-up“, the first uphill section starts, quite steep and winding. We reach the Philosophenweg with its spectacular view down to the Neckar valley and to the castle on the opposite side, and again, people are cheering all along the way. From the blazing sun we soon enter into the shady forest, with softer ground under our feet. The noise subsides, we can hear the birds and the sound of the runners feet. More uphill, Ellen is lagging. She did not really carboload properly (sandwich and croissant yesterday!), so I offer her some of my raisins, not to swallow, but to chew to absorb the fruit sugar. They seem to help, she is picking up. Soon we have reached the highest point (after km 10) and start rolling downhill, into an open part of the forest with tall beeches covering the hillside. It feels like in a cathedral of nature – only instead of heavy cold stone there is organic soft, green foliage high up with the sunlight peeping through and glimpses to the Neckar. Some runners – and swimmers – say nature is their church. Ellen says, she feels like running is her meditation. I fully agree.
Down along a brook towards the monastery and up the next steep hill in open sun. Running we are slower than some walkers – never mind. Music, cheers, water and energy drink at the top, a short break waiting for my running buddy – I am not in a hurry and prefer staying together. It is more joy and can give more energy when you need it, and I am not in for a personal best anyway.
In Ziegelhausen, before crossing the Neckar, I get my head under a fountain to cool off a little. A few minutes later, in Schlierbach, the next „heartbreak hill“ starts. I run-walk, Ellen runs – same speed. We are still cutting jokes and laughing a lot. I am thinking of my friends at the 10 day race in New York, on a semi-eternal journey or running pilgrimage. Here, only 5 more kilometers to go - „piece of cake“! It feels so short having run it so many times. We remind ourselves to enjoy it – it will be over so soon! Schlosswolfsbrunnenweg – the road passing the castle – always seems to stretch longer than expected, but soon we reach km 19 - and here is the castle! „Only downhill from here“ a helper is cheering us. Ellen seems to be rolling faster now, we still stay together for a bit, then I encourage her to go at her own speed. She feels I will catch up with her again. I do catch up finally – after the finish line! (She is a few months younger, so that's o.k.)
After several cups of water, a roll, some Apfelschorle (water and apple juice) and coffee I bike home, take a shower and go to our Sunday meditation place. What a great feeling of inner joy and peace and fullfilment. Running is like clearing the path for something to come to the fore from within. The concentrated silence of meditation, making the mind calm and focussing on the heart, intensifies this inner experience and expands it. Later I sit in the garden in the shade for some time, again in meditative silence, looking down over the Neckar valley, just enjoying. Feeling so grateful – for the beauty of it all. And priviledged.
Getting hungry I treat myself to an open-air Greek salad and Cappuccino at the Pizzeria on the „Ziegelhäuser Plaza“, legs and aching feet up on a second chair, enjoying the sun and overhearing a couple at the other table talking about their half-marathon experience. Life can be so simple and so good!
Later I will go for a short 1 hour bike-ride along the Neckar, in the setting sun, and finish off with a Feta-tortilla and some Hägendaz icecream in town later in the evening. (That evens out the daylong web workshop on Saturday.) My feet are grateful to be soaked in some "Efasit" before going to bed, they cooperate much better the next day - I am learning to take better care of my body with increasing training intensity.
(*Ellen's husband is in the US Air Force - sometimes I am amazed at how often I get in contact with (nice!) people connected with the military, abhorring anything military myself, probably due to my last incarnation which supposedly was in the German military, which I do believe for various reasons)