Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Kleine Zeitung Graz Half Marathon event

I finished this year’s running season with a home run in Graz, Styria’s capital city in Austria. On 12th October the regional newspaper Kleine Zeitung hosted the 21st Graz Marathon event with over 11.500 runners taking part in five events, ranging from a 5K fun run to the full 42.1 km distance.
I signed up to run the half marathon and prepared myself by following a tailored 4 months MyASICS training plan. I aimed to beat the 2:30hr mark, which would have cut my first half marathon finishing time by 15mins.


The 16 weeks MyASICS training plan comprised of 3 runs a week, including a short run, a pace/fast run and a long distance run. Due to the injury I had on my foot from 2013, I decided to keep an eye out for any pain or niggles and integrated other forms of cardio in my training such as cycling and swimming as well as taking breaks on my scheduled recovery days. I benefited from my triathlon training and felt in good shape to tackle my next challenge.

The first phase of my training plan was to pick up pace and slowly increase the distance to 14K. After 5 weeks, I was advised to increase the mileage to run 3 x 16K and 1 x 18K. I surprised myself how comfortable I found running 16K, even so that I picked up my pace without a major struggle at first. My body didn’t respond to it well though. I started get stomach cramps halfway through my runs, up to the point that I was forced to walk. As a result my motivation plummeted and I started to feel unwell. Four weeks before the event I got sick, forcing me to take a break from training. On a mid-week 10K training run, my injury on my foot started to flare up and hasn’t gotten back to normal ever since. I embarked on my last long 18K training run just three weeks before the event day. Fair to say, it didn’t go too well. Even though I managed to get the distance, I was slower than expected, consequently predicting that I wouldn’t make my finishing time of 2:30hr.

The half marathon event

I arrived in Graz the evening before the event and stayed with family close by. My chosen running kit for the day, comprising of an Adidas tech t-shirt, short tights, Adidas Boost trainers, running socks and underwear, running belt with gels as well as my TomTom running watch, was readily prepared and charged for the day. I also brought along peanut butter and soy milk for breakfast for the following morning, which probably looked silly to my non-running family members, but I didn’t want to leave it to chance.

My cousin Christine picked up my race number and goodie bag for me. However, staff didn’t give her my timing chip, so that had to be sorted before the race on race day.

My Kleine Zeitung goodie bag

On the morning of the race I travelled by bus to the start line at the Grazer Opera House and arrived there in good time. It was a nice, crisp morning with about 18 degrees Celsius, perfect running conditions. Hundreds of runners had already arrived and regional radio station Antenne Steiermark was entertaining the crowd. I picked up my timing chip without any further ado, dropped of my bag at the bag station and started to prepare myself for the race. While I usually run with friend or my boyfriend Robert, it was weird to be there by myself. But runners are a lovely crowd, the tense atmosphere picks you up and makes you feel you’re part of something special. My nerves started to kick in, more of excitement than nervousness.

The starting line

Runners are waiting for the race to start

The before picture...

The race was kicked off on time at 10am by the professional runners. My wave, the plus 2hrs crowd, started to pass the finish line about 10:10am. The half marathon route went along the Joanneumring, across the Radetzky Bridge, then up north passing the Hauptplatz and Sackstrasse, before it went all the way up to Graz North and back again. Once back down, the route crossed the Kepler Bridge and went to the east side of Graz city, along Wiener street, Lazarettgürtel and Grieskai. From there, the route took us back to the city park, where runners went past the Schloss Tower, Ratplatz and back to the finish line at the Opera House.

I felt in good shape and settled into my pace quickly. Even though I was keeping an eye on my time, I decided to enjoy it rather than going for my dream finishing time. My 5K split time was 35:14 with an average pace of under 7mins. Up until the 10K mark I went slightly off my pace and had a split time of 1:13:23. However, I knew if I could maintain that pace I would still be able to reach my dream finishing time. Though my pace slit down even further and my 15K split time was 1:52:37 with a 8mins pace. The last 6K were difficult. The sun got hotter and I had trouble finding my way to the finish line as it wasn’t very well signposted. The remaining few of us running had to rely on the public to pin point us in the right direction. Once I reached the city park and Ratplatz the crowd cheered me on, shouting my name and carrying me to the finish line. I finished with a time of 2:44:17 (Official PENTEK timing results). To top it off, my mum was waiting for me and watched me cross the finish line.
The winner of the Graz Marathon for the male runners was Ethiopian Lemawork Ketema with a finishing time of 2:22:09 and for the female runners Austrian Cornelia Köpper with 2:45:18.


Even though I didn’t get my dream finishing time I thoroughly enjoyed the Graz half marathon. Graz is such a pretty city, I massively enjoyed the scenery, the road conditions and the crowd. As a runner I never felt cramped in by the running mob and had space to sway in and out of lanes. The race numbers pinned on the shirts also showed your name, which personalised the event for every runner.
The Kleine Zeitung did a great job of organising the event, with drink and food at the start/finish line and many stops to refresh along the route. The next day all finishing times were published in the newspaper, which was really nice and made a great memento to keep. Weeks before and after the event the organisers would provide you with tips on training and keep you posted on the latest news on social media. I will definitely take part in another Graz run in years to come, I might even tackle the full distance :)

For all image from the day, check out my Google photo album.