Race report: Copenhagen half marathon

Wow. What a weekend. I could go on for an age about what a brilliant city Copenhagen is, but I’ll stick with saying that everyone should visit immediately. And hire bikes whilst you’re there. And visit Louisiana. (And hop over to my Tumblr/Instagram for more pictorial evidence of Copenhagen’s awesomeness).

Bikes for days…

The teeny tiny famous mermaid lady

But for now, the race. A story of good and bad. So let’s get the crap out of the way first shall we…

The bad: my awful Copenhagen half marathon

This was going to be the race that was amazing for me. Back in June, I visualised myself on the start line, gazelle like, the fittest I’ve ever been, my legs ready to power myself round 13.1 miles with relative ease.

Kit. Ready. Feet. (Sort of) ready.

Obviously, this did not happen. Obviously, I have some excuses (the main one being the brilliantly hot summer, closely followed by general laziness, distraction and the ongoing battle of finding running hard and therefore avoiding it altogether). So, I found myself on the start line a bit nervous, a bit excited, but otherwise (after several pep talks from lots of other lovely runners who probably would have rather told me to (wo)man the heck up) confident that it didn’t matter how slow I went, as long as I just got round.

This plan was all good until about 15k (yes, this being a European race means that – confusingly – all mention of distance will now be in kilometres). I had one loo stop at 8k, but otherwise was managing a fairly consistent pace. I spend the first half of the race nestled between the 2:20 and 2:25 pacers, which would mean a new PB, if only by a few seconds.

Once we got deep into the second hour of running, the field was pretty sparse, the spectators were pretty bored of waiting by the side of the road (and so mostly just wandered into it) and I was firmly in ‘straggler at the back of the pack’ territory. And then the pain hit.

I’ve been suffering with some lower back pain on and off for a few weeks now, which I’m convinced is from poor form in a couple of spinning classes. The short story is, I thought it would be okay and it wasn’t. By 18k, I couldn’t run for more than 50 metres at a time. By 19k I was on the verge of panic with tears in my eyes. By 20k, two frankly AMAZING people (Siobhan and Martyn) were either side of me walking me over the finish line. Then I attacked anyone and everyone nearby with a sweaty, sobbing hug and some muffled thanks through falling tears. I’ve never been in that much pain whilst running, wanted a race to be over so badly and felt such a wave of relief when it was. But it was. My second half marathon and a PW of 2:34.

The good: the brilliant Copenhagen half marathon

I do not want my bad race experience to be any reflection on the actual race itself. My poor preparation is in direct contrast to the excellent organisation I experienced in Copenhagen.

The expo was open for two days leading up to the race. It was small but race pack pick up was friendly and efficient. I stayed near to the race start, and along with the leisurely 11am start time, meant race morning was a stress free walk down from the apartment. A lot of people had hire bikes for the whole weekend and used these to get to and from the race – a great idea in such a cycle friendly city.

At the start, there was a HUGE bag drop (split by bib number), a few food and drink stands and loads of portaloos. Getting into the road to line up was again hassle free, with loads of space around each pacer group and no barriers to battle over or around to get into a start pen. The start was again prompt and hassle free. Gold stars all round.

I’d linked my Facebook page up to race updates, so when I set off and then at 5k intervals and the finish it posted my progress up on my wall. Great for friends and family back home to keep a track of how I was doing. (I was less happy it posted my actual time splits as I went, but that will teach me for running so slowly.)

At the end, it was again very efficient and friendly, with medals, water and cereal bars all on hand. As I was struggling to stay upright, the quick (and VERY painful) sports massage that was on offer did absolute wonders for my back. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to dance away for hours that night without it.

The only remotely negative thing I would say about this race (and again this is a result of me being quite slow rather than anything the organisers did or didn’t do) is that this is a relatively small half marathon as city half marathons go. It attracts serious runners, that run the fast and flat course in fast times. There were under 10,000 runners and from what I saw the vast majority of them will have run around 2 hours or less. If I had been in a PB smashing place pre-race, this wouldn’t have been a problem. But for this race, I missed the charity runners. I missed the people in mad fancy dress. I missed the people who had done less training than I had. In this race there was no one guaranteed to be slower than me and that was a massive mental drawback. No one likes feeling like a city is waiting for you to hurry the hell up so they can get on with their Sunday. All clearly my own fault, but it made me realise I do like the security of running in a big race, which then attracts all kinds of runners.

My lesson learnt: it is important to train, and train properly, for a half marathon. Despite the back pain, deep down I know I wasn’t strong enough. Undertrained = in pain.

Race report in a sentence: I had an awful race, but an amazing weekend. Copenhagen (and the Copenhagen half marathon) are both beautiful and I would recommend them to anyone.


  1. September 17, 2013 / 5:41 pm

    I’m sorry you had such a awful time and I hope your back is feeling better.
    You have definitely encouraged me to visit Copenhagen though, and maybe make it my first destination race, and maybe my first half marathon, although hopefully I will fit one in before then!

    • September 17, 2013 / 5:53 pm

      The rest of the four days I was there definitely made up for my crappy 2 and a half hours of running. Lovely place.

  2. September 17, 2013 / 7:35 pm

    Great race recap Lissy. Everyone has tough races and it’s super impressive how you got through it mind (and great friends) over matter right? Plus I’d way rather have a shitty race in a great place like Copenhagen than boring ol’ London 🙂 The 2014 race is def on my calendar and I’ll be getting top pastry/cake recommendations from you before I go1

  3. September 18, 2013 / 6:43 am

    Well done for persevering! Sounds like a brilliantly organised race and a beautiful city. Love the crewlove too 🙂 x

  4. September 22, 2013 / 2:37 pm

    I had a terrible half marathon a few weeks ago as well but I didn’t have a good weekend in a gorgeous new city to soften the blow 🙁

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