Yesterday was the Wings for Life World Run in Munich. Wings for Life is a very unusual run. It's not really a race. Everyone starts off and then 30 minutes later a catcher car starts. When the car catches you, then you're out. The goal is to run as far as you can before being caught. Another thing that makes Wings for Life unique is that it takes place simultaneously at 35 locations worldwide. The Munich race started at 1300 local time. But the one in Santa Clarita, California took place at 4 am!
My pre-run goal was about 16-17 km. I looked at the pace calculator and predicted that distance based on my half-marathon results from last year. But I surpassed my expectations and ran for 18.93 km! That's 11.74 miles for the metric system challenged. My statistics:
For the entire world:
Overall: 19,068th place out of 68,742
Women: 3,039th place out of 29,362
Age group (F55): 37th out of 588
For the Munich run:
Overall: 1140th out of 3228
Women: 192nd out of 1377
Age group (F55): 3rd (!!!) out of 27
It was my first age group podium place in a large German race! I have been on the podium in my age group in small, local races but never in a big one. It looks like the way to get on the podium in Germany is to get older. The number of women in German races really drops off after age 45. I'm still a bit shocked about being 3rd in my division in the Munich run.
I started off the morning with a very nervous stomach and, suffice it to say, I spent a lot of time in the bathroom after breakfast. While in the bathroom, I realized that I have driven the A95 Autobahn many times between Garmisch and Munich and know where all of the parking areas and major rest stops are. Fortunately, I did not need to make any stops, either at a main rest stop or in the bushes at a parking area.
The organization was very good, though I was glad that I got to the Olympic Stadium about 2 hours before start time. There were long lines for number and t-shirt pickup and also for the women's toilets. Everything was close by, unlike at the Munich Marathon, which requires runners to walk a full marathon to get their numbers, check their bags, and then head to the start area. The only fault was that there were no signs indicating where the start area was. But I employed my usual strategy of following everyone and hoping that they were going the right way. It worked. My only real complaint was that there was no post-run food. There were lots of drinks--water, Apfelschoerle (apple juice mixed with mineral water), different types of Red Bull (Red Bull is one of the sponsors), and alcohol-free beer, but no food. There were bananas and energy bar pieces at the water stops along with water, a sports drink, cola, and Red Bull. I did get a couple of energy bars in my swag bag though.
My pace was very consistent to say the least. After a slow start (first km in 5:56), I hit the 5 km mark in 27 minutes, 10 km at 54 minutes, and 15 km at 81 minutes. That included walking through the water points at 5, 10, and 15 km. Just after the 16 km mark, one of the people in the pack saw the catcher car in the distance. I thought that I might be able to make it to 17 km before being caught. Still no car after 17 km, and then I wanted to see if I could make it to 18 before the car came, which I did. Even at km 18, I was running the same pace as earlier. During the last kilometer there were a lot more police riding by on motorcycles telling the runners to stay on the right side of the road, so I knew that the catcher car was getting close. I tried to make it to the 19 km mark, but ended up just 70 meters short of it. I had to walk back about 400 meters to the shuttle bus that took me back to the Olympic Stadium.
The weather was rainy, just like at the City Run half-marathon last year. But it was warm enough for shorts and a short-sleeved technical shirt. I was soaked through at the end but had a change of dry clothing in my bag. The course was nice with a few slight up and downhills. It was mostly roads with some dirt trails thrown in and ended up going out of the city. There were park trails, residential streets, and farm roads. I thought that I wouldn't run in any mud or puddles, but I was wrong. But as they say, dry weather is for wimps--happy dry wimps, but wimps nonetheless. It got a bit tight on some of the Olympiapark trails at the beginning. But the crowd thinned out after a bit. When I was caught by the car, I was on a farm road out in the middle of nowhere. I was tired but very happy with how far I ran and for keeping a steady pace. The walk back to the shuttle bus almost seemed harder than the run!
I wanted to pin a photo of my late running partner Bill on my shirt, but opted not to because of the rain. Even with it being inside a plastic bag, I was still concerned that water could get in and ruin it. But I knew that he was with me just like he is at my other races and even in training. I even heard his voice saying, "Good job, Shorty!" when I was caught. To this day I follow what I learned about long distance running from him over 20 years ago.
The Wings for Life World Run was a great way to end my birthday week. At the age of 56 years and 6 days, I still can run well. My former running partner Pat, who's now 71, has always been my inspiration for what an older athlete can do. She was, and still is, my role model and now I feel like I want to be an example of what an older person can accomplish. I hope that next year one of the Wings for Life World Runs is in Munich so I can again run for those who can't.