La Liegeoise – a race report

We interrupt this regularly scheduled Meatless Monday post to bring you a very important story:

The story of my first race EVER. Yesterday, Sunday, March 3rd, I traveled to the Belgian town of Liege for a women’s only 6 kilometer run.

This is the train station in Liege. It was amazing!

Let’s backtrack a bit, shall we? This story actually begins Thursday, when I woke up feeling horrible. NO! This can’t be happening! Sore throat, terrible headache, chills, body aches… Nooooo! I skipped my scheduled workout, the last C25K workout, in the hopes that rest and hydration would quickly turn things around.

They did not. Friday morning I woke up even worse. Now I couldn’t breathe through my nose, and I felt like I’d been run over by a truck. I got worse as the day progressed, and I made a call I had been dreading. I called our hotel in Liege and cancelled our reservation. Despite all the training, despite all the positive talk, despite everything I’d done right – I resigned myself to the fact that this race wouldn’t be happening. I was too sick to even be disappointed at the time.

Lo and behold, Saturday morning the chills and sore throat were gone. By midday I was headache-free. It began to dawn on me that I might actually be able to run this race afterall. Sure, I wouldn’t be at my best, but I wouldn’t have yet another Did Not Start to add to my repertoire. By now my youngest boy was sick (unrelated) so the family would have to stay home. I carefully packed my bag and booked my train tickets. First class, of course :)

Sunday I woke up at 3AM. Even though my alarm wasn’t scheduled to go off until 6. Because that’s what happens when you’re a worrier. Maybe that’s what happens to everyone on race day, I don’t know. I spent the next couple hours trying to sleep before giving up, grabbing a coffee, and chatting with friends on Twitter to calm my nerves. I left the house at 6:30 to catch a bus, then a two hour train ride to Liege.

what do I do with this?

what do I do with this?

After arriving in the ville and making my way to Parc d’Avroy where the race started and finished, I got my number and timing chip. I was befuddled. The kind yet harried man checking people in rambled off something far too quickly in French and moved on to the next runner. (My French skills one on one are fine. In a milling crowd, it just becomes babbling.) I knew it was supposed to go on my shoe, but spent several minutes trying to figure out the “right” way to attach it. I surreptitiously eyed a few other runners attaching their chips and managed to figure it out.

The event seemed well organized for the most part. There was a lot of confusion, on my part at least, of where to go, what to do next, etc. But I put that down to my lack of experience. Next time I’ll have a better idea of what’s expected. Besides, what’s a race without a little confusion to mix things up? Otherwise it’s just a group run with 1000 of your favorite running pals!

my first race bib!

my first race bib!

The racee started about fifteen minutes late – trouble with the internet inscriptions and it took a while to get everyone sorted. And then we were off! I was about mid-pack. We shuffled along for the first couple minutes, at a snail’s pace. It was probably about fifteen minutes before there was enough space to even think about setting my “own” pace. Up until that point I was just part of the herd. It was definitely slower than I would have started out, but that’s probably a good thing. I was worried that I’d start out too fast and run out of steam. No worries, thanks to the pack!

The race took us through and around Parc d’Avroy across the Meuse River via the Pont du Roi Albert, through another parc on an island in the middle of the river. I wish I’d had a camera other than my iPhone – it was definitely photo-worthy. On the other hand, I would have had to stop to take those pictures, and there was no stopping for me!

Pont du Roi Albert over the River Meuse

Eventually I settled into my own pace. I enjoyed picking off people one by one :) No, really! Sure, I was passed many times as well. But it felt amazing to be their overtakER just as often!

proofProof that I was actually there and did it! I’m the short one to the very left of the photo. And apparently the only one who wasn’t aware of the camera. It’s a pity I’m so serious here, because I felt like I was smiling the entire race. I was too busy passing this group to be concerned with such vanity as smiling for the camera, apparently!

The race course was a 3 kilometer loop. Those of us doing the 6k or 9k had to repeat as necessary. Initially I didn’t like this idea. I thought I’d have the “I’ve got to do all that again!” feeling. Instead I had the “guess I can pick it up a bit!” feeling. The second lap was much more enjoyable, as the crowd had broken up a lot. When I rounded the last corner and saw the clock next to the finish line, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had hoped, in planning for this race, to run the 6k in 46-47 minutes. My dream was 46 minutes, given ideal conditions. But these weren’t ideal conditions. I couldn’t breathe through one side of my nose. I’d been up since 3AM. The shuffling at the beginning. Dodging people. Etc. Coming into it sick, I eased up my expectations and figured I’d be more than pleased with 47-50 minutes. So what was on that clock? 44:05, :06, :07… I crossed the finish line at 44:11!!!

I’m still waiting on my official time from the timer chip, but I’m more than happy with what the finish line clock said. I loved this race, and I see many more in the future! I’m so glad that I put up my hand when the Sisterhood declared a virtual C25K. I’m so glad I decided to give it one. last. try. I owe many thanks to Kirsten, and Brooke, and Bari and many many others for keeping me focused and not letting me waver.

My next race is another 6k in my hometown of Mons. And you?

  • Brooke F

    i’m sooooooooooooooo proud of you!!! you killed it!!! :) great job!

    • Karena @ Shrinking Jeans

      Thanks, B! For the kudos, but even more for the support throughout!

  • Bari_F

    You owned this race from the start – and by start I mean day 1 of c25k. I’m so proud of you for sticking this through. Love you, girl. Big high 5s!

    • Karena @ Shrinking Jeans

      Thanks, Bari! I’ve never been this determined before. Maybe a sign of things to come…?

  • Margo

    Way to go!! Thank you for sharing your race recap, despite the set backs you certainly came out a WINNER. Congratulations!!

    • Karena @ Shrinking Jeans

      Thank you, Margo! It’s my first race recap – I could hardly wait to share :)

  • Adah

    you totally rocked this race! So proud of how you pushed outside your comfort zone to reach your goal! I shall now call you my “RUNNER” friend!

    • Karena @ Shrinking Jeans

      You’re next, Adah!

  • AnnG

    I could not have been more proud if I had been the one actually in the race! Thanks for the great race report!! Soooo happy for you!! Now rest up and start feeling better!

    • Karena @ Shrinking Jeans

      Awww, thanks, Ann! Rest? Pfffff. What’s that? I’m a MOM! Hoping to get in a few miles tomorrow, if the youngest is well enough to go back to school.

  • babyboy3

    Great job, it does feel nice to do well especially with all of those issues.

    • Karena @ Shrinking Jeans


  • Jess

    Meanwhile, I had to get up with the boys, feed them, keep them from killing each other too much, cut my hair, make lunch, take the wash off the line and fold it all, empty the garbage cans, grind coffee, wash all the dishes, then go pick her up at the train station…

    • Karena @ Shrinking Jeans

      You mean, the things I do all day, every day, while you’re lounging around at work? :) Thanks for your help, too, J. Couldn’t have done it without you.

  • Mary P. in Baltimore

    Congrats, Karena! I can’t wait to hear about your next race! And the next and the next! Keep it up! : )