Luzerner Stadtlauf, anniversary edition

Posted on: 07 May 2015

The day after we got back from Ticino, it was the first of the GO-IN6weeks race series in the evening. J. had entered all of them in advance, I was planning to enter on the day as and when it proved possible. However........ neither of us felt up to it after two days' strenuous mountain walking! - and J. still had his achilles trouble. He'd kept quiet about it, but I can't imagine the walking did it much good. Anyway, we both decided to give it a miss. Swimming seemed like a good idea, so we piled into the Twike and drove to the pool. It was such a lovely evening, though, we decided to precede the swim with a walk, seeing that some more work had been done on the nature reserve on the site of the former shooting range. We wandered about, checking on the ponds.......... and yes, several of them are now inhabited! Tadpoles of various sizes, some still unhatched frogspawn, pond skaters, the odd dragonfly. The right-hand half is pretty well finished, the left-hand half still very much a 'work in progress', the earth still bare and lumpy, but with rough paths sketched out across it, and excavations for more ponds. It already seems popular with dog walkers, and we saw quite a few runners too. I think I may work out an 'alternative parkrun route' here, in case I get bored with our usual Allmend one. We walked........ ooh, all of 3 kms! (Too busy with nature study.) By this time, we'd gone off the idea of swimming, and went to the Sports Academy restaurant at the athletics stadium instead. It was so warm, they'd set up tables and chairs outside - it felt like summer. I had a pizza (you can never have too many), J. a salad, and we watched the sports students training. They seemed to be doing some kind of co-ordination exercises - it looked like the Ministry of Silly Walks! Altogether a very pleasant evening.

We went back to the swimming pool the next day. G. has started going to an aqua-gymnastics class Thursday lunchtimes, and suggested we could meet up there. This sounded like a plan, so I aqua jogged and J. swam while she did that. My fastest ever time for the 40 lengths - 56:49. PB, PB,PB! Afterwards she and I enjoyed another half an hour in the spa pool (massage jets etc.), then adjourned up the road to the Sports Academy garden again for a coffee.

Saturday 25th April: the Luzerner Stadtlauf. This was my first ever race, 20 years ago, and though these short, fast events are so not my thing any more (not sure they ever were), I decided for sentimental reasons that I would do it. Last year I astonished myself by coming third in my age category, winning the Roman-Irish spa day I've only just got round to using; no such expectations this year, looking at the list of starters, several of whom looked considerably faster than I have ever been. (Sub-50 10k times; 1:40something half marathons; sub-4 hour marathons.........) Since it made no great difference whether I was sixth or seventh (though I might be a bit disappointed with anything less than that), I decided not to push it to the limit and just 'enjoy' the experience. Registered, collected my tee shirt and goody bag ( welcome to the 21st century, Luzerner Stadtlauf! - not only a chip that measures both start and finish, this year, but a proper technical tee shirt too! - for the adults, anyway; the children still got cotton ones, though in the same design), deposited them in my personal dressing room at the theatre (no sweaty communal changing rooms for me!), and went out to watch some of the earlier races. The family events have developed into the really big hit over the years; and the team events for companies are very popular too - in fact, the competitive one (the one we mustered a team for, a couple of times) was already full some time in advance. (There is another, shorter, timed but not ranked - basically just a 'fun run', often in costume.) Back at the theatre, I got changed, saw the orchestra team off on their race, and went for a 15 minute warmup before mine. With chip timing at the start, there seemed to be much less jostling for position this time. I was quite happy to start about 3/4 of the way back. I spotted Rösli, who had come second in the category last year; she recognized me too, and said hello. The speaker reckoned Ms. Gajic, who had inevitably won it, was also there; she was certainly in the start list, but there was no sign of her in the list of finishers. (Maybe she changed her mind when she knew I was coming........?! Yeah, right........) I thought back to 20 years ago. The route was different then, the start was in Grendel, near Schwanenplatz. A lot fewer competitors too. Two of my colleagues for moral support. Finally parted from the huge, hairy mohair cardigan I'd worn to keep warm, I stood there shivering slightly, partly from cold, partly from fear; nervous, clueless, wondering what I had let myself in for. Utter shock at the speed with which people took off, but with a strand of exhileration in there too - I'd never done anything like this in my life before. The rain setting in, getting heavier; one drowned rat among many others; the realization that yes, this was hard, very hard, but I wasn't actually going to die........... It was intended as a one-off, but the seed was sown. Now here I was, back where it all began (well, a few hundred metres away.) The gun fired, and we were away. Rösli was a couple of metres ahead of me, but she went off like the clappers, and I didn't see her again till the end. Sometimes it's a real traffic jam at the start, until the field gets spread out a bit (I remember once getting squashed rather painfully into the wall of the Jesuitenkirche when several people decided to cut the corner - I've always kept to the outside since then), but this time it seemed to flow quite smoothly. I settled into a good but not kamikaze pace, and basically kept it going to the end. Once or twice I found myself sitting in, a little too comfortably, behind a group, and made the effort to overtake; but mostly I just let it happen as it felt right. The atmosphere, as ever, was great, the route through the old town densely lined with cheering spectators. Push on slightly along Löwengraben; up the one (smallish) hill; a bit of a Barber down the other side (actually overtaking a couple of people, to my surprise - I'm not the world's best at downhill); try to push on again along Karliquai, but save some for the final passage through the old town, a frantic melée of overtaking and being overtaken. From a distance I hear the speaker announce Rösli's 3rd place in the category F60, and wonder where that puts me. At the last minute, ambition rears its head, and I attempt an apology for a sprint finish............ nope, that convinces no-one! (But I still retch once I cross the line and slow down, feeling momentarily as though I might throw up - this is becoming an embarrassing habit!) Cup of Rivella in hand, I hang around Schwanenplatz for a while, watching the presentations. No Stefica Gajic, but as expected, a couple of the speedy F60 ladies top the rostrum, with a beaming Rösli in third. (I, I discover later, am a fairly distant 5th......... which seems about right, relative to effort.) Magy, co-leader of RunningLadies, is 2nd F50. Quick congratulatory chat to both of them; quick chat also to Dani, another running friend, who has done the Tüfelsschlucht race the previous evening and is doing the Aarau 10 miles the next morning (so he is excused the Stadtlauf!); then start to feel cold, so hurry back to the theatre and a change of clothes, before going out again to watch the elite races. Unfortunately it had begun to rain, making the road very slippery, and at the sharp corner where I happened to be standing, there were a few incidents with runners falling down. One of them, the leader, very nearly got run over by the accompanying motor bike, which was far too close and going too slowly! (The photographer on the back was taking pictures.) There was a collective gasp of horror from the spectators, but he rolled out of the way, got to his feet again, and went on to win. On the next round, another runner fell in exactly the same place, and on the next, two went down together. I began to wish I'd chosen a less 'exciting' place to stand! But the rain thereafter became so heavy, the slipperiness seemed to cure itself. Runners and spectators alike got a total soaking. Afterwards I went to Schwanenplatz to watch the presentations, though this took a while, the winner of the women's race having gone back to her hotel to get changed, and having to receive her prize in solitary glory after all the others had gone. Then, cold and wet, I dripped into the theatre, retrieved my things, and went home. Time according to Datasport: 21:30.6 - 26 seconds slower than last year over the 3.8 kms. (Time according to Garmin: 21:39; distance according to Garmin: 3.98 kms.)

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