Brussels 20k (Running)

Yesterday 40,000 runners took to the streets of Brussels for the annual 20km race. This race is THE mass-participation race in Brussels, much more popular than the autumn marathon, and has a noticeable effect on the number of people out training in the parks in the weeks preceding the race!

Last year I ran it for the first time and was pretty happy with 43rd and a shade over 1:09, this seemed to bode well for a summer focussing on running a fast marathon in the autumn. Unfortunately that plan was derailed by illness and PhD stress.

This year my training had been very different, with no track sessions in the past few months, a couple of long trail races (a 30k and a 56k) and as little flat running as possible, in preparation for a summer spent racing in the mountains. Despite the lack of flat training I was feeling fitter than ever so was hopeful of a good performance at the 20k, aiming to take a couple of minutes off my debut time. In the event I was only 20 seconds faster, but I moved up a dozen places to 31st. Given that last year everyone said the conditions were perfect (cool and no wind) and this year it was hot and sunny that seems like an encouraging result, and some good warm-weather preparation for next weekend’s race in Zegama.

For me 20k on the road feels about the hardest distance I ever race. It’s short enough to be almost intolerably fast, but long enough that the end never seems near until it really is. It’s hard to compare, but yesterday’s race felt harder than racing a road marathon (although I’ve only done one), from about 2km in all I wanted to do was stop and sit down. Perhaps I went off too quickly (I ran the first 3k in 9:25), but I didn’t change position much so if I did so did most of the people around me. I wonder how the very best road runners experience these races, they look like they are just cruising along at unimaginable speeds, maybe that kind of ease (although at lower speeds!) would come if I raced more on the flat, or maybe they are also thinking constantly about whether all the half-excuses they can think of add up to a reasonable justification for dropping out.

Results, and Movescount “move”.