I ran the half marathon distance in the ING-Europe Night Run in Luxembourg recently and here’s my recap; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good – The race. Races are always fun, celebratory events, but a night race? On a holiday weekend? It was one big party!  The tiny country of Luxembourg, bordered by Belgium, France, and Germany, is apparently big on running as 150,000 spectators came out to cheer on the 8000 runners participating in the marathon and half marathon of the 6th edition of this ING sponsored race. There were more spectators in more places than any other race I’ve participated in.

The atmosphere at the race expo at the start/finish line was lively and festive.  In addition to the traditional vendors you find at any race expo, there was entertainment for the whole family, making for a great sendoff for the runners.  By the time I crossed the finish line, however, the party was in full swing, complete with a DJ and people dancing in the street.  And with the last of the marathoners not expected to finish the race until 1 am, the party had only just begun.
The Bad – My back. From the time I started the race, my back bothered me.  What started as a slight nagging worsened as the race progressed.  The pain wasn’t bad enough to warrant a DNF (did not finish), but enough to know that there would be some pain management in the not-to-distant future.
Adding insult to injury, my electronics wouldn’t cooperate. As I crossed the start line, I went to start the timer on my Garmin, but it was dead.  The watch has been giving me grief for a while now.  No matter how long it sits on the charger, it won’t charge fully, instead displaying a “battery is low” message.  I didn’t think much of it when I turned it on and saw the message since in the past the battery lasts for the duration of the race, despite the warning.  Not so this time. Oh well, at least I still had my iPhone.  That is until kilometer 13.
My iPhone has been known to pause inexplicably in the past, so when the music stopped, I wasn’t too concerned.  I took the iPhone out of the armband to investigate when I saw the gray screen with the white apple in the middle, just before it faded to black, and there’s no denying the fact that the battery was dead, as were tunes and spirits at this point.  Then, when I think things can’t get worse, I drop it, shattering the screen.  My increasingly worsening back pain and the thought that I may have killed my beloved iPhone brings me to the verge of tears.
While I couldn’t imagine at the time that the demise of my iPhone could be a good thing, I soon realized that it was, as I heard spectators cry out “Allez Monique. Hup, Hup.”  I had a personal cheering section and it put a spring in my step and a smile on my face.  The cheers and support from the crowd continued for the rest of the race, with the exception of kilometers 17-20, which were pretty deserted.  The cheers were probably happening along the entire course, but with earplugs stuffed in my ears, I couldn’t hear them.  In fact, I apparently missed my family who was waving wildly and cheering loudly for me at the 5-kilometer mark for this very reason.
The Ugly – My performance. 2:48:00 after I started, I crossed the finish line. Embarrassed and disappointed in myself, and with back pain so severe at this point I have to lean against a wall, I let the tears flow.  This was my worst race ever. While I am admittedly slow, this result had nothing to do with speed and everything to do with being unprepared. I had not done the training, plain and simple.  Oprah was right when she said that with running “you get out of it what you put into it”.  I put little in and got little in return. Why am I surprised with my results?
Final Assessment – If I’m going to run the world, I’m going to have to stop showing up unprepared and expecting people to take me seriously, all Sarah Palin-like (even though she does run a sub-4:00 marathon).  My appearance, like most of Palin’s, was laughable.  I’m not interested in being a joke.  If I’m going to spend the time, effort, and money doing these races, I have to put in the training time.  A full marathon and another half are on the calendar for the fall. Guess what I’ll be doing this summer?
Note: ING-EuropeMarathon provided me with free race entry. I was not asked to express any particular opinion.