Hannah has been running 10K races for six years, and for the last 17 months we've been running a 10K race or longer together every month. This year she said she wanted to start doing longer races, so we included a 13K (Altenburg), a 14K (Potsdam), and two 15K races (Plänterwald and Schwerin), and when she was able run all of these with a constant 7:30 pace with a sprint at the end, she said she wanted to run a half marathon, so we found and signed up for the Oslo Half Marathon.
What many people don't realize about running races, particularly races in other cities or countries, is the organizational overhead that you have: signing up for the race, getting plane tickets, hotel reservations, organizing vacation at work, and in this case, Hannah had to engage in some social engineering with her teachers who made an exception for her to take the Friday off to run a half marathon. On the plane ride up, I sat next to a man who was running his 99th marathon in Oslo and when he was showing me something on his phone, I caught a glimpse of his e-mail inbox which was full of confirmations and reminders of upcoming marathon races, hotel reservations, and travel reservations.
But as always, we completed all the pre-preparations and the trip went very well. We arrived at Oslo airport at 11:00 on Friday, took a train to the city center (the VY instead of the Flytoget train, cheaper and only 4 minutes slower, a good tip from our Airbnb host) stayed in a nice Airbnb apartment in the middle of the city (Skippergata), and at 14:00 we were on an Airbnb walking tour of the city given by an American from Minnesota who told me that in two years of studying, he attained his B2 certificate Norwegian, which quite impressed me.
Our race was scheduled to start at 14:00 in the afternoon, so before that, we took the opportunity to go see the killer hill which we would later be facing at 16K. The sight of it was quite daunting, a 47-meter climb in one kilometer. The marathon had started at 9:30, so after awhile we were even able to watch the marathoners make their ascent up the hill, everyone leaning forward and digging into it. Soon it was time to get back to the hotel and get ready for our race. Over a quick lunch we decided on some conservative goals for the race based on Hannah's past times of her races longer than 10K. Her two 15K races she had completed in 01:52:44 and 01:55:17, so we set a goal for 15K in the half marathon at 02:00:00, and since the last 6K would be difficult with a monster hill the size I've never seen in a half-marathon or marathon, we agreed than anything under 3 hours would be a good finishing time, knowing that we had 3.5 hours to complete the race.
The start and the whole race had beautiful weather: sunny and 24°C but cool when running in the shade. Starting at 1K, Hannah began clipping off kilometers at a solid pace under 7-minutes per kilometer, and when we finished running through the Zehlendorf-like area of Frogner and around the Vigelands Park and arrived at the water, Hannah's 10K time was 01:09:09, which would have been a good finishing time for her for a 10K. I began expecting her to start slowing down at some point but she constantly kept moving up in the crowd gradually passing people. At 11K, 12K, and 13K she was still holding a 7-minute pace.
At 14K, we made a sharp left turn away from the water front and ran back into the city which meant enjoying much longed-for shade after the 4 kilometers of sun on the water front, but post-14K also meant meeting a gradual climb up to the killer hill. I really expected Hannah to begin slowing down at this point, but again, she didn't, and in the much more narrow streets, especially with runners on the other side coming back the other way, it was hard to keep sight of Hannah when she would get three or four people ahead of me.
I caught up to her at 15.5 kilometers, and as I handed her two extra waters, I said, "the killer hill is coming up," to which she said, "kriege ich hin" and motored on ahead. I stayed behind her as we began to move into the hill. She leaned in and mastered about 90% of it but it finally broke her steady speed at the top I noticed. Just at that point, the 02:30:00 flag runner came steadily up from behind and started passing us. Hannah began pushing it again and stayed even with the flag runner for about 500 meters until they hit another little hill we hadn't known about, and as they began to head up the hill at 18K, I saw the 02:30:00 flag runner steadily pulling ahead of Hannah, and so I was thinking that wouldn't be that bad, perhaps a 02:35:00 half marathon or so.
But as I was running through a running station at about 18.5 kilometers, I spent some time looking for water but realized after awhile that it was a big Red Bull promotion and so I finally just grabbed a Red Bull and began to run up ahead to find Hannah, but I couldn't find her anywhere. I kept running past runners and finally found the 02:30:00 flag runner, but Hannah was nowhere to be seen. I finally found her motoring on about 20 meters in front of the 02:30:00 flag runner, and since we were now going down hill, she had a new speed and a strong pace. The rest of the race was downhill through the city, which turned into a kind of two-kilometer victory run for Hannah as we pulled further and further away from the 02:30:00 flag runner, finishing with a 02:26:56.