The Cologne Half Marathon has been on my radar for a while. The company I work at has an office in Cologne and pre covid organised a group to represent it there each year. I remember being in awe of how they could run that distance and it always seemed like a fun trip.
In 2019 I decided to sign up to do it. I think it was sometime in the summer. The race is always early October. I was not a runner at the time but thought maybe I could walk it. Then I heard about the cut off time being 2 hours 45 minutes, and how they pick people outside the cut off up and bus them off the course. I imagined the embarrassment of that happening in front of my colleagues. I quietly withdraw from the race, but I had paid for the flights, so decided to make a weekend of it in Germany instead. Of course, at the airport I bumped into colleagues heading over for the race and I had to shamefully explain I had backed out. I decided I would have to do it in the future to redeem myself.
2021 came around and I started the couch to 5k in March, got the running bug, and signed up for Cologne. All was going well, but then the race was cancelled due to covid.
2022 came around and I was injured and couldn’t run a HM.
2023 was my year, a group was organised through work, some from Dublin, some from Cologne and other parts of Germany, and it was all systems go…. until I tripped going down steps to the expo! I thought I had twisted my right ankle, but a few hours later my ankle was fine, the top of my foot swollen, however. Would this be the end of my Cologne HM dreams before even getting to the start line? I tested it out. Walking was sore, but amazingly, running seemed ok.
On the Sunday the race was due to start at 9am. The forecast was for 25 or 26 degrees, but there was a chill in the air as we headed over the Rhein to Deutz over the Hohenzollern bridge. The conditions were perfect, and everyone was in great form, with music and motivational commentary blasting from speakers. Off we went, right on time and from the start I noticed the amount of people out in the streets cheering on runners. I have never seen support like it. The first 12km or 13km seemed to just fly by and I was happy enough with my pace, but then things got a bit tricky…every time I pushed off my right foot, I felt discomfort that got so bad I ended up having to stop and walk a bit every couple of kms. Not great, but I wasn’t too concerned about my time, I wanted to enjoy the experience and atmosphere. And what an atmosphere it was, 6km from the end and there were so many people out cheering us on it felt like we were near the end, and that continued for the rest of the race, we were showered with confetti and glitter and encouraged along all the way.
The temperature started to increase in the end stages of the race, and I was pitying the full marathon runners who started at 10.30am as Colognes amazing cathedral came into sight. The cathedral was our goal (Der Dom ist das Ziel – the race motto). Once past the cathedral we turned right and then we were onto the red mats and the finish line. One of the race sponsors was Rewe, the German supermarket chain, and they had supplied refreshments. I have never seen so much food and drinks at the end of a race – I grabbed a fizzy apple juice (I don’t know why Apfelschorle is not popular outside Germany and Austria, it’s delicious) and picked up my sustainable wooden medal. Then it was on to find my colleagues and sit in the sun for a few hours sipping Koelsch and respecting recovery.