Handels University, the Gothenburg business school, has someone run the race as their mascot every year. My friend Viktor was looking forward to doing it but broke his collarbone last Saturday, so asked me to do it. I was reluctant at first, but realized that I would never have such a chance again and said what the heck. So that's how it happened, my first half marathon, and it would be as a wasp.
I went and tried on the suit last Monday. The people at Handels were super nice, and relieved to have found someone to do such a crazy thing in a pinch. The suit itself is quite alright, down to the knees, not so heavy but quite furry. I was mostly worried about the head, kinda big without much ventilation or visibility. Things got scary a few days before when I learned that Saturday was likely to be the hottest day so far, around 25C.
I brought the suit home on Friday to test things out and try to make it a bit more comfortable, but there wasn't really anything to be done. It was simply going to be hot, and the head was going to bounce a lot. I decided not to use a camelback underneath, but just to stop at every water station, every 2km. I couldn't believe what I'd gotten myself into, and whether I would make it to the finish at all.
I arrived at the race quite late, and only found the Handels crew 10min before the start to leave my bag with. This meant that I had to pull out this big wasp suit on my own, get changed in front of a crowd, and wander around anxiously trying to find them half dressed. Most embarrassing five minutes of my life.
Viktor qualified for the first start wave, so I made sure to go to the back so as to not piss anyone off. Most people were so focused though that they seemed to not even take notice, and others simply wished me good luck, perhaps with a hint of doubtfulness.
The first 2km went by in a flash, the pace was super easy, and I was just trying not to fall or get in anyone's way. A bit stuffy and bouncy in the head, but alright. It took me a bit to relax, and notice that I was putting smiles on everyone's faces in the crowd as I passed. Everyone was cheering me on, "Heja Geting!", and I realized that I should start playing the crowds. So until the finish it was constant waving, "I can't hear you!" gestures, and high fives.
My legs felt great on the climbs up to Älvsborgs bridge at 5k, but I really had to hold back. My body wanted to accelerate past people, but whenever I did the heat in the suit quickly set in. So I just took it real easy and tried to manage the heat, waiting for each next water station. I passed 5k in 21:06, which I was pleasantly surprised with, but I expected to get much slower later on.
On Älvsborgs bidge I took the chance to take the head off for a minute, where there was nobody watching. It was a huge relief and let me recover a bit and got me through the following 5k through Lindholmen. The downhill after the bridge was really nice, since I could get quite a bit of air rushing in through the mesh eyes.
Unfortunately in my rush at the start I didn't get a chance to go the bathroom, and with each water station I passed I had to pee more and more. There was a small patch of bushes at around 7k, and I knew it could be my last chance before we headed back into town, so I went for it. Unfortunately there were two people standing close by where I stopped, and so I said, "Sorry, I gotta pee!", hoping they would move down a bit. With the zipper in the back of the suit I proceeded to make the necessary tricky maneuvers and do my business. Without any peripheral vision in the head, I didn't notice at first that the two people hadn't moved and were still standing quite close beside me. I guess they have a funny story to tell now.
Anyways, I kept trucking along, doing ok, people steadily passing me very slowly, but starting to get very hot. I got to Göta Älvs bridge and took the chance again with nobody around to take the head off for a bit. A relief from the heat, but quite annoying to run while holding the big head out in front.
The crowds were constant along the whole route, it was amazing, and I really got a boost each time I passed big groups. One of the best was when I passed the Häcken Football Club supporters on Hisingen. I guess their mascot is a bee, so they gave me really loud drunken cheers as I flew by waving.
TO BE CONTINUED
OK, OK, where was I...
I started to get a bit tired by Avenyn, and the steady uphill for 2km in the sun was tough. The biggest crowds were here though, and it was nice piecing together long strings of high-fives. Some of the Handels guys ran with me on the sidelines as well, trying to get the crowd going even more.
Got to Götaplatsen and stuffed a few sponges into the head. Then a relief to swing into the shade at Valand and up to Vasaplatsen. Got a boost seeing Viktor and Anna and the Handels crew along here.
The hardest part for me was up to Linnéplatsen, in the sun, uphill, and only 3k left. I got a bit concerned here, a lot of guys started to look wobbly around me, some stopped holding on to the fences, and some on the ground being attended to. Crazy! I started to get worried for myself, and reminded myself to take it easy. I guess the heat was a shock to a lot of people, and many people's times were much slower than expected.
I saw I was 1:32:00 at 20k, which was nice, since I was sure I would be under 1:40. Had to take a quick walk break with 500m left so as not to overheat, and make sure I would look strong into the finish. As I broke into a run again everyone started cheering, maybe out of relief that I wasn't about to die in a wasp costume.
Took the head off pretty quickly once across the line, but was flagged down for pictures so had to put it back on for some poses. Also got asked for an interview with SVT Sport, but I didn't want to do it without the head on, and nobody from Handels was there to talk for me.
So ya, a crazy day, really glad that I made it to the finish. Really happy that I agreed to do it too, won't be forgetting this one any time soon either.
The winning photo from the Handels contest.