But what's in a time? ;-)
I'm a little disappointed not being closer to the 2 hour mark, but considering all things it's pretty fair.
The day started without a decent breakfast, which is to say badly for something as energy intensive as this, and the air early on was quite cold so that I wore a sleeved top instead of a singlet, which was also a mistake. And I forgot a lesson that I'd learned 30 years before, that when you're on the start line and you feel like you need a pee then you should go and HAVE a pee, because the feeling won't go away, no matter how much you try to convince yourself that you'll need the water later.
There were only about 1000 runners in this, and and that made for a relatively small massed start. I was part of a group of 5: 2 local guys (Ivica, Martin) plus us 'foreigners' (Mick, plus Sam, Mick's 18YO daughter and myself) and we got separated fairly quickly. I found a route round the outside of most of the crowd, and ran comfortably for the first 6 miles or so, starting to run out of energy in the 7th mile and then dragging myself along for the next couple of miles until I came to the station offering sliced fruit (mostly apple and orange segments) and could refuel a bit - it was amazing how the extra energy from that little bit of fruit let the legs almost return to normal for a short while.
The route started from Banja Luka town centar, heading north up the main road out for just over a mile before turning right and right again to head back down (though it was slightly uphill) past the town. This section was in blazing sunshine, and even on the first lap around the town it was fiercely hot without any shade at all. The route then crossed over below the town before heading back up round the other side to turn right again and run across the top of the town. There were 2 laps like this around the town before heading back up the main road (also uphill) to the centar again and the finish line.
At the end of the first lap Chris was waiting for me. Apparently Sam had dropped out at 4K with breathing difficulties, but instead of finding them as a group, she had disappeared. Much worry and prayer going on.
The last couple of miles were just a case of trying to find a pace that was fast enough to be comfortable (because running slowly makes me hurt) but not un-sustainably quick, and also finding a happy measure of breathing that would set the pace for the legs. Inevitably I walked on and off, just allowing the batteries to recharge a little before starting to run again. There were a few people running slowly at this point that I passed, only for them to pass me while I walked, then to repass again.
The final section - I wrote climb initially, because that's how it felt even though it wasn't steep - was really draining, hot and tiring, and seemed far further than it had any right to be. Chris met me about 150 meters before the finish and ran with me as far as she was able. I was also 'paced' by a small boy from the crowd for the final section.
The actual finish was slightly puzzling, because there was initially a red arch across the road, then a first white arch followed by a second white arch, both of which said 'finish'. On reaching the first white arch I thought I'd arrived, only to realise that I then had to keep going for the second. :p A few yards further on was a line of girls hanging finishers medallions around runners necks, then further back passing out bottled water and finally so guys trying to move runners out of the finish area.
After finishing I discovered that Sam was still missing, no-one having seen her since Mick left her to make her way back to the group. Ivica and Martin had both finished before me and Mick arrived just a couple of minutes afterward. There was a lot of concern and some tears of worry shed, however Mick pointed out how stubborn she was and to confirm that he knew his daughter's character, she appeared just after the 2:30 mark, having recovered her breathing and completed the run. Cue much relief.
So here I sit the day after.
Various parts ache a bit and a couple of toes are sore, but overall it *feels* like I've got away with it very lightly.
Wonder what to do next? ;-)