I was one of 37,000 people who participated in the 20 kilometers of Brussels. I finished in 1:26:41, which is a bit slower than my personal best of 1:25:23 in 2009. I finished a half hour before the future king of the Belgians, Prince Philippe, who crossed the finish line in 1:55.
We started in the Cinquantenaire Park. There were six waves of departures from the Cinquantenaire Park so they tried to limit the crowds. We were packed in large stalls and I had to wait a few minutes before starting the race. It was rather chilly for late May – about 11 degrees – but good race weather. The canon sounded after the Belgian national anthem (La Brabaconne). We started down a small hill, and I began with a good pace. I cruised down Rue de la loi, passing my office, the European Commission headquarters and modern glass EU buildings. The huge number of people made it a difficult race at times. I had to constantly watch out for fellow runners. Indeed, I almost got tripped at Place Royale! I also had to watch out for treacherous cobblestones in front of the Royal Palace. It had rained the night before so I didn’t want to slip on them. Cobblestones are nice when you're looking at them, but try to avoid running on wet ones.
We headed toward the Palais de Justice and into tunnels along Avenue Louise. This sounds nicer than it was because we were funneled along rather narrow, two-lane tunnels. However, the crowds along the bridges were encouraging. At the 8K mark, we looped around the bois de la cambre, which I know very well because I run there every weekend. It was nice to get some fresh air. I completed the first 10K in 42 minutes, which was probably too fast. After a short climb at the 11K mark, we leveled off and then headed down into Boisfort. I thought I was doing well in the second half because no one passed me and I was able to get around a few runners. But there is a two-kilometer hill at the 16K mark and I must have slowed down. As I crested the hill, I saw the arcades of the Cinquantenaire Park and tried to pick up the pace for the final 2K. You can probably see in the photo that I was in a bit of pain during the final sprint! Overall, the race was fun and there was a good atmosphere. It's nice to take part in a race that is just down the street.