If you’ve read my previous blog posts then you might know that I’d got a few ambitious goals for 2017:
- sub-19 5K,
- sub-40 10K,
- sub-89 Half Marathon,
- 3:15 marathon,
- and to complete my first 100K event.
My first attempt at breaking the half marathon goal was off the back of a minor niggle that had resulted in reduced training at the start of the year, which then led into a marathon PB – but missing the goal I’d set. Over half of the year had passed by the time I ticked off my first goal – completing 100K at Race to the Stones in July. It’d been a tough race, but I hoped it’d help me work on the remainder of my goals.
I unofficially broke sub-19 in an un-timed race just before Race to the Stones, but I’d not yet been able to get it as an official time. A couple of parkruns later and I’d got my parkrun time down close to my 5K PB, but still hadn’t managed sub-19. It was time to move on and start focusing on building up for a marathon once more. I could always go back to working on the 5K after my other races were out the way. I got a couple of long runs done, and then managed to get sub-40 in a 10K during races two weeks running. The first of these had put me well on the way to sub-39 as well.
The week after these two races I did a 10.1 mile training run averaging 6:41 min/mile pace which if I’d maintained the pace for another three miles would have gotten me a sub-89 time (in fact sub-87 was in sight of that!).
My hopes were now high that I’d be able to tick off another of my goals at Robin Hood Half, but a failed 22 mile run (where I only got to 16 miles for reasons I won’t go into) put this in doubt. For the third year running, during the week before the race I found myself surrounded by people with colds and I was concerned I’d get one before the race. There were points where I was convinced I was getting a sore throat.
On race day I got to the Embankment for 08:15, about 20-25 minutes later than I would have had I not got lost on the way due to the bright sun being so low it was making it difficult to read road signs. I had 75 minutes until the start of the race, and only thirty minutes until the planned #ukrunchat meet-up so after a quick walk around I went for my warm-up run.
Half-way through the warm-up I passed Sherie and Scott, so picked up the pace and caught back up with them on their way to the meeting point. I waited there with them for others to turn up. I noticed it was getting warm already, almost enough to make me sweat and my throat was dry already. It was looking like we might not get the cool weather that had been forecast.
It got to 09:00 and Amy hadn’t been able to find us so I went off looking for her and her sister. After ten minutes I gave up looking as I was running out of time to join the toilet queue before the race.
I decided I’d wait in the queue until 09:20, but was nowhere near the front so thought I’d give it another five minutes. The queue just wasn’t moving so I gave up and had to run for the starting line – hoping I wouldn’t regret it later.
I got to the yellow starting pen with less than a minute to spare before the race started. The pen was a lot busier than I remember it from previous years and was a slow start. Once out onto the main road it started to ease up a bit, but I found it difficult to get up to my target pace.
One runner ran straight in front of me without looking and almost tripped me up; I shouted “jeez” to make sure he knew what he’d done. He looked over his should and just made a “pfft” sound. I think that’s the big difference between the pens – the closer you are to the front, the more likely it is to encounter inconsiderate runners. It’s not a blanket rule of course, there were many considerate runners who would also make sure others are doing okay. There’s always the odd few though, and it seems I encounter one in about 30-40% of the races I do.
The first two miles went more or less to plan – both of them putting me on target for a sub-87, but then I encountered the hills. The hills start at around 2.4 miles and carry on until 3.2 miles before a sharp descent. At the pace I wanted, going up those hills in the heat that had risen to 20C with 71% humidity was too much. I was ahead of the 90 minute pacer, but I found myself walking long enough to be overtaken by him.
I overtook the 90 minute pacer again on the descent and then stayed ahead for a while. I grabbed a water pouch from the station at mile 3 and squeezed a few drops of water into my mouth. I hate those pouches, but as they sponsor the race each year they have no choice but to use them. Unfortunately I couldn’t pour any of the water over me to cool down as I might have down with a bottle. I couldn’t really get enough water out to drink before I discarded it.
Before I reached Wollaton Park I was walking again, and the 90 minute pacer had overtaken me. I didn’t want to lose sight of him so I pushed on when I could, but it was a lot warmer through the Park than it ever has been on previous years I’ve been through there in a race. This area was well supported, and to be honest I think the majority of the race was, but here I noticed it the most as I struggled up the hill through the park.
I’d got a few jelly babies stashed away in my Flipbelt to use mid-race, but with how slow I was going due to the frequent overheating, I didn’t both eating any of them. Even by the end of the race they remained untouched.
After leaving the park, the route headed back towards the road we’d run down before so we could run back up it in the opposite direction. I started to look out for people I know in the oncoming stream of runners, but had a complete mental block of who was there. I was sure I’d seen @designrach – but it couldn’t have been as she wasn’t running this one!
The course then does an “out and back” with a tight turn at the end; one of the ones from last year I think. By the time I reached one hour of running I was at around 9 miles. The 90 minute pacer was still in sight, but I knew at this point that if I wanted to still manage sub-90 I’d need to maintain a pace much faster than I’d prepared for. In this heat I wasn’t going to attempt it though. My lips had dried out and were becoming sore, and it felt like you could cook bacon on me.
When I got to 10 miles it felt like a bit of a milestone – as I knew I’d not long PB’d at that distance, but I was already 4 minutes behind that time and I was walking. Over the miles that remained I walked a lot for each mile – it became like a slow interval session where each split was incredibly short.
As the train station came into view I knew from memory that it wasn’t that far left to go. It was far enough though. With about 0.7 miles left to go I saw Sherie on the corner so gave her a high five as I passed. It was probably about the seventh one I’d given as after 8 miles I decided it didn’t matter if I expended the energy – I wasn’t going to be using it.
Not long after, as I passed through the gates into the Victoria Embankment, I started to walk again. Then I realised Sherie was running along the pavement and shouted at me to keep going. So I did. At least until I’d crossed the start line again anyway.
I walked again briefly and then decided I needed to run the entire grass section. I wanted a sprint finish, and figured that with all the rain we’d had over the past few days that if I went for that last “kick” from a walking start that I might just slip and faceplant in the grass. I pushed on to the last corner and then picked up speed immediately after so I could sprint at at least a 4min/mile pace.
On the way out they passed me my medal so I threw it around my neck as I collected a water bottle. I was then passed an empty carrier bag, not sure why, and the a finishers tee (first time this year!), and a Boost chocolate bar.
I’d finished in 94:14 so was a lot slower than I’d intended. I’d started the race thinking I might just get an 87 minute time, but was hoping for at least sub-89. In the end I failed at this goal for the second time this year, and for the second year running. I’d like to get an 85 minute half in the next couple of years, and I think to manage that I need to run another half marathon this year – otherwise I won’t be racing a half again until Reading in March 2018.
I think it’s okay to fail, it’s how we learn to be better, but it’s important to keep trying. This race was warm, it was humid, and it was hilly. It’s not a great combination for a PB attempt, and I heard afterwards that a lot of people were struggling in the conditions. I hate to think how many would have had to DNF because of the conditions today.
My friend Gen Huss was up in Edinburgh doing a half there and encountered similar conditions as well. She did of course run faster than me, but then her training has been really strong. We’ll hopefully get to race each other again soon.
My time still got me a finishing place of 264 out of 6,149 half marathon finishers. It put me in the first 4.3% which I guess isn’t too bad really. Maybe that’s one positive I can take away from the race. Oh well, onto the next.