Just 8 weeks before the Canterbury Half Marathon the furthest I’d run in a single session was 10k, or 6.2 miles for those of you working in imperial measurements. Initially the idea of running over double this was quite daunting, but as the weeks went on, and my long run milage slowly increased, I was definitely warming to the idea!
If you missed the series on my journey from 10k to Half Marathon in 8 weeks, why not check it out.
Race Day Morning
The weather for the previous few days had been miserable and as I pulled back the curtains today was no different. It was going to be a wet race, the only question was would I dodge the worst of the downpours or would I get hit with the worst of it.
Arriving at Merton Farm, windscreen wipers swishing the rain away, the number of cars parked up on the embankment indicated something wasn’t quite going to plan. Luckily I’d left plenty of time to arrive and get myself ready, so sitting in the queue of traffic wasn’t causing me as much stress as it might have done otherwise. Arriving at the front of the queue I was advised by a friendly marshall that the field car parking was closed due to being waterlogged, but ‘carry on down and we’ll fit you in somewhere’. As I drove down through the farm I was starting to wonder where they’d fit us all, but before I could dwell on it, and with no trouble at all, I was ushered into a line of cars and given the thumbs up. Excellent.
I usually like to sign up for races in advance, not only because I’m much less likely to abandon the race when the weather is as bad as this, but also because having that race number and timing chip means I can get everything ready in advance rather than needing to seek out the registration area and fill in the forms on race day. The previous evening I’d attached the race number to my running vest using my awesome event clips (more on these in a review soon) and secured the timing chip to my running shoe. This meant that all I needed to do now was a quick warm up and get myself down to the starting area in good time.
I made my way back up the road from the car and to the start, positioning myself fairly near the front of the starting pack, but behind those with ambitions far greater than mine. And to speak of ambitions, I’d decided that rather than having a single target time for the race I’ll set myself a range of targets to aim for. After all, you never can tell what might happen out there on the day, and to have a second and even third target to aim for when the first slips out of reach keeps the motivation up.
- Gold – Sub 01:45:00 – This is the one I was shooting for.
- Silver – Sub 02:00:00 – OK, not as quick as I would have liked but it is my first half
- Bronze – Any Finish – I’d never run the full distance in training so anything could happen. I hoped this was just a backup really.
Standing at the starting line and knowing the conditions we’d be running in, that bronze option was starting to feel pretty good actually, but I’d still be going for the sub 01:45:00.
The plan was a simple one. Start off fairly easy at around 08:00 minute mile pace for the first couple of miles, then once I was in my stride and the field had thinned out a bit I’d up the pace slightly and then keep it steady for the next 8 miles or so. At around the 11 mile marker I’d either have something left in the tank for a final push, or I’d be happy to keep things as they were and ease on home. What could possibly go wrong!
Is this a road or a river?
I actually quite enjoy running in a bit of light rain and this is how things were for the first few miles – a bit wet but nothing too troubling. A nice down hill section early on followed by a slight uphill from mile 4 to 5 kept things interesting, and as I’d run this part of the course previously and already tackled the hill I knew that it wasn’t going to be anything too troubling. Feeling in good shape it was nice to see the half way marker right around my planned time.
It was just around here that the rain decided to take it up a notch, going from what I’d call a shower to full on torrential rain. As I write this I wonder if I’m exaggerating, but really I’m not. With all of the surrounding ground already saturated, and this being an undulating course, the road was starting to look more like a river in places.
I’m not usually prone to blisters, but the combination of wet socks, wet shoes and wet feet meant that it was inevitable. It was going to be a matter of digging in and getting round, but my energy levels were dropping fast and I knew what was approaching.
As this was a lollypop style course that early downhill would be coming back for it’s revenge at mile 11, and that was just around the corner. Hitting the hill we were heading up from 200 feet to 350 feet in just 0.3 of a mile and I was struggling – I wasn’t even sure at this point if my running pace was actually any quicker than if I’d been walking. Reaching the top was a definite relief but it had taken it’s toll on my already tired legs. I was now heading past my previous furthest distance, and although lots of people say “there’s no need to train the full distance” and “the crowd will carry you through”, for me, this wasn’t the case. There was no crowd, and I really couldn’t blame them for not wanting to stand out in the horrendous weather.
Grabbing the glory
Maybe it wasn’t quite as quick as I would have liked, that final hill had taken its toll on my time, but I’d completed my first half marathon and I was happy.
I didn’t get the gold target, but I was more than happy with the silver. On another day I’m sure I would have made it round quicker, but then that’s part of running races – taking on the challenge, whatever the weather, and grabbing the personal achievement at the end.