This was only my second Half Marathon, and easily was the longest wait for a race to appear in my calendar, as the previous race scheduled in August had to be cancelled for personal reasons. This was also the one that would help me to understand how well my long distance training has gone over the past 6 -9 months.
As I was ultimately training for a Marathon in Spring 2019, I had already increasing mileage over the previous months. I was pretty comfortable at the Half Marathon distance now, having done a multitude of long runs. Most recently getting close to the 22 miles mark. Most of these runs showed that I was bordering around the 01:53:00 mark for Half Marathon, if I’d keep with the same pace.
Going into the race, I would have been happy with achieving anything close to 01:50:00, and this would mean that I would have eclipsed my time at Sheffield Half Marathon by ~23 mins. This would be a massive achievement on its own.
We arrived very early at around 8am, on the advice of a fellow member. This was a good thing, as we were able to relax into the start time, with easily getting our numbers and having a trip to the loo. I was even able to do a small warmup beforehand to help prepare for the race.
On the start line, I met and started with a fellow Strider (Stuart Jones), who was hoping to get round on Marathon pace. The start went pretty good, considering I was aiming for 01:50:00 a pace of 08:24 would have sufficed, but I started off pretty quick at around 07:30. Talking to Stuart, and feeling quite comfortable, we carried this pace forward. He was already warning me, that I might be going to fast. The first few miles went pretty quick and didn’t notice a thing, and Stuart was just helping with my pace too, keeping me with him, as well chatting away about various stories and such.
One of the key things I saw on my watch was that I would be getting 01:38:00 at this current pace. When I kept seeing this, I couldn’t ever dream that I could ever get to that time. Coming to about halfway, I was told to slow down a little by Stuart, so that I can pick it up later if I still felt good. I think that was spot on advice, and Stuart kindly stayed with me, and always giving me the support and encouragement through the next few phases. I knew that, even if I did slow down, it would be a massive PB on its own.
I was able to keep to an average pace of 8 min/mile until mile 10 quite comfortably and could see that my ETA for HM time was going up slightly. This is where I needed to just stay focused, and concentrate on what I had learnt and trained over the past few months. I had to concentrate on my breathing, form and posture a lot more, and stay with some of the people that were around me. I found mile 13 the hardest, every step and every breath was just all hard work.
Coming into the last part of the race, which was the entrance of the Airfield, I started to get cramps in my calves and thought not again. This was my downfall in my last Half Marathon. I had to make 2 brief slowdowns but had to go through the pain of the cramps to the finish line. The cramps are something I need to work on for future races and see how I can help prevent them.
The joy of finishing, and having a few of the Striders cheering was amazing at the end. Looking at the watch, and saw that I had achieved a spectacular time of 01:41:10. Which is a massive 31 minutes off my Sheffield HM time, and 12 mins off HM training time. Stuart deservedly got a big hug from me, who helped all the way along this race, and got me to this fantastic achievement.