A time I would have been over the moon with 10 days ago, and yet yesterday it was a huge disappointment.
After running 1.47.15 at the North London Half last weekend, I was confident in my ability to run faster over what was deemed to be a flatter, easier course. I had a time of 1.45 in my head and had chatted through a strategy to achieve it with Mary (my coach).
The plan was to start with 8.10ish min miles for 1-3, then drop down to 8-8.05 for 4-10, then drop the hammer and run sub 8’s to the finish.
But let’s start at the beginning…
My friend Sarah stayed at my house the night before to carb load, relax and chill before the race – it was her first ever half so we kept things simple with a tomato and chicken pasta, epsom salt bath and early night. The morning started at a leisurely 7am with breakfast (english muffins with peanut/almond butter & banana, plus coffee and water), before driving to collect my cousin and find our parking spot. They encourage you to take public transport to the start however from Henley it’s just a 20min drive vs hour on the train and shuttle. What they don’t tell you is just what a walk it is from your car to the start via the race village… luckily it was all very well organised and we easily found the loo, bag drop and our start corral.
About 10 mins after the first wave went off, we crossed the start line. It was busy but I was feeling good – however as usual I started too fast, clocking a 7.54 first mile.
Mile 2 I settled into a rhythm and hit 8.06, knowing that there was a big hill at mile 3. The hill was much steeper and longer than I anticipated but I kept a steady pace, pumped my arms and controlled my breathing. For the first time that day I felt the wind on my back and prayed that it would stay like that rather than the headwind we’d run into during mile 2.
Sadly it didn’t and I think that was the only time during the 13.1 miles that I felt the wind behind me – it blew fiercely across the parkland during miles 4 and 5, making those 8.10ish min miles feel harder than they usually do.
My pace was flipping rapidly between 7ish min miles at 9+ min miles, very disheartening when I felt like I was running as fast as I could, knowing I still had 8 miles left. And the flat course turned out to have a number of small inclines and downhills that mentally drained me… as well as physically making it hard to keep on pace, not to mention the wind.
I wanted to give up on my PB goal at 7 miles, and 8 miles, at 9 miles I switched my watch to the clock rather than obsessing over my splits and distance (I was already 0.1 over the distance from weaving) and run on effort. I was thirsty and although I’d taken a gel at mile 6, I forced myself to take another slowly around mile 10.5. They were using little water pouches which I understand creates less rubbish but I find it harder to drink out of them and managed to spray a lot over my face as well as taking in a lot of air with them. The water stations were every 3 miles, which I should have looked at in advance as I was desperate for a drink between mile 9 and 12…and it seemed odd to have a water station so close to the finish line.
I tried to push it when I hit mile 10 but honestly had nothing left to give, I was clocking up 8.20s and found it demoralising. I didn’t even have it in me to sprint to the finish line until I saw that I could still run a sub 1.48 when I found a little more energy to haul my ass over the line…
I was upset after finishing, texting Mary ‘I fought, and I failed’. (and one to Tom saying ‘I ducked it’ – seriously…that’s how it autocorrected!) I felt like I hadn’t given it my all, however now, looking at the footage I videoed straight after the race I can see just how windy it was out there, and realise that the important thing was I kept fighting. I fought through every mile to keep running as fast as I could in the moment, and the mental side of running is just as important as the physical side, especially when it comes to the marathon.
After the race I bumped into two friends which lifted my spirits, and found Emma (my 5am Henley running partner) who was giving out medals with her Mum. I also tracked down Sarah who I’d tried to spot finishing but missed her, and discovered she’d run 1.54 for her first ever half! More importantly, she loved it!! So proud of her and can’t wait to run more races together, we’ve decided to find some fun races abroad.
For the first time I also waited in line for a post-race sports massage, and had a painful yet necessary massage on my hamstrings, calves and ITBs – although I don’t hurt at all today so it must have worked!
Here’s my marathon training video from the past two weeks, including footage from the North London Half and Reading Half…