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…
Dont be too hard on yourself two 1.47s two weekends on the trot is amazing! And what great consistency, I hear your pain though, I ran a local half yesterday, knowing that I’m fit enough to go sub 1.50 for the first time and knowing that I’m capable of 1.47/1.48 with how great my training is going. The first 3 miles went OK….. then the rolling hills began from mile 3 all the way to the finish, up and down up and down! And the wind was also relentless. My pace just died along with my legs. I ended up running a 1.55 which put me in a crap mood for the rest of the day. More medals earnt though, so we should be proud!
The wind – I was like wtf! it truly was relentless! Great British weather ruining the day!! Sorry your race didn’t go to plan either.xx
You are being way to hard on yourself. It can take 2 weeks to fully recover from racing a hlaf marathon, so no surprises you are not at your best after only a week. I’d be pleased to do the same time two weeks apart.
Looking back with a day or two perspective I can see that, but on sunday evening I was just really disappointed as I didn’t ‘RACE’ North London half, I was running on feel so thought I could race much faster on Sunday.
1.47.15 seems pretty good to me. Don’t be sop hard on yourself – if you relax a bit you may run better. G.
What can I say, it runs in the family – nothing is ever good enough 🙂
thats an AMAZING time Charlie! Congrats!!!!
Its the hard races that make the runner, not the easy ones- you fought hard and kept going in the face of disappointment and adversity..thats amazing!
Thanks Florence, I think we learn more from the races that don’t go right than the ones that do!
Congrats even though it wasn’t the time you wanted. Some days it just seems so hard to get your legs moving for sure! that Asics speed testing is so cool!
It was super cool! I really enjoyed it!
I’ll be curious to hear Mary’s thoughts on this as I would imagine that some of it may be due to fatigued muscles from the previous week PR in addition to the wind. Great job regardless!
Last weekend at North London half wasn’t a PR effort, and during the week we kept it really easy so I don’t think it was fatigued muscles – more like a mixture of heavy wind and hills!!
I know you were aiming for a faster time, but this race is a really good example of how external factors can throw off even the best planning! What you can be sure of is that your time would have been markedly slower given those difficult conditions — but thanks to being in top condition and hard training, you ran your second best time ever, even shortly after running a personal best. So congratulations, and looks like you’ll be in good form for your upcoming marathons!
Thanks Mandi, having had a day or two to reflect I’m feeling far more positive about it!
Don’t beat yourself up, you turned up and did it and you’re still going and that’s something to be proud of !
Also I’ve noticed that you make a reference to Epsom bath salts and I was wondering whether you would recommend them ? And any advice in using them? I’ve been suffering with tight hamstrings and calves and it’s really making my legs feel like led. 🙁 thanks!
Thanks Emily – here’s a post on epsom salts… https://runnersconnect.net/running-injury-prevention/epsom-salt-treatment-running-injuries/ personally I think just the warm bath helps my muscles (and mind) relax after a race and long run! Stretching, foam rolling, massage etc is what has worked for my tight hamstrings and calves – I used the free post race massage on Sunday and it definitely helped!
One thing I’ve learned is that the only thing you should judge a race on is your attitude to the race. Did you keep fighting? Did you give up? Your attitude is pretty much the only thing you can control and the only measure that gives a true picture of how well you raced.
Sounds like you raced well.
So true Catherine, and it is one of the few things you CAN control on race day!!
Congratulations!! What an amazing accomplishment and it sounds like it was an amazing experience! You inspire me!