Monthly Archives: March 2012

Fun in the sun

Well the lack of nerves ahead of the Wilmslow Half Marathon deserted me in the last 24 hours before the race.

I assume nerves came into play alongside a severe bout of hypochondria on Saturday. I sneezed myself awake and even coughed before breakfast which was a clear sign that during my sleep I had contracted an until now, unknown strain of influenza virus. Despite the flu then deciding to lie dormant for the rest of the day, I then ‘suffered’ terrible injuries to my right heel (a dull ache) and my left thigh (another dull ache), plus an ‘uncomfortable’ stomach (which had nothing to do with the large amount of cheese and spicy crisps I was eating – honest).

Move forward to Sunday morning (race day) and although the flu was still hiding, waiting to pounce when least expected, I didn’t feel much like running a half marathon. Of course, I neglected to consider that I always feel this way the moment I awake, and instead considered it a sign of impending failure.

Anyway, a bit of breakfast, far too much water, a search for safety pins for my race number and off to Wilmslow in the car. “Just another run” I kept telling myself all the way there but as I arrived the place was teeming with supreme looking athletes, every single one clearly many minutes faster than me. Walking to the start didn’t ease my concerns that I was going to be last and would burn myself out after a couple of miles just trying to keep up to see where to go.

As it turned out, my fears were unfounded. I decided on a race strategy when my colleague who I wanted to try to run with decided to set-off from between the 1 hour 40 to 1 hour 50 starts (and too close to the 1 hour 40 marker for my liking). But what the hell, my strategy took shape in an instance – I would set out at under eight minute mile pace, hang on as long as possible and suffer later.

As race strategies go, I guess it was probably not the best, but it did what it said on the tin. I started to slow around 7.5 miles but had already broke my PB for 6 miles and 10k. I managed to hang on to get through 10 miles in a couple of seconds over 1 hr 20 mins (another PB)  before struggling through the last 3.1 to make it home in 1:49:11 (four and half minutes faster than my previous best over the distance). After a time damaging pee stop at 12 miles, I even just about managed to punch the air in delight as I staggered over the line in a time I barely dared dream of over the past few weeks.

It was maybe a strange way to run but had I not been struggling so much over the last couple of miles I would have laughed out loud. Over the first few miles I seemed to pass, or at least run with, runners who  looked the part. They flowed along majestically, effortlessly and I was among them. As the finish approached, every weird and wonderful running gait waddled, limped, powered and puffed past me and my by now totally ineffective style!

As for the race itself, my first since I was a kid, I thought it was incredibly well-organised, plenty of marshals, and fantastic support around the course – something that really kept me going towards the end. There was ample water available too, much needed as the temperature got into the high teens/high 60s on a beautiful sunny day.

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Fun and definitely in my diary for next year. I might even think about planning my race a bit more careully next time.

Nervously un-nervous

With just over a couple of days before I run my first half-marathon since I was 11 (which doesn’t really count as it was 30 years ago), I’ve become a bit ‘sort-of-nervous’.

In many ways this is totally illogical. I know I can run the distance – several training runs of between 12 and 16 miles over recent months have convinced me that it’s probable that I’ll be able to get round the course. I’m not nervous about running the whole race at 8 minute mile pace – I know I can’t do that quite at the moment and will be happy enough to get round in under two hours, delighted if I beat my best of 1 hour 53 mins 30 seconds (set in a painful training run), and ecstatic if I somehow manage to break 1 hour 50.

Maybe I should be a bit nervous about being too warm or cold but I’ve brought a little belt thing that my very lightweight running jacket will squash into. The fact that there are likely to be plenty of colleagues and pupils from work around the course (foolishly I’ve selected a HM starting and finishing just a few metres away) should maybe add some ‘pressure’ but to be quite honest I’m just happy to go and get on with it and not really bother about what anyone else thinks (or the abuse they might shout!).

I’ve heard that once you have completed a race for which you have been training there is a natural deflated feeling, a gap in your life, but no nerves here for me as I’ve already got plans to up my distance and have a crack at a marathon and maybe beyond.

What I think I’m really nervous about is the fact that I don’t actually know how I should feel. Should I be nervous at all? Or excited? Or terrified? Should I be tossing and turning for the pre-race nights, mulling over all the things that could go wrong, or even right? Should I be worried about every item of food I eat between now and race day in case the ingredients somehow affect my performance? (Actually, referring back to my previous post, yes I should worry about my diet affecting my run, although I won’t as it’s all my own doing.)

Maybe I should fear running in a big crowd, or even that they will be all so fast that this won’t be a problem for me. And perhaps I should worry about getting my race strategy all wrong, but then again I don’t really have one other than trying to keep up with a faster colleague and/or the virtual partner on my Garmin.

I suppose it could be the term ‘race’ that should get me nervous, although as I suspect I have little chance of an incredible sequence of events seeing me jog home in first place 40 plus minutes behind the course record, then I’m not letting that worry me either.

Damn it – I’m nervous because I’m not nervous!

I guess race day will reveal all – I have nothing to be nervous about now other than something unknown that I will realise I should have been worried about all along.

Or maybe I might just enjoy it.