Last year I ran the Ealing Half Marathon in 1:35:13, with kilometre splits of somewhere around the 4:30 mark. I have subsequently spent the year doing runs of around 10km, struggling to hold that pace on flatter courses, and just thinking to myself – was it a fluke? Was it just a matter of right place, right time; and it all came together for a perfect day? Had I peaked? Today gave me the answer to those questions, and I couldn’t be happier with them. This was the fourth time I was to run the Ealing Half Marathon; my local race and my traditional season ender.
Long story short – I ran 1:33:22 for the half as a new personal best, with a 10km personal best of 43:44 thrown in for good measure. So yeah – not a fluke seemingly. I finished 397th overall, or in the top 9% of all runners.
It’s fair to say that the race didn’t get off to the best of starts. Being a local race, I waited until relatively late to make my way towards the course, and when there were no buses for 10 minutes it seemed that The Lady and I would have to walk the couple of miles to the start line. A 10-minute-prior-to-the-start requirement to go potty (I was nervous pre-race because I knew how much pain I was about to put myself through) meant that I wasn’t able to get to the starting pen with people of my appropriate pace. To give you an idea of how far back I was – I had intended to be in the 1:30 finish pace group, and I found myself not too far ahead of the 2:15 finish pacer. Oh dear.
So what do you do when you are way back in the pack on relatively narrow roads, and with loads of people to pick your way through? You nail yourself with ridiculous splits of course! After getting stuck behind groups in the first few hundred metres of the course, I found some space on some footpaths, and absolutely smashed myself trying to get some free space in the first couple of kilometres. To put it in perspective, I had been aiming to go around the 4:30 mark early on, but in the first few kilometres I went 4:24, 4:15, 4:24 and 4:23. That 4:15 was particularly ridiculous. Not for the first time in my running history (let alone my Ealing Half history), I went out in a race way too fast.
Here’s the thing though – once again, I was able to hold it, and continue to hold it. It is a bit strange for me to think that I can do this, as I can run a 4:15 kilometre and then continue running for 19km, but I can’t run a 4:15 kilometre and then hold the pace for four more kilometres and work on my 5km time. I don’t know what it is about 5km races that mean I can’t pace them, but it would be nice to work that one out – seemingly I can do it in a half marathon.
So anyway, I spent the first half of the race picking my way through the field. In fact, to put it in perspective, I started the race in 2030th place overall. By the half way mark of the race I had reached 594th place – passing 1,436 people. Neat huh? My half split was 47:10, and to be honest I was just thinking about how I could end the pain I was feeling and was dreaming about collapsing face first on to the grass at Lammas Park once I had crossed the finish line. I even stopped pretending to pull tough faces to make those around me think I was looking good – I was hurting, and intended on hurting all the way to the finish line if it meant I would score a personal best.
And that was pretty much the remainder of my race! I held my pace at just shy of 4:30 for most of the way somehow (including chasing a ginger haired guy with glasses that I decided that I didn’t like for no rational reason whatsoever), including a phenomenal for me 4:13 split in the 17th kilometre that wouldn’t have been out of place in a 5km attempt for me. I feel like there is something about this race that makes me run like I’m on drugs – that is the only way I can explain how I manage to run so fast at Ealing – it’s not even a flat course! I can’t explain it, but this race just brings something fast out of me, it’s great.
So there we go; I gritted my teeth and pulled ridiculous faces to ensure that once my watch indicated that I had completed 21.1km I could hit stop – and it recorded 1:33:22 – a new personal best by just shy of 2 minutes. I’m told that the Ealing course is a hilly one, and there is a definite temptation now to find a flat course and see if I can nudge a sub 1:30 half marathon; one of my major goals that I had indicated after Ironman. Definitely on the battle plan for 2017 now I think.
What can I say that the results don’t reflect? Well, what an amazing run, particularly given the less-than-ideal situation at the start where I had to pick through the field, and would have been slowed down by other runners, and it is never ideal to be changing pace so much during a race. Could have I gone faster had I started in the 1:30 pen? Perhaps by a few seconds, but I really feel I pushed my absolute limits today, so I would be surprised if I could have. I’m especially proud of my ability to grit my teeth and really grind out a great result when the easy thing would have been to slow down after 10km and coast to the finish. What can I say – I’m a racer at heart, and as much as I try to talk down my competitiveness; there is definitely a lion in my chest somewhere that roars when challenged.
On the reflective side; I said to The Lady post-race that I need to prepare myself though for the idea that I won’t be able to run a personal best every time I race. I’ve talked a bit about goal setting before, and I think that this – if anything – actually reinforces my desire to be more relaxed about my race goals and not place so much importance on time or placing. Otherwise I will be an unhappy racer, rather than enjoying the experience like I have in the past.
I will take a few days to reflect some more on this – perhaps it will sink in a bit more – the time that I have run. My improvement from when I first ran this distance (just under 2:00 I believe) in a few years is brilliant to think of, and from a racing perspective, really adds something to a year in which I have already completed an Ironman and run a personal best for the marathon as well. I really didn’t think I could top 2015, but the stats are adding up and it is looking like I may have very well just done that. For now though, I am going to Google ‘flattest half marathon in UK’ and see what happens. Sub 1:30? It is more possible than ever.
Listening To: Life Of The Party by Something For Kate