Writing this on the evening of the race – legs slightly aching but not too bad; same with feet. I’m gulping down water like its going out of business, and I’m on the sleepy side. This will be a relatively short race report.
It will mainly be a short report because there isn’t a great deal to say about this race that I haven’t probably alluded to in previous posts, as sparse as they have been. I mentioned to The Lady post race words to the effect of ‘I’ve basically run once in the last two and a half weeks and I’m about four kilograms over my ideal race weight. I simply can’t believe that I didn’t run a personal best today!’. That’s not to say that there weren’t any positives to take out of it – if you had have given me a 1:37:04 at the start of the day – I would have taken it.
We – and by we I mean myself, the Lady and The Girl – woke at around 6am for a race starting at 9am and approximately 20 minutes drive away. That’s how crazy we (I) am. We all had a nice little morning routine – bit of breakfast, brushing of teeth, and making sure that our GPS watches had enough power. That must have just been me. I was a little nervy about the house, as I knew how much pain I was going to be in in a few hours, and given my lack of race preparation, it wasn’t going to be pretty. Fortunately, five year olds have a great way of bringing you back to earth by just going about their daily business – and trying to ensure that mine was all ready to go for her big day following Dad’s race was enough to keep me grounded. We all hopped in the car and made our way down to Hampton Court Palace.
We arrived probably about 45 minutes too early, which gave us the chance to have a wander around the grounds (beautiful, but a little chilly today), check out the race village (sparse at best compared to what I’m used to) and even return to the car to ensure that we could leave the car unlocked for the duration of the race, with the car keys in there. True story – though not deliberate actions. I hope.
I headed down to the start line in my Chasers kit (first race in the kit) and nervously paced around the place, occasionally throwing some stretches in because – well – that is what you’re supposed to do right? I managed to have some final pre-race hugs with the Ladies of my life, which was lovely as I had never had my daughter at a race before like this. I even managed to run into the mate from my old workplace who had suckered me into to signing up for the race in the first place, and future Team GB amateur triathlete Joe from Chasers, who looked about as focused a pre-race athlete as I have ever seen. Mercifully, the race organisers were quick to get us in the pens and out the door – so off we went for 21.1km of whatever it was that was about to happen.
I decided from the start that, well; fuck it. I’m here, let’s have a crack at sub 1:30 shall we. I think I had to run sub 4:15 1km splits to make that happen, so I got off to a good start with a 4:07 and a 4:13. I was still in with a shout when I ran a 4:20 in my third kilometre, but the 4:27 in my fourth pretty much killed it. So that was that. Then it was a matter of making sure that I still ran the best race that I possibly could because, you know, racer. It hurt. I’m not going to lie – these things are usually only really enjoyable at the end, and occasionally during those sporadic moments in-race when I don’t feel like death-warmed-up; which must be some sort of chemical poisoning or something. Today was just a hard slog pretty much throughout, particularly after going out in retrospect like a bit of a lunatic by my mediocre standards. I tried to settle into a pace and not chase those who were flying by me, but it was really hard! I just wanted to chase those shirts going by and hang on to them, but I knew I couldn’t sustain that pace, so I had to run my own race and just plod along in my own little world. Somewhere in the early stages I even managed to bump into George from Chasers, which was a pleasant surprise. I was pretty well dying at that stage (about 5km in) and seemingly had no problem in telling him exactly how I felt. He gave me the encouragement I needed (you’ve got a bloody long way to go) and off I went.
It wasn’t like the race was a complete disaster. I did occasionally settle into something resembling a rhythm, but this was mainly while I was wondering when the whole thing was going to end. The wind was a bit gusty, which made the run back towards Hampton Court from Kingston trying at times – which is saying something because I think that represented around 8km out of the whole 21.1km. It was pretty to run through though, and though the towpath and occasionally uneven surfaces were hell on my ankles, it was nothing if not entertaining for most of the way. Speaking of entertainment, I continued to keep myself entertained during the race the same way that I usually do – by resisting the urge to sing ‘Parklife’ by Blur at the top of my lungs, and also by trying to guess roughly what time I would finish with if I sustained this pace. I decided that I really didn’t want to go over 1:45, and preferably I would stay under 1:40. I felt that – at the half way point – it would be touch and go, but I would pretty comfortably stay under 1:40.
We rounded the top of Kingston Bridge once more and headed left this time rather than right, into the parklands and into sheer frustration on my part. I remember that the thing I hated the most about the Rome Marathon was the cobbled streets and how they would twist your ankles. Running through Hampton Court Park (I think that is what it is called) had much the same experience. It was lovely to look about, when I wasn’t too busy cursing at my ankle turning on another fucking boulder in the road. Luckily by this stage I was close to the finish and was thinking in terms of ‘one more kilometre to go’.
Even better – in the last few hundred metres, I managed to catch sight of The Lady and The Girl. I planted a big kiss on top of The Girl’s head and sprinted off to catch those who had gone ahead while I was chatting away to my loved ones. Funnily, The Girl had been telling everyone that she was going to get a sweaty kiss from her Dad, so its good to know that a) she knows me well, and b) I was able to fulfil her wish. I broke into a proper sprint down the finishing straight, which saw me pass around five people and get some funny looks from people in the crowd – and then crossed the line in a not embarrassing 1:37:04. My third fastest half-marathon time ever and the best one I have ever done outside of the Ealing Half Marathon.
So how do I feel about it? Well, it is amazing to think (and I say this kind of stuff a lot) that I can now run a 1:37 half marathon and actually feel a little disappointed. I mean, that is how far the bar has been raised in the last couple of years, and that is great. The fact remains though – this is a great reminder to me of one of those life lessons it pays not to forget. You only ever get out what you put in. I didn’t put in the speed work for this race, and I haven’t been looking after diet lately, and I haven’t done the same volume of training that I have done in the past. Frankly – to go within 4 minutes of my personal best with all of that against me is actually pretty good! It just tells me that if I seriously want to crack 3:30 in Rotterdam in (gasp!) three weeks or so, I will need to do some speed work and have a lot of things go my way. Doesn’t mean I won’t give it a red hot go though. I will be there on that start line after all.
So there we go – another half marathon in the books. Remember when these things used to be a big deal that you had to train loads for? Me too. And it feels great that that isn’t the case any more. Brilliant.
After The Fact Ed Note : Tuned into the results the morning after the race to discover that – despite feeling ‘mediocre’ about the run, I actually placed 190th out of 3289 runners, or roughly in the top 5% (ok, top 6%) for the race. I’d have to check it, but this would be my best race result ever. Pretty extraordinary considering my lack of training really!
Listening To: ‘The True Sea’ by Paul Dempsey