I don’t know why, but undertaking a long road trip to a race makes it feel more special. Maybe subconsciously we run a bit harder so as not to waste all the miles travelled.
I’ve just enjoyed a great weekend away in Bath, primarily to race the half marathon, but I also had a great laugh with two lovely Valley Strider pals – Lou and Liz. For once, I didn’t mind being the ugliest Valley Strider in the group:
I shouldn’t say this, but I won’t be inviting Lou to help me choose a new coffee table any time soon…
We amused ourselves on the long car journey down from Leeds by sharing our desert island discs playlists and we must have drawn a few incredulous looks from fellow motorists as we belted out “Sweet Child o’ Mine” in true Wayne’s World fashion on the M5. It passed the miles.
The Bath half is a big race – 15,000 entrants and nearly 13,000 of them toed the start line (causing a few problems…). I was somewhat perturbed to note I was designated Start pen D when I got my race pack. Fortunately, the first three pens were small and I wheedled my way near to the front of my pen. I was across the start mat in a handful of seconds.
My target for the race was very clear – to run a PB and to go quicker than 80 minutes. My PB was 1 hour 20 minutes and 27 seconds, set at the Brass Monkey a few years ago. To achieve that I needed to average 6 minutes 4 seconds per mile or better.
The course was a two lapper with a mile or so of a start/finish shoot. It was generally flat, with a few undulations, but all in all it was a fast course. The support was fantastic, with supporters standing roadside for most of the route.
I felt good at the start and tried to get myself into a groove of 6 minute miling for the first lap. It felt ‘comfortably hard’, which is ideal for half marathon pacing in my book and I went through 10K bang on target in 37:48.
The start of the second lap was back into the breeze and included a couple of short rises. For the first time I was struggling a bit, my pace dropped and I lost a few places. Mile 8 was covered in 6:15 – not a disaster but I knew I had to pick it up.
I recomposed on a long gradual downslope and had a serious word with myself. I had driven a long way for this race and had recently lost my Uncle, a great man and huge lover of sport. As soon as I muttered to myself “This one’s for you Norman”, I felt my cadence and pace rise and I started passing other runners.
It felt good, so I kept surging like this, trying to dig deeper whenever the pain rose in me. We crossed the Avon at the far end of the loop. The 10-mile point was reached in 60:30 – my second best 10-mile time ever.
I tried to kick it up another gear for the final ‘parkrun’ to the finish. I knew that if I could cover the final three miles in 18 minutes, with a bit for the 0.1 at the end then I would easily smash 80 minutes. I felt a little euphoric. I passed more runners – Mile 11 was run in 5:56 and mile 12 even quicker in 5:54. I felt certain I was going to do it.
With 1 mile to go, we left the circuit and ran back onto the start/finish shoot. I started paying for my exuberance. My legs felt heavy and suddenly it was a massive effort to keep the speed up.
My watch ticked over to 13 miles in 1 hour 18:35 – I had 85 seconds to run 0.1 of a mile. In my head, I thought ‘I’ll p**s this’…
However, I looked up expecting to see the finish banners. To my dismay, they were nowhere in sight – just a long straight road ahead and a distant left turn…what the hell?
By the time I made the turn and saw the finish line I had about 20 seconds left to beat my target. It still looked a long way. I sprinted as hard as I could for the line – Strava recorded my best pace at 4:03 mins per mile just before the line…
I stopped my watch and then looked down in horror at my Garmin:
80:00!…I hoped that my official time might be rounded down by a second, alas it wasn’t.
Having checked a lot of other runners Strava records, most had the course length between 13.25 and 13.3 miles. I know Garmins aren’t deadly accurate but I feel that the course was a bit long, which undoubtedly cost me a sub 80 time.
Lou had a great run finishing in 1:38.34 and Liz wasn’t far behind her.
Apparently, the race even made the BBC news as the high number of finishers caught out the organisers who hadn’t ordered enough medals or T-Shirts leaving a few hundred of the later finishers extremely disappointed.
My 80 minute flat time was good enough for only 9th place in my age category – the fastest 50-year old ran an amazing 1:14.17!
On reflection I was pleased with my effort, I gave it everything and it augurs well for London, now just over 5 weeks away.
LM -6 weeks
43.1 miles, longest run 13.27 miles
Weight 11 St 3.2 lbs
Aerobic-efficiency on Sunday run 924 beats per mile