Race Review – Exeter Half


So I had originally planned to write up my week’s training on a Sunday; however, last week my training effectively consisted of a half marathon:

exeterhalfmedalsmall

Yeeeah, check out those sexy purple Asics! (They’re currently stuffed full of newspaper. Devon didn’t really agree with them). Oh, and the medal’s pretty awesome, too. Did I mention they gave everyone a medal at the finish? And creme eggs! The creme eggs were the best bit! I tried to persuade everyone that as I was basically last, and there was basically a full box of them left, they must have meant for one per mile per person – needless to say, nobody was convinced. Pft. Their logic fails me.

Talking of miles, due to running this half marathon in truly Devon style – i.e., in the torrential rain – part of the original course was flooded, so they ended up adjusting it on the day, sending us off with a ‘well I don’t really know how long the route is now, to be completely honest .. Possibly 12 something ..’ I wish. The official length was 13.25, meaning this was both the wettest AND longest half marathon, ever. I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

Well, given that this blog is supposed to be a training log of sorts, I should probably talk about running, rather than chocolate. Madness, I know. I do apologise.

My longest training run before the half marathon was 12.1 miles, completed in 2h07. In reality this was effectively 2 shorter runs – 5 miles, and then 7 – with a quick loo break in the middle. Given this, and the fact that over the past 3 or 4 weeks I’ve been severely slacking on my mid-week runs, I’m honestly not surprised that I found this race as tough as I did. I had initially hoped for a finishing time of around 2h15-2h20, but even by half way I could tell that it wasn’t going to happen.

I could list excuses: the weather was warmer than I’m used to running in; I’ve never run any substantial distance in the pouring rain; I didn’t wear my ipod; the half marathon was at the end of a stressful week of late nights and early mornings, and preceded by a 6h15 wake-up call .. But really, I think I shot myself in the foot by not sticking to my training as well as I should have. I finished in 2:28:31, 5th from last place. On the up side, according to my Nike+ band I managed to maintain a pretty steady pace:

halfmara






(The calibration was slightly off – it only felt like 13.9 miles).

Psychologically, I found the route pretty tough; running out and back along the same path 3 times, being regularly passed by the faster runners heading back a loop ahead of me (awesome to watch but somewhat distracting), the route felt longer than it was. I’ve never been good with long, straight paths – I like to break up my runs with strategic turns and pedestrian-dodging (the half marathon delivered on the latter, tenfold .. pedestrians, cyclists, dogs ..)

I think what really kept me going was the fact that I didn’t run it alone – I had my Dad to coerce me into carrying on (even when I wanted to just give up). Being fitter and faster than me, he occasionally went a little ahead, but regularly slowed to let me catch up. I think once you get into a bad mental place during a long run like this, moral support makes all the difference. By the third loop, all I could focus on was the rain, the blister on my toe, the niggles in my left ankle and right knee, my aching legs .. By 11 miles, it was all I could do to keep jogging. Overtaking a guy on the way back on the final straight was a little boost!
We got to the last little stretch, and the clock read 2h28. Mum, having come along to support us despite being unable to run it herself due to injury (I can only imagine how frustrating it must be watching a race you wanted to run, especially when her and Dad had already completed two half marathons and then a full one the year before .. so THANK YOU, you wonderful person), was standing there waving and smiling as we approached the finish line. It was at this point that my Dad grabbed my hand and pulled me into a sprint finish, calling out ‘come on, sub 2h30!’ This not only made me smile; it made me laugh. The finish changed the mood of the entire race for me. In those final few meters my thoughts went from ‘I’m miserable, I’m a failure, and I never want to talk about this again’ to ‘I. am. a. half. marathon. runner.’

And that’s what I have to remind myself. Yes, it was tough. No, I wasn’t the fastest runner ever. Yes, I probably could have done a little better with more preparation, and yes, I would have loved a faster finish time. But you know what? The reality is that is the hardest a half marathon will ever be for me. Because that run was the furthest I had ever run, and I showed myself that I could go the distance – and a little extra – and get to the end with a smile on my face, a medal round my neck, and a creme egg in my hand.

And that sounds pretty awesome, really.
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