In most marathon training plans that I’ve seen you tend to have a half marathon that you target a few weeks before the main even to race. I chose Hackney because it was a big race, it sounded good from recaps and what people have told me, and a few others from my club were going to run it too. And most importantly it was relatively flat.
My training has been going really well and I keep having to pinch myself that this isn’t a dream and that I am indeed successfully training for a marathon and (*TOUCH WOOD*) I haven’t had any set backs (please, running God, spare me!). My speed is coming back too so I wanted to see where I was at in a good half marathon. My PB (1:36:10) was from the Bristol half marathon in 2013 and since then I’ve just had set back after set back (with a few OK-ish races in between – and my marathons of course). But this was IT.
For the lead-up to the race, check out my last post HERE.
The race started on the Hackney Marshes. Mike and Mark (two running club friends) were in a few pens behind Karen (another RC friend) and me. Our wave was the first one so we were pretty much over the line straight away around 9am.
I let Karen zoom off as to try and keep up with her would have been a huge mistake as she had the goal of a sub 1:30. I had a rough plan in my head of what paces I was aiming to hit and had a few goals:
DO NOT GET INJURED. This is not my goal race!
Be somewhere around my PB: I dreamed of anything sub 1:36, but actually would have been happy with 1:37-38.
I was near the 1:30 pacer at the start and getting out of the marshes and onto the roads was a little bottlenecked with people. I didn’t mind because this stopped me flying off with abandon. One guy loudly shouted “this isn’t a 1:30 pace is it!” – he said it twice and in a very arrogant obnoxious way. Fella, we’re thirty seconds into the race. CHILL OUT. Obviously I didn’t want to go with the pacer at all so let them fly off while I happily got into my own rhythm.
I had my music on and was feeling good. The sun was beating down but I felt comfortable. There were a couple of inclines at the start but I knew it wasn’t pancake flat from what people said so these weren’t a shock. I was also conscious of the breakfast I’d eaten. I’m not used to eating before running at all and it felt weird to feel that my stomach was full and porridge was jumping around inside. I didn’t feel sick, it just felt odd.
[Side note: I’ve realised it takes me a few miles to get into the groove – maybe this is why I prefer long distances to short distances? parkruns and 5ks feel far too quick for me…perhaps I need a longer warm-up for them?]
I noticed in the first mile there were a couple of people running along the pavements in the other direction with their bibs in their hands. Cutting it a bit fine?! This would hugely stress me out – in fact just seeing their panic was stressing me out!
There were loads of spectators all along the course, some with signs, clappers and Jelly Babies. And loads of kids wanting high-fives (always high five if you can – magic energy boosters!). Everyone really cheered you on as you ran past and it helped having your name printed on your bib, which was a nice touch. There were even people on roofs or hanging out of windows (or eating breakfast by their front door wearing onesies…) and a little corner shop handed out water. There was definitely a very strong community feel. It’s not exactly scenic as you’re running through Hackney town but the people made up for the lack of sights. There were always at least a few spectators everywhere along the course.
There were lots of people running but it never felt crowded for me. There were enough people to keep things interesting but not enough to trip you over or bottle you in. However when there came a point that we could see runners behind us as the course looped it was clear it was a lot more crowded in the two hour plus area, especially around the pacers. But not crazy crowded.
I kept an eye on my watch and the pace felt comfortable. I wondered if I could maintain this pace over 26.2 miles (7:20min/mile roughly). Er no I don’t think so! That made me feel better though as I realised I had so much less to run than a marathon!
I set myself milestones to get to: 10k, 8 miles for my gel and 10 miles for the stadium. I had a few sips of water at most water stations as it was warm and I was conscious of my last weekend’s headache but I didn’t feel thirsty. I had my gel (a High5 one) at mile 8 but on opening it it exploded a little in my hand (there’s a joke there I’m sure…). There was enough in it to still be OK but now my hands were really sticky.
Luckily I saw a drinks station not long after but realised it was Lucozade – not what I needed! And then I saw the volunteers had water in one hand and a Lucozade in the other. This was good but it meant trying to aim for water where someone else wasn’t going for the same and letting the volunteer know what you wanted – bit of a navigation job! But hydration and sticky hands were soon solved!
Everything was going well until mile 10 when I started to feel the occasional stitch. This panicked me as I had visions of having to stop like I did on a training run a few weeks ago (I had to stop four times for an annoying stitch). That would ruin any PB attempt. I stretched out my arms a bit (I looked crazy!) and breathed deeply as this had helped previously. I also took several sips of water and thankfully it disappeared for good. Now was the time I needed to push the pace. Just a parkrun to go (sort of).
We ran through the Olympic Park and we were completely un-shaded from the sun now so it felt very hot. The Olympic Park wasn’t that exciting but it was different and I was now concentrating on keeping my pace up. I knew my pacing had gone well so far but I tried not to think about potential times and what I could achieve so I wouldn’t get too excited or freak out.
Just before 13 miles a man asked me how far we had to go. I looked at my watch and saw it was 12.8 miles…honestly the brain power it took to work out the maths was unreal. I managed to give him a rough answer before apologising for my maths skills. Then suddenly I could see the 13 mile marker and the finish not long after. Time to hammer down.
I saw the clock ticking to almost 1:35 and pushed through to the end. DONE. I looked at my watch and couldn’t believe it! I had PB’ed by 1 minute and 40 seconds!! I was over the moon.
The photo above is hilarious as I hadn’t seen the man behind. I’m sure he’s OK as his friend doesn’t look too bothered haha!
According to my Garmin I ran an average of 7:14min/mile pace which was around where I was hoping. I didn’t feel like death afterwards either. In fact I felt surprisingly OK and, most importantly, niggle and injury free. Can I get a HALLELEUIGH! The race wasn’t easy but I’d describe it as comfortably tough. My long runs are paying off I think.
I came 762nd out of 10, 268 (40th in my category position)! I’m very chuffed!
Karen sadly didn’t achieve her sub 1:30 but let’s put this into perspective. She ran Southampton Half a few weeks ago and smashed a great time there despite tummy issues and has been a bit full-on with smashing every race she does (she’s like a machine). She’s got it in her for definite as her PB is like mere seconds from sub 1:30. She did the sensibly thing though when mid-way she realised it wasn’t going to happen and decided to enjoy the race instead.
The boys did great too. They ran together and achieved a time of around 1:50. But sadly calf cramp caught Mike out again towards the end. He’s been drinking lots of nuun (“having a nun” he says!), wearing his calf guards and taking magnesium tablets so it’s a little frustrating. He’s going to try doing more race pace long runs now to see if that helps as he doesn’t do any. Finger’s crossed!
And then we checked out the goodie bags…
It was a very good goodie bag! Banana, Bounce snack, Border biscuits, The Dormen raisin mix, nakd bar (yum), Soft & Chew cereal bar, Fruit Snack Nuggets (fruit sweet things), Little Miracles black tea drink, Popchips, squidgy stress ball and a technical T-shirt. I got an extra small and it’s still a little too big as (like most races) they’re made for men. But still a great amount of decent freebies! And the medal is big and chunky.
The 3 mile walk back wasn’t quite as enjoyable as the walk there but it did keep the legs loose. Our hotel had kindly let us check out slightly later so we could shower which was fantastic. And then a 2 hour car journey home (with the obligatory stop at Starbucks!).
Sadly I still had my housework to do but after getting all that guff done and Alfie walked after his return, I sat down and enjoyed this bad boy.
A slice of toffee apple cake from my Freezer Cake store. Some things in life are perhaps not meant to be together, but cake and running most certainly are. I enjoyed every single mouthful.
How do you celebrate an achievement?
How do you stay cool in a warm race?
What’s the best thing you’ve received in a goodie bag?