On most marathon training plans you usually have a half marathon where you try to push the pace to see where you are fitness and speed-wise. Though it’s always nice to drop the mileage down for a long run, you know it’s not going to be that easy because the effort is going to be so much harder than the normal long run.
Anyway, I’d chosen Weymouth Half Marathon to give it my best go as I’d heard really good things about it, we got a discount through my club and a couple of other guys were doing it too. We merrily signed up a while ago and then as we were organising getting there etc. we realised the start time was 8.30am. Coming from Southampton we were looking at around 1.5 hours to get there. Ooof. That meant a 5.30am alarm for me. Thankfully my parents agreed to look after Alfie so all I had to do was get up and get my stuff on. I wasn’t having breakfast (see last post’s mega meal) and I was being picked up so it was really very simple. Except ridiculously early.
Will (left), Mike (right) and me on our way (Photo credit: Mike Head)
Mike, Will and me got to Weymouth, with a pit-stop for a coffee, at 7.30am. It was cold and breezy. Parking was easy and nearby. I had my hoodie on but had chosen shorts for the occasion. I really need to invest in some long sport trousers to remove before races…
The sights of Weymouth, including the clock tower and some amazing sand sculptures
We headed straight to the race HQ which was thankfully indoors and warm. We used the proper toilets (hurrah) and then loitered for a bit before dropping our bags off. I had a race poncho with me to keep warm at the start and one gel. I left my phone and everything else in my bag. The race had a no headphones rule.
We lined up just next to the Jubilee Clock on the seafront about five minutes before the start and huddled a bit like penguins in the crowd. It was cold!! My poncho helped somewhat but I ditched it as the race started.
(Course map from JustRacingUK.com)
It was very crowded at the start. In fairness I should probably have started further forward but it was difficult to judge and also difficult to move forward without annoying people when you’re lining up pre-race. This caused the first mile to be quite tricky as Will and I spent a lot of time dodging through people and weaving in and out.
Will had a similar sub-1:40 goal so we naturally stuck together aiming for 7.30min/mile pace. Straight away it became clear this wasn’t going to happen because of the crowds and because of the headwind that was directly against us at this point. I didn’t worry too much though as I knew we were coming back the other way in a bit so it would even out. Plus there’s always time in a half to gain back time later on.
On the second mile we headed back and though we couldn’t feel the wind behind us (isn’t that always the way?) it was far easier to run than it had been. I had some initial worries of not being able to maintain the set pace with Will and wondering if I should just run an easy run. But as we got to the third mile I felt myself getting into things and my pace naturally quickened. I pulled slowly away from Will and hoped he didn’t mind but I knew I just had to go with the good feelings I had. It didn’t feel like I was exerting too much effort so just went with it. When the wind wasn’t against me I was running comfortably around 7.15s and then when it was behind me closer to 7s. I just went with it as I knew the wind would be against me soon (and my pace would be closer to 8 minutes). I decided to maintain the same effort and ignored my watch.
(Photo credit to Stephen and Helen Jones)
Previously I’d have dreaded a race that wouldn’t allow music, but now I actually find I quite enjoy it. I feel claustrophobic and a bit alone with headphones on – shut out from the external things of the race. I definitely think I need music when I do short sharp intervals on my own or if I really want to push a 5k but for longer stuff I think I do better listening to things around me and also my body. How funny how things have changed.
(Photo credit to Stephen and Helen Jones)
I concentrated on overtaking people in front of me, not quickly but slowly gaining on them. The course runs along the Jurassic Coastline, which is gives it fantastic beautiful views of the sea, the cliffs and the historic harbour. As there are a couple of out-and-back areas it helped break it into different segments. Though good mentally it was hard because at times the wind was fully against you, and then to the side and rarely behind you as you headed along the coastline to Portland. Though I knew there would be a blissful time at the end where the wind would be behind us as we made our way back after we got to Portland Castle.
At around seven miles, before the turnaround, I spotted the lead runners heading back. This gave me a boost as I realised we’d be heading back again and then it kind of feels like you’re almost done. There was a huge car traffic queue building up (the race was mostly on road and the major roads had been closed) and all the cars were suddenly honking and some drivers were even getting out and yelling at the marshals. It was quite amusing but obviously not fun for the marshals.
Finally after reaching the turnaround bit (in a not-so scenic random car park around a cone) we headed back, this time along some off-road section. This was tough going. The wind wasn’t so much fully against us but side-ways on us and the path was pebbly and tricky. It seemed to go on forever.
I’d been sort of running with a friend of one of the guys from the club, Adam, who was training for London. He said he was aiming for around 1:35 so at the beginning I knew to not go with him – I wasn’t in that sort of shape! But I caught him up around 5-6 miles – apparently his knee had been giving him a bit of grief earlier on but was now OK. He kept encouraging me on and as grateful as I was for that I just wanted to focus on my own race. I didn’t want to make conversation (I know this sounds quite rude); I just wanted to zone out. He drifted ahead for a bit and I zoned out again though it was nice to keep him in my vision.
Mile 11 was one of the worst miles. It was fully against the wind and we went through a section that felt like a wind tunnel. I wondered if I was just slowing and had gone too fast at the start but I kept pace with everyone else so knew it was the wind. At this point I knew I could hit a better time than expected if I could keep going at sub-8 minutes for the last few miles.
The last mile was absolute bliss. We swung back through Weymouth town centre and the wind was right on our backs. It felt glorious. I started overtaking people, Adam included, and got into the zone. The finish line is right on the seafront but the wind was behind so I was flying.
I finished in 1:36:35, 9th female, 108th overall (out of 939). Not a PB (just over two minutes from it) but my fastest half in a while and my third fastest half ever. For it being windy I’ll take that! I was never going to PB (I just know what shape I’m in) but aiming for sub 1:40 and getting that made my day!
At the finish line I collected my medal and they had an array of biscuits, sweets and chocolate, as well as protein bars and a whey protein drink. The water had run out and people were getting a bit annoyed as no one really wanted the luminous chalky liquid… I quickly headed to the bag drop and grabbed my bag before heading back and cheering on Will as he finished and snapping a great action shot photo.
Apparently his previous injury had flared up and he decided to take it a bit slower (sensible) so didn’t quite hit his target. He grabbed his bag and we waited for Mike. Mike was aiming for marathon pace which he achieved with flying colours (and more as I think he went faster than he expected!). So two out of three…finger’s crossed Will’s injury heals quickly as he has the Brighton marathon ahead (as does Mike).
And then we quickly became cold again so walked back to the car. I was glad to have brought a huge bottle of nuun water with me as I never did get any water at the end.
The car journey home was a bit longer on the way back due to the time but we were chuffed to have got a half marathon done and dusted before 10.30am. Normally halves are a bit later and with journey time you often find the day has run away by the time you get home. By this point however I was starving. I hadn’t needed my gel during the race and I hadn’t eaten since the ribs the night before (though to be fair, that was a HUGE meal). As soon as I got home I had the biggest lunch before even considering showering or sorting my stuff out. I had been banking on a post-race banana but sadly there weren’t any. I didn’t want to refuel on sugary crap so I hadn’t had anything at the end. But my lunch fully made up for it!
The medal is pretty cool and we were given a buff as well. I have so many buffs now! I definitely recommend the Weymouth Half as it was well-organised, the marshals were all really helpful, friendly and cheered you on and it was mostly flat (there are a couple of short sharp inclines though) and despite the wind I enjoyed it.
What do you like to be seen offered at the end of a race food-wise?
Do you wear buffs?
Do you like to run with other people during a hard race?