I took part in my first half marathon on Sunday. I wanted to see what the distance was like, as I felt ready to step up from 10km, and get in a practice run for the Silverstone half marathon this coming weekend.
The course consisted of two 6.6 mile laps around Richmond Park, which I know very well after many 10km training runs, and I found that knowing the route made a big difference as I knew exactly where the difficult bits were going to be.
Due to park regulations the competitors were staggered at the start rather than having one big rush. This meant that I saw few other competitors during the race, and hardly saw anyone at my own pace, but it did let me concentrate on my own race which is what I wanted.
Things started well and I tried to run at a consistent pace, although I accidentally managed to set my fastest kilometre split right at the start. I found the first few miles quite easy going, although I’m used to kilometre marker boards so having to count in miles felt much further!
The first low point came after about 3.5 miles, right on the other side of the park. It suddenly hit me how far a half marathon actually is and the hardest part of the course was just around the corner. I was determined to keep going although wasn’t sure how far I’d actually make.
The steep hill went okay and there was a water station at the top. I deliberately took water at each station this race and made sure not to get dehydrated and I really felt the benefit of this in the latter stages.
The final third of the lap is a relatively flat stretch with a slight incline towards the end and a deceptive extra half mile were the junction looks like the one further round. I was able to get back into my rhythm along this section.
As I crossed the line at the halfway point I felt a sudden surge of energy. I don’t know where this came from but it was like KERS refilling on a Formula One car. I was now determined to have a really good go at the second lap and I knew what to expect from the course.
The rain soon started to fall however and it got heavier and heavier, and ultimately it did not stop. I didn’t mind though and fact didn’t notice it too much. I just concentrated on my rhythm and on running just a little bit faster.
At the 9 mile point I started to feel really relaxed and confident, but also sloppy. I stopped paying attention and got a sudden pain in my right knee. I tried to run through it but it wouldn’t stop, so I eased back slightly and it gradually subsided.
I learned at this point about the importance about being focused and that if you do not pay attention then you can easily make a dangerous mistake. From this point on I was focused and very careful.
Now I was running further than I had ever run before and the rain was falling hard. This was completely unknown territory. I was shattered but also easily able to keep going. I wasn’t having to think about actually running – that was just happening automatically – I was thinking about pace, energy levels and motivation.
I saw from the clock that I completed my first lap in just over an hour (1hr 3min 45s according to GPS) and so I was secretly hoping to break the two-hour barrier, and so was subsequently pushing a little bit harder on this second lap.
Over the final part of the lap I was able to keep a consistent pace and felt as though I was pushing really hard. Strangely, looking at the GPS, I wasn’t running as fast as I thought I was, so have learned more about how the mind plays tricks on you over long distances.
I struggle to finish races as I always want to stop when I see the finish line but sheer determination kept me going this time – I made it to the finish and was ecstatic to cross the line. The photographs of the final metres showed I was a lot more tired than I thought.
The total unofficial time was 2 hours 9 minutes and 17 seconds. I was disappointed to not get under 2 hours but conversely extremely happy to finish and learned loads in the process.
I also realised how your energy levels fade and your mind plays tricks on you later in the race, so these are areas I need to work on, but at least I know I am ready for the Silverstone half marathon next week. Well, if I can move by then.