2014 Torbay Half Marathon

The Torbay Half Marathon is one of the largest running events in the South West and I entered the race for the third time this year. This race didn’t go to plan but I learned a huge amount from the experience and was still reasonably happy with my result.

The course is very challenging as there are many turns and hills. I prepared for this race by doing a number of 10k races to work on pace and general fitness, two half marathons to get used to the distance, and several races around Richmond Park to get used to the hills.

Unfortunately my preparations for the race were affected by several challenging days at work which left me run down, and a cold and cough being passed around the office which I subsequently picked up, so I missed the two final days of training that I had planned.

I took all sorts of pills and potions in the three days before the race and on the day itself felt just about okay and well enough to give it a go, but was fully prepared to back off or drop out if needed. This was the first time I had started a race not feeling 100%.

The warm-up went fine and I actually felt in really good shape. The first mile was a strange experience though as I felt a bit light-headed but I took it easy and settled down into a comfortable pace. I decided at this point that my goal was to just complete the race.

In the early stages I actually felt really strong and I was able to run at whatever pace I wanted to. I decided to push hard on downhill segments and reasonably hard the rest of the time, at around 90%, and see how the race panned out.

I’d worked out early on that I was on course for a 1 hour 38 minute finish, which was a bit disappointing (I want to get under 90 minutes at least once this year) but a reasonable target. Perhaps I could gain back a minute or two here and there.

The first lap of the course went pretty much perfectly to be honest. I could run at whatever pace I wanted, I felt fine, my left ankle had a slight niggle at 2 miles but that soon cleared up, and everything was going well. I was slightly hot because of the sun, but doing okay.

At the start of the second lap I realised I had overheated slightly during the first lap, a situation made worse as the temperature suddenly cooled and then I picked up a slight chill too. Also my legs started to seize up and I started to feel a bit drained and wobbly.

Everything had suddenly gone wrong, and so my goal was now just to finish the race. Forget about times, pace, averages, etc. I had a good first lap, be happy with that. I just need to finish the second lap – by walking if necessary – and get that T-shirt and medal at the end.

The second lap was torture. Every step was painful, and more and more people ran past me as my pace tailed off. The hills were like hurdles, the flat sections seemed ten times longer than they actually were, and the downhill sections brought no benefit like before.

I didn’t feel any chest pains and I was only slightly wobbly so I decided to continue – if either of those had got worse then I would have stopped in an instant – and was now actually running only one minute per kilometre slower than the first lap. Not as bad as it felt.

The last 800 metres felt like three miles and the last 400 metres felt like two of those miles. I picked up my pace on the home straight as I wanted to be sure to finished under 1 hour 45 minutes, which I achieved with a few seconds to spare.

I learned to never run a half marathon if not feeling 100%. I have got away with doing a 10k race with a heavy hangover before but a half marathon is a very serious distance and, especially in high temperatures, you have to be really careful.

It was a great race through – extremely well organised, everyone seemed to enjoy it, the classic rock singer and guitar duet were a hit as always, the brass band outside the theatre was very motivating, and all the crowds offering Jelly Babies was a really nice touch.

I wasn’t totally convinced by the yellow technical event T-shirt – it makes me look like a Colombian midfielder – but I have been advised that it does work, and the medallions we were given at the end are impressive. I look forward to next year!