Under 90 Minutes

On Thursday I completed a major running milestone – a half marathon distance in under 90 minutes. This time is a significant milestone for many reasons.

It is a round number. Runners like round numbers. In fact everyone likes round numbers. A two hour marathon, a four minute mile, a ten second 100 metres. Not everyone understand what the numbers mean in terms of pace and effort – a two hour marathon is like sprinting for a bus for two hours – but round numbers are the units of measurement that we are used to communicating in.

It was the next natural milestone for me. I started running half marathons in 2012, and by the end of the 2013 had got down to 93 minutes, but then I didn’t adapt my training, the times tailed off, and I couldn’t get near that level again. A sub 90 minute training run was the training run that I’d never had, and it puts me back on track in the direction I want to be going.

The larger races have pace runners for all significant milestones. I can normally just about keep up with the 1hr 45min pacer, but I would like to beat the 1hr 30min pacer. Knowing that I can now to do this is a real boost. It still will not be easy but I know the pace I need to run, I know when I am strong and when I am not, and I know what it takes.

The run itself was actually really straightforward. I felt ready to give it a go, had already done several long distance runs over Christmas, had calculated that I would have to hit a 4min 15sec per kilometre pace, and so went for it. The time went by quickly, which was a relief as treadmills are notoriously difficult to run long distances on because of the lack of a change of scenery, and the distance did not seem daunting at any point.

Also, due to the fact that treadmills have a short ramp-up period, I need a short ramp-up period, and you can only run in sessions of up to one hour hence I quickly needed to add an extra 30 minute session after the one hour, I was eventually running at a 4min 11sec pace, and then finally a 4min 8sec pace, in order to be sure to be under the 90 minutes.

I achieved this on a treadmill in the BBC Club gym during my lunch break at work. It is not the ideal time to do a half marathon, but at this time of year it is very difficult to run a long distance on a working day due to the short days and the large number of people taking up the gym in January, so you have to take the opportunity when there is one.

The next goal for me is an 85-minute half marathon. What is so special about that? A half marathon is effectively two 10k races with an extra 1.1km added on the end. Completing two back-to-back 10km distances in under 40 minutes, plus the extra 1.1km at the same pace, and a ramp-up period at the start, all in under 85 minutes, will show that I can run and maintain the pace that I want to be at.