(Disclaimer: my race reports are always long and convoluted…)
I’ve skipped reports from my last two 10K races, mostly because they were uneventful and uninspiring and also because I didn’t perform as well as I had wanted to – I was chasing PBs and I failed on both occasions; 10K really isn’t my distance. But a half? Oh, now we’re talking.
There’s something magical about the half distance. I love running, so having around 2hrs on my feet is how I would naturally want to spend a Sunday. I also don’t feel the need to ‘race’ a half in the same way that I do when I’m on the start line of a shorter distance. Shorter races are more about my performance compared to other competitors and where I might place (one of my bad habits is seeing who’s on the start line of a 10K so that I know what field I’m racing in…and it always stresses me out), whereas a half is more a race against myself and an opportunity for some time inside my head. It’s a distance I know I can run comfortably providing I make the right decisions early on in the race.
The inaugural Saxon Shore Half Marathon was one I had to sign up to when I saw it advertised. Race HQ was a 3 minute walk from my house which made for a very relaxed race morning and this was my first half of the year so I had high hopes for it in laying down a time I could be proud of. I wasn’t in the best condition come race morning (story of my life…bad feet, painful shins, iron meds had been making me sick) however I knew that my body was a lot stronger than it had been in previous races thanks to 6lbs of weight restoration so far this year (Renee and Holly, you were so right), and I was hoping that would work to my advantage and that I might be able to hang on to 8min/miles for the duration of the race. At the beginning of the year I had posted my goals for 2018, including to achieve a half marathon time of 1h40 – so I thought I might be able to get a conservative PB of around 1h45 if I was feeling 100% on the day.
As ever, the race itself was well organised, Sporting Events UK really are superb and I am always keen to sign up to more of their races. I’d say they could have put more toilets on than just relying on the ones at the King’s Hall as there were some serious queues even when the race was due to start (luckily I skipped the queues and went to my sailing club instead). The course itself was great – obviously again it is a route I often run in training and so for the past few weeks I’ve taken my long runs in the opposite direction along the coast so that I wouldn’t be bored by the time race day arrived. The only downside to this route was that, despite it being a coastal route, there were hills…more specifically what my husband and I affectionately refer to as ‘the slope of death’ at mile 1 and then a few more further in, but for the most part it was flat and the kind of route you could get into a good rhythm on and enjoy the scenery. Oh, and there was a headwind up until mile 8…but whatever, you can’t control the weather.
I felt surprisingly strong in that first mile (7.11) and thought I should perhaps slow things down if I wanted to have a solid race throughout, but I soon pushed that thought out of my head and decide to ignore my watch and run to how my body felt for as long as possible…turns out my body felt great for every single mile and I probably glanced at my watch 5 or 6 times throughout (usually I’m a serial watch-looker). I felt a slight twinge in my shin at mile 5 but taping my leg really saved me and that pain soon disappeared. I actually think I could’ve run faster than I did, but I was enjoying myself without killing myself and that’s quite a nice feeling in a race. I took a bottle of water at every water station (they were every 5K), drank a bit and poured the rest on my head as I was fairly certain things would be getting warmer later on in the race…anticipating this was a great strategy. I also chose to run with my water for a really long time (mostly because I wanted to put my bottle in the bin, rather than throw it on the floor for someone else to collect, but also because it wasn’t inconveniencing me holding it and meant that I didn’t have to take on too much water all at once).
Mile 5 was also where the first marshal told me I was currently 3rd lady…and then it seemed like every marshal started to repeat that to me. That was great to know, but I also knew that if I focused on that I might end up putting too much pressure on myself and my race could fall apart. Every time I overtook another guy they would comment on how strong I was racing to which I kept responding with ‘oh, this is just a fluke – I’m probably going to crash and burn soon’…but I didn’t, I remained strong and had a really comfortable and happy race. And my gosh, I needed a race like that.
In terms of fuelling, I ran with a pocket full of jelly babies. The day before the race I had decided I would take one at mile 6 and then every other mile after that…on the day, I ended up taking none. My energy levels felt fine, the frequent water stations were doing their job, and I really didn’t want to take on any fuel in case it messed with my stomach. I did make a couple of significant changes in the lead up to the race, the first of which was a slightly panicked email to Renee early in the week saying I was finally ready to start having snacks during the day and she gave me some good ideas to work with – so from Tuesday not only was I eating three meals a day, but also a decent size snack in the afternoon so my energy levels were good. Then on race morning I decided to double breakfast, which is something I never ever do and I was mildly horrified that I decided to do that, but it meant I had energy at the start line (always a good thing!) – so I had porridge with chia seeds and blueberries as my first breakfast with a glass of warm water and lemon, then a cup of tea and a bagel with almond butter on one half and honey on the other. Plus another glass of water. I felt really well fuelled and hydrated. Oh, and I had reduced the intensity of the training I was doing in the week leading up to the race so I wasn’t exhausted at the start – no more junk miles.
I felt like I had prepared well, and I thought that if I had another bad race despite doing all the right things then I would really need to think about whether racing was for me. Feeling so strong right from the beginning fortunately meant that my headspace was where I needed it to be…I knew I enjoyed the half distance, but I had forgotten just how much I really love it and how those slightly longer runs suit me better. My internal dialogue was great throughout and not once did anything negative creep in…so I was happy inside my head, happy with my body, and just feeling very positive about the whole experience. Oh, and when I crossed the finish line I felt like I could’ve kept going – which bodes well for this weekend’s silly race.
So, results? 1h39 with 7.36 min/mile average and 3rd lady (out of 279), 33rd overall (out of 596), my very first running podium, and one goal ticked off my 2018 list.