I seldom write race reports, but when i do I like to do it whilst the race is still raw so to speak. I think this gives a chance to be more accurate and see less through the rose tinted glasses.
Today I ran the Hadrian’s Wall half marathon. This is described as a multi terrain race suitable for those venturing off the road for the first time. More about that later (see note 1)
As I didnt really know where I was going exactly and being unsure of parking etc, I set off in plenty of time and got there in plenty of time ! Like an hour to go. Dont I just love hanging around pre-race!
As I always do, I set off at the back and slowly picked off a lot of runners that were either slower than me or had simply gone off too fast. The first 4.5 miles were on undulating roads, the next 5 were on hard, loose gravel forestry tracks.
I settled into what I thought was a decent pace (I had 8 min/mile in mind) and set about doing the job in front of me. I use my Garmin, but never set the pace I want for a race as it distracts me too much. At the 2 mile marker I could see 14.18 or in other words, way too fast! This dilemma I have had often: do I slow down quickly to get back to my target pace or say “it’s time in the bank for later?”? I always opt for the latter just because...!
As the race went on I started to feel good, strong and steady. I picked a few places off and thanked the twitter #runstreak for getting me to this level.
As I have not a lot to think about as I’m trotting along, I started to do some algebra (best/worst thing I learned at school). I realised that as I was inside 8 min pace and feeling good and we were probably at the highest point of the race, I could go sub 1.45. My road HM PB on a flat road course is 1.45.12.
Oops, big mistake ! We left the forest to descend into what can only be described as a BOG as opposed to a bog ! Not only did I sink almost up to my knees, I wasnt sure where I should be going. To rub salt in, it was then steep uphill! Walkie time for me. After about a mile, we started running decent grass with the odd ditch or stile, but the bog had killed my legs (see note 2).
I was disappointed in myself in that I struggled to pick up the pace on the flat or downhill sections. My posture was crap. I was knackered and started to wonder if I was bonking. Surely not after 12 miles with loads of grub inside me. I wasnt, I was just being a wuss.
By now I could see the finish, nice and white in the sunlight. Bastards didnt need to light it up ! Unfortunately, mile 13 was all uphill and into the wind (some would call it a breeze, I call it a wind). I kept expecting to be overtaken, but it seems those behind me were feeling it as much as me. The last wee bit was mercifully downhill/flat and a managed a fast finish to sneak in under 1.50.
A couple of months ago I ran my first marathon in the Cumbrian hills. There were many times today I asked myself, how on earth did you manage that?
Note 1) I’m not sure quite how I feel about this type of race. The road section was reasonably easy, as was the forest section. The bog was brutal. I’ve never raced this sort of mix before and I can see it tempting road runners off for the first time. I can also see it putting them off for good.
It’s taught me some stuff though and thats banked for future use.
Note 2) I was relieved to hear guys who had finished way ahead of me talking of how the bog killed their legs. So it wasnt just me !
In summary, I’m glad I ran this race. I learned more about mixed terrain running, hopefully I’m a better runner for having done it. I’d run it again if I lived nearer,I’d like to try to run it smarter.
On the plus side, I may have just managed a top 15 place !