On Sunday 13th of March I embarked on only my second half marathon since I started running (again) in 2014. As my running history has been blighted by shin splints, getting this sort of mileage in and the required training under my belt has been very difficult, hence this was only the second time I had attempted 13.1 miles. My previous effort had been in September 2015 at the English Half Marathon in my home town of Warrington and the home race of Warrington Running Club. That time, although not in the best of shape, I managed to come home in 2:08:08 which was under my target of 2 hours 10 minutes.
My approach to this half was significantly different. Given I was struggling with getting in repeated runs of any real distance and getting very frustrated with the whole situation, I started working with Stuart, a PT from Warrington Running Club. We’ve been working hard (well he’s worked me hard) on building up my fitness, focusing on core strength and strengthening in general, and trying to lose a bit of the timber I am carrying. This was all to help me with my shin splints and so I was not just continually pounding out the miles and then getting annoyed and frustrated when I was out injured and unable to hobble up the stairs. I only ran on Sundays and gradually upped my mileage until I had completed a 12 mile run a couple of weeks ago. This combined with the gym work I had been doing left me feeling infinitely more confident than when I took to the start line the previous September. With a new 10K PB under my belt in February I set myself a challenging target……a sub 2 hour half marathon. Whilst certainly not challenging to a lot of people out there, knocking 8 minutes off my previous best was going to be a stretch.
For this race I was lucky that my wife Kathryn kindly offered to come with me and be my one woman cheer squad. Given the Liverpool Half Marathon was taking place the same day, the majority of WRC had headed there, so having her there to support (and drive the 150 miles home :-)) was greatly appreciated. Despite setting off in plenty of time the traffic when we got close to Silverstone was terrible and this meant I arrived on the start line with only about 5 minutes to spare. Not my ideal preparation but it did mean I didn’t have time to dwell and stress on the grid about what was ahead. I also had to very quickly make the hardest decision of the day…….base layer or no base layer…… I went off without 🙂
The route was a combination of laps of the circuit and also various service roads on the inside and the outside of the track. I follow F1 relatively closely so knew the track layout. quite well and was pleased to find that the course was relatively flat in reality as well as on the TV. I was able to take the first few miles relatively easy as the large number of runners meant we were quite bunched up and this prevented my nervous energy kicking in and flying off round the first few miles too fast. After miles 1 and 2 at 8:55 and 8:58 respectively, I caught site of a pacer ahead of me who was allegedly running 9 minute miles with an anticipated finish time of 1:58:00. I decided that keeping him in my sights would be worthwhile and that I should stick as close as I could.
Now whether this guy was running a much quicker pace or me and my Garmin weren’t taking the right line through the corners I don’t know as I went through miles 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 in 8:45, 8:46, 8:41, 8:45 and 8:47. However I didn’t seem to be making much ground on the pacer. These miles took us through the new pit lane and round some of the internal service roads and support areas of the circuit. Despite the pace being faster than I intended (I had 9:09 miles burned on my brain to beat the 2 hour mark) I felt strong and having passed the halfway point I started trying to weigh up whether I could now aim for a 1:58 finish by tracking this pacer for the second half of the race. I decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it. Mile 8 was an 8:36 mile!
Although during mile 8 I had managed to pass the 1:58 pacer the route had moved to the service roads outside of the circuit. I found miles 9 and 10 tough going. The surface wasn’t as even and was more undulating, and the runners were more bunched up as the route were a lot narrower than the circuit was. Miles 9 & 10 were a bit slower as a consequence as I paid for my previous overconfidence. 8:50 and 8:51 respectively. As we came through mile 10 though the sight of loads of spectators who were cheering us on behind the old pit straight gave me a much needed boost (along with a welcome bottle of famous orange flavoured energy drink). With the knowledge that from here on in it was pretty much circuit all the way, and after a mild panic when the pacer over took me again, I dug deeper and managed miles 11 and 12 in 8:41 and 8:44.
That final mile back up from Stowe corner, through the Hanger straight, Becketts and Maggotts (which will only mean something to you if you follow F1) were a real challenge. The legs felt like lead and I had slowed to what felt like a pensioner’s shuffle. The only consolation was that by this stage plenty of my fellow competitors were walking but I was still running…..of a fashion. As I approached the final corner (Copse) I could see the finish line and the clock about the gantry which was displaying the gun time was at 1:59. It dawned on me that if there was any energy left, now was the time to use it. If I could manage a final sprint I would get a gun time of under 2 hours, meaning I was pretty much guaranteed a chip time of less than my 2 hours target. I went for it and despite the pain managed to speed up and squeak over the timing mats before the clock hit 2 hours. I quick glance at the Garmin showed I had made it home in 1:56:56 !!!!!!!
A moment’s quiet reflection as I (very) slowly trudged down the pit straight …. A whole 3 minutes under my target and just over 11 minutes quicker than my previous PB. I was truly delighted. All those hard sessions in the gym had paid off and my shins hadn’t given me any pain the whole way round. My delight was slightly tempered however when I realised that despite a PB I had finished behind a guy who had run a half marathon bouncing 2 basket balls.
Overall I had a great day at the Silverstone Half Marathon. A really well organised event and great novelty value for an F1 fan to be able to run around the circuit. Don’t think Jenson Button will be concerned about his lap records. The only thing lacking was champagne to spray on my adoring fans at the finish :-). But perhaps the biggest positive to take away from the day is that as I sit here writing this, a full 48 hours after I started the race, my shins are still behaving themselves. A few niggles here and there, but given I was expecting to still be hobbling and struggling with the stairs, things are looking good. Thanks Silverstone…..hopefully back next year