So I have to admit to being somewhat neglectful of my blog in the weeks since the Chester Half Marathon. I’m not entirely sure why as the running and the shin splints have been going well. I guess part of me thought that if I actually committed some of these achievements and thoughts in writing then perhaps the shin splints would be listening and pounce on me. In my mind they sort of take the form of some sort of manipulative bully, who waits until your defences are down before catching you unaware with a couple of weeks of horrible pain….“ha ha….how dare you try and run half marathon! The stairs will be agony for the next month mmwwhhhaaa”
In reality of course I have to keep telling myself that these thoughts are all in my head and that I should actually enjoy any pain free runs I get as the alternative is being laid up for recovery. I went into my prep for the Chester Half with a fairly open mind. I felt I had been putting far too much pressure on myself to constantly run PBs every time I went out on the road and I was coming to the realisation that this would end one way…..with disappointment. Nonetheless I wanted to give Chester my best effort, I just wasn’t too concerned with whether my time was a PB or not. Some reading before the event suggested that most effective distance running is achieved through running negative splits, where the second half of a race is runner faster than the first. Now to relative newcomers like me, this seems like a scary thought as initially just mastering holding on for that distance is a challenge, never mind speeding up after halfway! However I decided to give this strategy a go and chalk it up to experience if it went wrong.
I had plenty of support for this run as my wife, mum and daughter were all along for the ride and were completing the 1 mile fun run. My little girl has got the same bug for running that I have, which is fantastic, and she is already putting together a nice little medal collection of her own.
The race started on the Chester Racecourse and after a particularly squashed start that got tighter through the starting arch, the first mile or so were through the city of Chester. Based on my reading I knew that my first 3 miles should be around 10-15 seconds slower than my intended average pace. 8:45 m/m would bring me home a fraction under my PB so that was the time I was going to aim for. The 1st mile went according to plan coming in at 9:01 with miles 2 and 3 both being 8:47. This was obviously faster than I intended, but I really did feel strange deliberately going out and running slower than I knew I could. Something I am going to have to get used to I guess.
After that I began to pick up the pace slightly as the theory was to now run miles 4 through 10 at 8:45 m/m. Miles 4, 5 & 6 came in at 8:37, 8:40 and 8:35 respectively. This was a touch quicker than the theory but I’ll take it. So I was just at halfway and I have to admit I was feeling really strong. Although I obviously wasn’t in competition with any of the other runners, the hairpin at halfway was a real boost as I saw how many runners were behind me and that did give me a shot in the arm knowing that for probably the first time in a race, there were more people behind me than there was in front of me.
This really must have boosted my confidence as after this point my pace really picked up (for me). Miles 7 through 11 were 8:24, 8:18, 8:26, 8:18 and 8:22. I really couldn’t believe how string I felt through this stage of the race as I am usually more than flagging by now. I wasn’t pushing hard (or it didn’t feel like it), I just felt in a nice groove so didn’t change anything as it seemed to be working. The final 2 miles however couldn’t have been more different.
I knew that the final mile of the race was uphill and that this was going to be a challenge. Me and hills do not get on very well. Prior to the race I had thought of 2 strategies….keep a little in reserve and try and to run the final mile at a decent pace, OR put a real shift in to get some time in the bank to counteract the slow final mile. I went with the latter. Mile 12 ended up being the fastest of the race coming in at 8:08 which I was delighted and a little shocked by. I really paid the price for this in the final mile though as that mile was 9:05. I don’t think the inclines were horrendous, but I was totally spent! The last mile however was fantastic, running back into the city as there were really good crowds and lots of cheering which really helped as I was contemplating having a walk and the crowd helped me through that last mile.
I came in with a PB of 1hr 53min 12 seconds, which was about 3 and half minutes faster than my previous PB. I hadn’t set out to take that much off my PB and perhaps going into the race more relaxed and not putting undue pressure on myself to PB was the trick. Whatever it was I was really delighted with the result and the really good medal and tech t-shirt at the end. I will certainly be doing this race again next year – great atmosphere, great bling and great memories.