So how do I pace this one? I haven’t ran a half marathon since October 2016 but since then I have done a lot more training and set PB’s in 5k, 10k and marathon. All of which points to a possible PB attempt at half marathon too and I do feel that I can beat my PB of 01:47:39 which was set in September 2016…. BUT! The Potters ‘arf is supposed to be one of the tougher half marathon routes so will that tough course offset my training and new found speed? Before the race I looked at the pacing figures and thought if I aim to run at 7:40 per mile then that will put me somewhere around my PB time.
This was the first time I have ran a race at “home” and the shortest distance I have travelled to a race. When I first set out running I was worried about running a race near to home as I did not want people I knew seeing me struggle or having to WALK!! you can’t walk in a race that’s shocking… these were my thoughts a worries so I have always tended to run further afield, but now knowing that walking is part of running, everyone struggles at some point and I generally feel a far better runner than 12 months ago and more to the point, it is far better to support the smaller local runs than these big over crowded national runs e.g. the Great Run series which charge a fortune to enter and then you cannot run the race properly due to over crowding…. ok rant over…
My wife & daughter came along with me for support, but waited at the mother in-laws whilst I was out running and would see me over the line. My daughter is only 18 months old and likes to be out of the pram now charging around causing mischief. I walked up to the start from the mother in-laws and got there really early but this was good, I could get in plenty of stretching and warmup properly. Needless to say, I was pretty close to the front. Is that a good thing given they are likely to be faster runners than me and with my track record of always setting off far to quick and throw in a steep downhill start too.
Mile 1 – 4: 6:55, 6:44, 7:31, 7:10
Yep, so as you can tell from those first four splits, my pacing strategy of 7:40 went out of the window early on. The first mile started off on a downhill to a sharp left hand turn and ran through the town centre finish section. The buzz of starting the race coupled with the big crowds and amazing support pushed me on a lot quicker than I would have liked. Mile 2 was downhill for most of the way so again, this was far far quicker than planned but I was looking at my watch and thinking, lets go with it and see how a feel, so far I am feeling good with this pace, obviously I am not going to maintain a sub 7 min pace throughout but on the easier sections I may as well go for it. Mile 3 saw the first climb, which was literally the full mile over going up, however, I thought to myself, I had spent Monday – Wednesday running up and down the Mow Cop Killer Mile to get some good hill training in so this 111ft bank is nothing. My mile split did drop by nearly a minute but still under my planned time. More importantly I was still coping well. The forth mile was from Fenton into Longton and at this point the crowds were getting big again, the support was awesome and just what we all needed, as I am sure every runner knew what was to come in mile 5.
Mile 5 – 8: 7:30, 7:05, 7:02, 7:12
Here we go, the first big hill, Anchor Road, only 0.7 mile long but with the gradient peaking at 9.1% it is enough of a climb to test the legs out. The support along this stretch was fantastic, lots of people out cheering and clapping even though we were all doing the death march up this section. Mile 6 & 7 were mostly downhill and not much to write home about, I paced then in low 7 mins so making up more time again here. Mile 8 had a slight hill on the way into Bucknall but again fairly flat. The mind was starting to wonder at this stage, I had seen the previous 8 miles come in well under my target time so I was beginning to think “could I do this under 1:30 or 1:35??”
Mile 9 – 13.1: 7:17, 7:28, 7:23, 8:23, 7:12
Miles 9 & 10 go down Leek Road, although flat these two miles really dragged and felt never ending. I think this is because I knew what was to come around the corner. I had got it into my head that mile 11 which goes back up Leek New Road was a steep hill, but only peaking at 6.2% this wasn’t the steep hill I had remembered from my days running around here when I used to live over this end. On the plus side of things my old neighbours were out cheering me on which gave me a massive boost. Just 2 miles left!!! then at 12.5 miles, oh shit thats the steep hill everyone kept talking about!! aka heartbreak hill, Milton Road which peaked at 13.1% and after 12.5 miles at a quick (for me) pace, I had to stop and walk for a minute. I felt pretty disappointed that I had not planned ahead and saved a little in the tank for this hill. Once at the top it was flat all the way into the finish back in Hanley town centre and what a finish it was!! there was litterally hundreds of people lining the street all the way down Town Road, the barriers were in close making the road narrow which added to the atmosphere and to top it off, there were no other runners in sight in front of me and a good 10 seconds back behind so, i’ll be honest here, running down to the finish like that made me feel like I was leading the race and they were all cheering me home, it felt amazing. By far the best feeling I have had at any race.
Happy to report, I came home in a massive new PB of 1:35:12, given the tricky course I am so happy with this time. That now gives me the belief that I can run sub 1:30 on a more favourable course in the near future.