I came into this one not really knowing how my half marathon pace was looking. I have only ran two half marathons in the last 18 months after concentrating on marathon training so this was going to be a try it and see run. I would like to run a sub 1:30 half this year but after a week of really cold temperatures and snow I decided to get a lot of training in on the bike in doors clocking up 220 miles. I was just going to take this race fairly steady on tired legs.
I travelled down to London the night before, staying at the Hub Hotel Goodge Street, I had not stayed at a Hub Hotel before but was really pleased by the standard of the room and lounge, especially as I only paid £50 for the night, right in central London. It had everything I needed. A bed, TV and a nice rainfall shower.
Come race day I was up at 6:40 ready for breakfast at 7am. I had porridge and a pain au chocolat. No coffee now, this is something I have been trying out during training so it will be interesting to see how I go on during a race.
I took the tube over to London Bridge, dropped my bag off and unexpectedly bumped into Laura and Dave who I cycled around Arizona with last October (see my ARIZONA TO LAS VEGAS CYCLE CHALLENGE BLOG). I knew they were running, but with 11,000 others you just don’t expect to randomly bump into someone you know.
The weather was much warmer than it had been and it was sunny. The ideal conditions for running. I had brought down my long sleeve NYC Marathon top and Nike tights so I was a little worried I might be too warm now.
I was in the Orange wave B which lined up just after London Bridge, not too far from Mo. I had hoped to find the 1:30 pacer and stick with him as best I could, but there were too many people between me and him so I thought I would aim to stick at 7:00 pace and just enjoy the race, not push it too hard.
Mile 1 – 6: 7:01, 7:20, 7:06, 7:09, 6:46, 6:54
So as we set out, I made a big effort not to run too quickly, hold it back and not do my usual trick of gunning it straight from the start and struggling later on. It was a little easier to hold it back today as there were a lot of people around me and roads felt narrow to start with. Maybe I have been spoilt after running the NEW YORK CITY MARATHON and LAS VEGAS MARATHON where the streets were really wide. I do wonder how they put people into the various waves though. I was running at a steady pace yet still passing people from the get go. Surely these people should be in a later wave if they are going that slow? It does really frustrate me when people jump forward or lie about their expected finish time, thinking that its some kind of badge of honour to be in wave A or B etc, when in reality they are just getting in the way of those who are honest enough with their times. Anyway, first mile was pretty much bang on target then mile 2, for some reason I ran 20 seconds over target. Why? I don’t know, at the time I was wondering if all the cycling during the week was catching up with me right at mile 2, the later miles proved that wrong, so I don’t know why I ran slowly. The majority of that mile was in a tunnel and felt quite flat. Mile 3 and 4 again, I was over target with no real explanation, just not able to run at the pace I wanted to. Mile 5 was around Canary Wharf and I am not totally sure the 6:46 is correct. At one point I looked at my Garmin and I was running at an epic 2:54 pace, clearly a GPS issue around the tall buildings.
I had brought two SiS Energy gels with me for this race, I planned to take one after 5 miles and the second after 10 miles. So 5 miles in I took the first gel and instantly felt a little better in the legs. Now obviously an energy gel isn’t going to make the legs suddenly feel good again, but the comfort of having that little extra energy to see me through the next five miles picked up my spirits. So far I had been over my target pace during every mile apart from one which I did not believe my Garmin anyway. That sub 1:30 wasn’t looking likely, but I hadn’t been running hard and pushing it anyway. Mile 6 suddenly clocked up my target pace, only by 6 seconds but nice to claw back some of that lost time.
Mile 7 – 13.1: 7:02, 6:48, 6:55, 6:49, 6:48, 6:46, 6:27
Seven miles in we crossed over London Bridge and past the half way point. I always get a lift when I know I am over half way and getting closer to that finish. Running over the bridge where the crowds were at their biggest gave a surge of adrenaline, I was running at 6:30 pace now and made a concerted effort to slow down back to 7 minute pace. I still have 6 more miles to go so don’t blow it now, I thought to myself. Again in mile 8 I was running under my goal pace again, but this time I thought that I am comfortably able to run at this pace now so lets roll with it, not go too crazy but lets stick under 7 mins. Each mile was now getting quicker than the last yet I still wasn’t feeling out of breath and no aches showing up. As each mile passed I was growing more confident of holding this pace to the finish.
Speaking of finishes… at 500m out we passed a timer which was showing 1:30.28. Now I knew it had taken me a couple of minutes to cross the start line so I probably had just over 90 seconds to run that last 500m. In case you are wondering why I didn’t know what my time was at this point, I always run with my watch showing 1 mile lap splits, rather than showing my race time. I find this less distracting and helps me hold the pace better…. he says after missing his pace on all 13 miles.
Anyway, feeling that there maybe a chance at a sub 1:30 or if not, I would at least make up some time. I put my foot down and started a sprint. Then reminded myself that I am on foot not on my bike so slowed a little until I was 200m out and could see the finish. Then I went for it, flying past people, straight past all the camera men. No way was I slowing for a better photo. Straight over the finish line and a good 10m before slowing down.
There we go. The Big Half was done. Half Marathon number 7 complete.
Just after crossing the line I bumped into a couple of my Instagram buddies Dan & Jon. It is so great to meet people in person who you chat to or like each others posts online. All three of us had pretty much finished at the same time too, what are the odds of that.
The first running of the Big Half and I felt that it went really well. Especially given the terrible weather we have had this week. London Marathon Events who are the organisers did a great job keeping us informed of what was going on in the lead up to the race and for those who were unable to get down to London due to weather and transport issues. They put on a virtual Big Half so they can run the 13.1 miles, log it on Strava and still earn their Big Half medal. I thought this was great, a lot of other races just wouldn’t go above and beyond like that.
The route itself was flat and definitely a PB friendly course. There were a few points which felt a bit drab running down some back streets with no spectators cheering you on. The finish at the Cutty Shark was great, a nice landmark for those finisher photos.
Well I think that is it from me on this one… oh yeh, what time did I run it in.. I missed that sub 1:30 but only just, I ran it in 1:30.09 which beats last years PB of 1:31:58. I am really pleased with that time given I wasn’t pushing it until the last 500m and ran the first 5 miles above target pace. A timely confidence boost after struggle with illness for most of February and the Manchester & London marathons to come next month.