Tuesday, 14 June 2011

St Albans Half Marathon 2011

My friend Paul in Birmingham says I'm crazy for running a half marathon.  He'd probably think I'm totally bonkers for actually enjoying it....

You'll know from my previous posts that I'd been really looking forward to the race, even though I knew I could have trained a little more for it.  So why was I standing there, shivering in the rain  feeling full of anticipation?  Surely any sane person would be at home in the dry?  Rachel and the girls would be getting ready for church and why wouldn't I want to be doing exactly the same?    This race is meant to be one with pleasant weather and instead it was pretty miserable.

It turned out to be a wonderful race.  Why? Read on, I'll tell you.

At 10am, rather than hear the starting gun go off, word spread the start was delayed by 20 minutes.  Apparently there was an Elf & Safety issue somewhere on the course.  Grrrr more standing shivering in the rain.  Before long there were loads of fellow men having their last pre-race pee against some nearby undergrowth and I decided to gently jog around to keep warm in the pouring rain. Spectators were retreating under umbrellas.

Then, at about 10.20am we were off.  All the chatting stopped, we wished each other good luck.  The pack was quite tight.  Much heavy breathing going on around me, some huffing and puffing rather a lot.  It wasn't until I'd gone passed the 2 mile sign that I was starting to feel warm and less stiff.  I knew I was being over taken many times and I remember there was a fellow runner who tried to say a few words of encouragement to me, thinking I was going to be struggling up a nearby hill.  That reminds me, everyone seems to think the course is really hilly.  It isn't, just undulating Hertfordshire countryside, nothing too steep or long.  It's often on these hills where people flag, generally the ones who have previously shot passed me.  I decided to try counting my steps as someone in the pre-race huddle had suggested.  "One two three, one two three" and so on.  Yes, that would help for a really steep hill but not necessary yet.

I really enjoyed the course as I couldn't remember it from last year, though there were a few bits I half recognised.

Helpfully there were mile signs and I was trying to work out my speed by looking at my stopwatch as I passed these and in particular, what would be my finishing time?  After a while I figure it might be 1.50.  Not too bad but I must go faster.  And so I did.  At the half way point I started passing other runners, some that had already over taken me!  The rain, by the way, was lovely.  Beautifully cleansing and refreshing - I loved it!

I got to mile 11 and made a real effort to maintain my pace and then there was a young kid with a bowl of jelly beans!  Wow what a hero!  I grabbed a couple (including the last blackcurrant one left!) and plodded on.  As I entered the park I knew the end was close and so I went as fast as I could to the end.  It was great crossing what I thought was the finishing line with people waving and cheering me and a bunch of other runners.  I clocked the time, DAMN a minute later than I wanted so I sprinted further to pass under it.  Then I realised the difference in the gun / chip time and then knew I'd be alright.

So, 2 minutes faster than last year - 1.42.  That's OK but what next?  Gotta go faster and further.

Oh, you Marshalls - you were great!  Many thanks also go to the good folk at the numerous water stations.

I didn't hang around afterwards.  I got cold quickly so I legged it back to my car.

Are you getting the drift of this?  With such 'orrible weather there is every reason to loathe this race but instead it was fantastic.  That wonderful feeling of satisfaction, pain, elation, joy and more pain came flooding in.  I was soaking wet, freezing cold but I loved it!  I had been on a journey with nearly 2000 other runners who were both companions and yet competitors and there to be beaten, just as I was for those in front of me.  It was an emotional and mental journey, as well as one of a physical journey.  It was putting my mind into a different way of thinking, to run, to enjoy it, to be strategic, to be tactical and run as fast as I could.

My result meant I was just in the first Quarter.  Not too bad for a novice 49 year old but I must do better, as any Type A personality should do.  So pleased I did it and I can't wait for the next race!


  1. Thats a very respectable time and you deserve to feel great about this achievement.
    Every Run, long or short is a battle fought and won, among so many other things.
    I think tactics plays a significant part in these events, the simplest being 'Take it easy at the start,save yourself for later'...and so on.
    Anyway,well done and have a great week.

  2. Hey thanks, I appreciate that. I'm learning tactics as I go along and sure its good to hold back in the first few miles but it's hard to judge the right pace. One of the nice things about a race is you get swept along by the pace around you, perhaps without even realising it.
    As I have backed off from cycling (because of my injured hand) I'm enjoying running. So now I'm thinking a full marathon is worth going for in September if I can find one...