half marathon

Grand Union Canal Half Marathon

It's nice to be prepared for a run for once. I've been concentrating on my running fairly solidly for the last few weeks, even going so far as to work on my technique. I accidentally managed a 25km run three weeks ago, after I chose a route without thinking about just how far it would be. My tapering in the last week has been reasonable, with a 13km run last weekend and an 8.5km run mid-week.

I got up in good time, had breakfast and got to the tube at the planned time. Apparently you can get to Uxbridge in 40mins from Hammersmith on a Sunday morning, but not on the trains I got - I had to change twice. I arrived in Uxbridge half an hour before the race, and so did the 2km to the race start as a run/walk. On arrival at the site, I took off my jacket, pinned my number on and then put my bag into the van taking bags from start to finish, and was ready to go.

After a short wait to allow everyone to get their bags onto the truck, there was a minute's silence and we were off. A quick lap of Cowley Recreation Ground preceded the run along the towpath (I guess in the hope that it would thin out the crowd a little). I started off quite deep in crowd, and there was a lot of movement for position, and a few stops as we all milled through the bottlenecks, but I was quite happy with a gentle start off, my first km was around 5:45.

I found the traffic reasonable after the first kilometre, I was still passing and being passed, and my pace soon settled into a steady rhythm. I chose people who seemed to be going at a reasonable and steady pace, and followed them until I was feeling strong and passed them, moving through the field slowly but surely.

I greatly enjoyed the scenery, I love running by water, and the many bridges and locks along the way broke it up sufficiently. As we were running up-river, all of the locks were uphill, so I used those as attacking points to pass other runners.

I was very pleased that I was overtaken by just one person in the second half of the race, and not because my pace deteriorated, so I'm not sure where he came from - a late starter, or a loo break? My pace seemed to improve towards the end of the race - indeed my final three kms were the fastest of the day!

The last kilometre was a killer - a small hill going into Cassiobury Park, certainly took a lot of effort to maintain a decent pace, but I managed to pass a couple of people walking going up the hill, and two more at the top. As I rounded the final corner about 300m from the finish, the person I was just about to pass noticed me and picked up his pace - we didn't quite have a sprint finish but it was much faster than the rest of the race! I couldn't quite take him in the end. I noticed Peta as I was coming into the final straight, but I was in the shadow of the other runner and so she saw me quite late, but it was great to see her there in support.

I picked up my medal, had some water, had a hug and then we waited for the bags to turn up - I'd beaten the luggage, go me! Luckily didn't have to wait too long before we could get my bag and catch the train home again.

This was probably my favourite running race yet (difficult to compare it against a triathlon), perhaps mostly due to the autumnal weather - I only used one water stop in the end as I just didn't need more. It was very picturesque, an interesting course (my off-road shoes probably helped - it wasn't tricky terrain, just muddy and a bit slippery in places) with bridges, locks etc, and in conditions that suited me very well.

My first race report - Royal Parks Half Marathon, 12 October 2008

I got up this morning at 7.30am, an early start for me on any day, but particularly early for a Sunday! I'd been pretty good last night, mostly avoiding alcohol, although did succumb to a couple of very small glasses of wine as I figured I wasn't in it to win it, and it probably wouldn't do my time to much damage. I started the day with a coffee, a bowl of muesli and a couple of slices of peanut butter wholemeal toast.

I got Peta up at 8.30am, and we left the house shortly after 9am, to head to Knightsbridge, for a short walk to the start. I'd missed the warm up by this point, but had recently read (in the Competitive Runners Handbook) that in mass starts, you can get away with treating the first couple of miles as a warm up, so I just put it behind me. The mass start was pretty busy, and after the cannon announced the start, we pretty much walked in a throng towards the start line. As this was a chip timed race, this aspect really didn't concern me.

When I signed up for the half marathon, they may well have asked me my expected finish time. At that point I was in the earliest stages of starting to run, so had no idea what time I could expect. I knew novices had done 4 hour marathons, with quite a bit of training, so figured I'd just aim for half of that and added a bit of slack (I think I suggested 2h10). I don't know whether that affected my position in the start funnel, and whether I'd have had to overtake fewer people if I'd given a better estimate. However, I probably benefitted from starting slow, so it's swings and roundabouts really!

I saw Peta in the crowd just before the start line, which gave me a boost as I started the run proper. From this point on, for the next few miles, it was really a matter of maintaning a comfortable pace, and overtaking where I could. The run itself was gorgeous, passing under Admiralty Arch, past Buckingham Palace, then Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, over Westminster Bridge and back, along the Embankment as far as Temple, before coming back along the Embankment as far as Northumberland Avenue, into Trafalgar Square, then along the Mall back towards Buckingham Palace, before heading into Hyde Park again.

Shortly after reentering Hyde Park, I passed Peta again, giving her a wave, and smiling as I passed. From then on it was really a lot of winding around Hyde Park. I tried to maintain a reasonable pace, and most of my kilometre splits were consistenly around the 5m30 mark. I saw Peta one more time in the middle of the run, and blew her a kiss and gave her a high five. There was a lot of support from Unicef folk around the course - towards the end, I even spotted Charley Boorman with a big group of Unicef supporters, so I acknowledged their support (as I tried to do with anyone who was cheering Unicef on).

I was hoping at the 10 mile point it was going to get easier (forgive the constant switching between metric and imperial - I keep my watch in metric, but the mile markers were, well, in miles), because the Competitive Runners' Handbook makes the point 'now you just have to do a 5K run'. I was flagging at this point, but just wanted to keep going - breaking into a walk wouldn't be a failure in itself, but breaking into a walk without actually needing to would have felt like slacking. Anyway, I just kept going, it was hard work, but somehow I did it. I'd hoped the last mile would feel easy too, but no, it was uphill, and the last few hundred metres were a nightmare. Peta was waving here too, which helped a little but really I just had to dig in and just concentrate on keeping going - I really did feel that collapsing before the finish in a dramatic manner and having to crawl over the line would not be totally out of the question.

However, I did get over that line, and my watch said somewhere around 1:55 (I forgot to stop it!), the chip time isn't yet available but it was definitely sub 2 hour, so I totally made my goal, which rocked! I sat down just after the finish line to avoid falling down, had a little water, but not too much. The weather was a real factor today - the forecast said it would be 18C, but it may have been more - for an Autumn's day, it was gorgeous - unless you have to run 21.1km. Because of the heat, and resulting sweat, and desire to avoid hyponatremia, I wanted to make sure I wasn't diluting my body's water too much, so poured water over my head to reduce the need to sweat, and looked for the nearest energy drink over the finish line.

After a bit more sitting down, I gave Peta a call, and we met up to head for the Unicef tent. After a sit down and bit [sic] to eat, we headed home, although there was a minor diversion as I did the Superchicks' very useful cooldown routine while Peta enjoyed the Deckchair Dreams deckchairs!

I'm now elevating my legs while enjoying the breeze on my toes as I enjoy the recliners in our lounge, making the most of the unusual Autumn weather in shorts and sandals. All in all I'm very happy with today's race, especially given the temperature.

What a run!

My goal today was to run a half marathon, to check that I could do one, and see in what time. I also wanted to try a nutrition idea, as well as try the Royal Parks Half energy drink (Orange Powerade).

I had a quick look before the run with Google Maps Pedometer to plot a 21km run, and was pretty happy with the result - I've basically found a new expandable route that I'll be able to do again and again.

My route today started in the usual place for me - the south side of Hammersmith Bridge. It even headed in a fairly usual direction, towards Barnes Bridge. Carrying on, as with previous runs, I passed Chiswick Bridge and then Kew rail bridge, before reaching Kew road bridge. This was my turnaround point last week for what turned out to be a 14km run but today I carried on, as planned, along the path that skirts the outside of Kew Gardens.

It was at this point that I tried my nutrition, jelly beans. Big mistake - jelly beans appear to need a lot of moisture to eat, something in short supply when running! It didn't stop me, just annoying really - it's possible that I might get away with them in the race if I treat them like Gels, and have them just before a water stop, but I won't bother. I carried on, past the Old Deer Park, then past Richmond Lock, Twickenham rail bridge and Twickenham road bridge. At Richmond bridge, I left the river to head up Richmond Hill, stopping at the start of the hill to buy some Powerade Orange. The theory here was that I'd be walking most of the hill anyway, so it was a good time to get some liquid down. However, Richmond Hill seems to have become a lot flatter in the last few years (or perhaps somehow I got fitter by stopping smoking and starting running, one of the two), and I was able to run up most of the hill, breaking in to a walk when I wanted some more drink. It was only later that I remembered the handy nipple-type thing on the top of the bottle to allow me to run and drink! So, at the top of the Hill, along the Terrace, passing the gorgeous view of the river below, and then into the Park

I basically ran along Sawyer's Hill, the road that runs across the top side of the Park. One of my favourite things about this road is that it's not at all rare to see deer - today I saw a gorgeous lone stag standing across the road to my right, and later to my left, large numbers of deers lying in the sun, looking magnificent. The cyclists going down Sawyers Hill looked like they were having a great time, those going up, not so much. I was mostly heading downwards now, past the junction that leads to Sheen Gate, towards Roehampton Gate. From there, it was follow the cyclepath, past The Priory, then to Barnes Station. From there, I decided I couldn't quite take the quickest route home and make it 21km, so I headed towards Barnes Bridge Station, across Barnes Bridge, and then along my by now well known run haunts of Dukes Meadow, Corney Reach, past the Fuller's Brewery along Chiswick Mall, passing the Eyot to the right. It's then pub central as I pass the Black Lion followed by the Old Ship, into Lower Mall and then the Dove, Furnivall Gardens where the Rutland and Blue Anchor are in easy reach. Today, I made my target of 22.1km (I wasn't counting my 1km warm up run) in Furnivall Gardens themselves, which I was pleased with!

All in all, a spectacular run, helped by today's gorgeous weather, and the timing where I had the sun low over the river at Kew, but still enough light to just get me home in daylight!

Half marathon goal. In writing!

I've been a bit unsure about how fast I'd be able to do the half marathon, but recent runs suggest that a 2 hour goal is not impossible for me.

I was planning on just wanting to finish, but in my heart, I know that I do want to do it in under 2 hours, so I'm declaring that as my goal for the race. I'm not going to be devastated if I don't achieve it, but I will be really pleased if I do!

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