Every race has lessons to learn. Today was no exception.
So, third go at the Royal Parks Half Marathon took place on the back of, for me, an unsatisfactory performance in my running club’s annual 10k. And, if truth be told I was a little worried having got off to an undercooked start in the 10k the previous week I wasn’t sure what the picturesque 13.1 miles through Hyde Park and central London would hold.
But I knew I’d done more training than last year, and with regular Yoga for runners, I felt stronger to the core to take on the challenge, but mentally I felt less strong. A flatulent starting coral, unidentified runners – not me, set a low etiquette for the start, and the unwashed runner between 5-6km also did not a fragrant early race make.
It was also another ‘lumpy’ start – not the flatulent starter again with followed through come uppence – as I struggled a little to find some rhythm on the early downhill sections to Westminster Bridge. I felt a bit better than last week, but was still worried that I was in for another struggle. The key though was I relaxed as the 1.40 pacer seemed to ease past me at 4-5k, previously this would have rocked me, but I knew I could work to get back in and concentrated on just working hard, focusing on keeping my pace regular, and working at my ultimate aim – which is the pace (4.58 per km) that will give me a sub 3.30 marathon next April.
Lesson 1: Focus on something you can control, not other things going on around you. (Eg use of arms, posture, breathing, stride)
Next April, London beckons because by some magic, an unexplained outcome, after 6 consecutive London ballots I got the ‘You’re In’ magazine rather than the ‘Sorry’ one I’ve become so used to receiving in early October. I still don’t get how the ballot works, have no idea if it’s not being a shepherd (see the very first blog entry and this will all make sense), not paying for the place on ballot entry, or just because I relaxed upon hearing that someone else had got a ballot place and assuming I was going to get a no.
But I’m in, and now the planning starts again. So Royal Parks in 2014 became part of that plan. I’d targeted another PB after 2013’s 1.42.03 (pay particular attention to those numbers), speculating that 1.40 was a possibility, though this soon changed after my 10k experience the previous week.
Lesson 2: Plan for your target race, trust the plan, and work to it.
However, I trusted my training – my experience has helped here – but it’s possible for any runner to make sure this happens for them. However, nervous, doubting, unsure you may feel your training will get you through the line.
The critical thing I focussed on was the pacing, making it regular and as consistent as possible. I made sure that my fuelling and hydration was working to support that element. In previous races going off too fast, or picking up pace too much, has undermined my overall performance and robbed me of the chance of full race satisfaction. That feeling post-race “if I’d just done this, varied that, pushed this, I’d have….” It would have all been better. Now this is also a positive thing as well because it drives you on to race again, compete against yourself to right that ‘wrong’. Why the hell would we keep doing this madness if it wasn’t the case? – in any walk of life.
Today, I’m sitting writing this with calves of steel recovering in front of strictly bleedin dancing, satisfied, sated, proud, and confident for April 2015.
Because I’ve learnt a really important lesson. I’ve cracked my pacing, today, regulated it, today, and felt able to press myself when it was falling behind, and ease off when I was getting away with myself.
As a result I’m very pleased with my time, and knowing that how my legs feel has come from the control I’ve exerted. Longer term it is a good foundation, and a confidence booster.
1hr 42 mins and 23 seconds.
20 seconds slower than my personal best for the distance and the course!
Good time, my second fastest ever, and I averaged 4min 51 secs per km, less than the 4.58 I need for a sub 3hrs 30.
Am I bovvered?
Course I am – 20 bleeding seconds…….