In the long term, who could guess how much your 5k time will fall orwhat will happen on your first half marathon so that you run a time you thought nigh on impossible.
Before I ran the Blackpool Half Marathon in April, a few people who I’d been training with asked me what sort of time I expected to finish the run in. I thought 2:10 was a reasonable target to aim for, one of my training buddies, Stewart told me that I was underestimating my own ability and that 2:00 was a much more realistic and optimistic target. I had calculated that, if I ran the first half of the race at 9-minute mile pace then I’d build up enough of a margin to run the rest of the race at anywhere to 10-minute pace and beyond in order to finish in my ‘target time’. How wrong I would be.
Although I never before managed to maintain 9-minute mile pace for a long run in the lead up to the half marathon, on Sunday 6th April I did just that. Don’t get me wrong, my mile times wavered slightly, but only slightly. The post 8-mile drop off in pace that I had experienced on one fateful training run didn’t happen, nor did nausea, too many loo stops or anything else untoward.
Rewind to the 7th March, my longest training run of 12.43 miles. I had a horrible experience at mile 9, everything seemed to go wrong. The first 7 miles passed easily, my slowest mile time, mile 7, came in at 9:44, and that was only because I was climbing all the way. Mile 8 was noticeably easier and speedier again at 9:20. Before that I had ran comfortably in and around 9-minute mile pace. Perfect.
Mile 9 was horrible, my stomach churned and I remember my thoughts wandering to home, nearly 4 miles away, I couldn’t stay in the moment and had to fight hard there and then to keep on running. I stopped, ran inside a pub, used the facilities and gathered myself together. From that point onwards I comforted myself in the knowledge that I could take a short cut home at one of three points in the remaining miles. I didn’t though, and I truly believe that had a positive effect on my half marathon performance.
The remaining miles, whilst uncomfortable and at times painfully slow, passed without incident. I returned home, showered, then analysed my run using my Garmin. I enjoy the ability to analyse my runs ex post facto. There’s something relaxing about sifting through figures, looking for any dips in performance, looking to see how I ascended a hill or performed in the final stretch of the run. Although it was obvious, blatantly obvious, that I’d slowed dramatically during the last 4 miles of my run on the 7th March, there was something to be taken from the fact that I managed to finish.
In the event, the race couldn’t have gone any better. The weather, whilst sunny, wasn’t too warm, the water stations were well manned and were placed well to the side of the road with plenty of room to get your drink then make a quick get away. Although I ran the first half of the race slower than ideal for a sub-2 hour finish time, I had enough energy reserves in the tank to finish in a time of 1 hour 59 minutes and 52 seconds. By comparison, I had finished my 12 mile training run in 2 hours and 10 minutes due to the long stoppages at several points along the route. This, I believe, goes to show how unpredictable times are when you run a new distance. Do you approach a new distance with a fixed time in mind or is your goal ‘just to finish’? Share your thoughts below!