It’s been a bit of a roller coaster of a week with such a lot going on that I haven’t managed to fit at run in since the weekend when I did a pretty slow and relaxed 10 miles on Saturday, followed by a strong 4 mile XC race on Sunday. I also had three days of solid carb loading in the build up to the race, with a lovely lunch with my mum on Thursday, followed by pizza after a company meeting, 5 Guys with the office on Friday (seemed like a nice alternative to a run on a grey day!) then a lovely lunch out with Hilary on Saturday. All in all, it didn’t seem like the ideal build up to my first half marathon of the year – but on race day the rested legs and lots of energy seemed to work in my favour.
Today was grey and cold, but luckily not snowing! We got a lift down towards the start at Cantley Park and I realised how cold it was pretty quickly when I was queuing for the loo. I was feel rather envious of everyone’s leggings and long sleeves and starting to wonder if my short shorts and vest were such a good idea after all! Dan went for a bit of a warm up while I queued and made my way over to the bag tent. All too soon it was time to strip off the layers, apply some extra body glide and hand in the bag. I modelled a blue Wokingham Council bin liner as we waited for the race to start – for runners I’d say it’s a pretty well designed bin liner reaching down beyond my knees and keeping me slightly warmer than I could have been.
This year’s Wokingham Half had 2342 runners entered, and unlike with larger races like Oxford or Reading there were no specific pens for different start times, or pacers. This makes for a more relaxed start to the race, and I never had any issues with over-crowding. After saying goodbye and good luck to Dan who ran off for a final bit of warming up, I heading forwards myself to try and get warm in the groups waiting to start! When the starting horn went I threw the bin bag aside and hurried to cross the start line.
For the first couple of miles my arms were burning with the cold. I wiggled my fingers a bit to try and get the blood flowing but soon gave up and just got on with the run. Happily though my legs weren’t cold at all, and as we went along my arms warmed up too – my fail safe and comfortable racing uniform had lived up to expectations. Rather amusingly, as we ran down an early hill a lady came up beside me and said that I had a group of men behind me lining up to check out my arse! This made us both laugh and certainly put a spring in my step for the next few miles!
I had a think yesterday about what time I wanted to aim for today. My PB at Oxford Half was 1:44:40, and to run that again would require 7:59 minute miles – which seemed very doable. My main aim was to beat that time, but I thought I’d have a look at a stretch goal of 1:40:00 – this would require an average of 7:38 a mile – more tricky but something to bear in mind. These calculations were all done on the super useful Runne app which is so easy to use and let’s you play around with the numbers for a range of distances before you race. By the time the race started I was aiming for those 7:38s, but trying to keep relaxed and avoid having to pull up with stitch again.
The first mile was easy, as it always is, with a slight downhill and the usual joy and freedom of racing. Once you’re across the start line, it’s just you and your legs and your head, no more nerves, nothing more you can do to prepare – you just need to run as best you can. I was very conscious of not going out too hard, pushing so hard I’d blow up and not do as well as I could. I feel like I’ve learnt my lessons slightly from the Hyde Park 10k and managed to keep my pace sensible, hovering around the 7:38 mark, not worrying when faster runners passed me, and even holding back, consciously not going off to fast but aiming to hold an even steady pace with my legs and breathing.
This new sensible, relaxed tactic seemed to work really well. I was averaging slightly faster than target, but felt that I was relaxed enough to be able to maintain the pace. A few weeks ago Dan told me to ‘run smart’ I didn’t then, but I think I really managed that today. As we turned right into a headwind at around 4 miles in, I tucked in behind some men who were passing me and drafted for a bit, running more easily, but also faster, dropping down to a 7:32 pace. I think what worked most of all for me though was not sticking to them as the pace quickened, but letting them go and do their own race, while I concentrated on my game plan. There are always going to be loads of people faster, but actually that doesn’t matter – trying to stick with or chase everyone down wasn’t going to lead to a new PB!
I felt pretty good winding around the outskirts of Wokingham, gradually ticking off the miles to the all important ‘we can do this’ half way point. I had a gel at around 7 miles, had a wave from Izzy at the halfway drinks station and headed on towards the end. The toughest mile on the course for me was definitely mile 11, the only one where I dropped my pace slower than my target. This bit which comes just as you’re tiring, involves a couple of uphills and was tough enough to make me wonder if all the hard work was going to be wiped out. As I went I was working out the number of miles I had left, and what my time would be if I managed 8 mins a mile for both of them. My en route calculations kept me entertained, and gave me some confidence as I worked on getting back on pace.
After mile 11, I think the toughest part of my race today had to be being overtaken by a camel, which went on to break the Guinness World Record for the fastest ever half marathon by a pantomime camel! I was working hard enough in a normal running outfit so I don’t know how they managed it in there! I ran my last few miles in the wake of the record-breaking camel and it was certainly a hit with all the children out supporting on the course. My quads really tightened up as I got into the last mile which seemed like a long one. I was so pleased to see Sarah on the last corner and managed to break into a sprint catching a couple of people on the way to the finish line. Sadly I finished just after the camel so no one noticed and both my parents and Dan missed my finish too as I was ‘too fast’!
However, I’d done it – I came in comfortably under 1:40. Beating my PB by nearly 6 minutes to finish with an official time of 1:38:57! Wowee! 🙂
I met a cold and shivery Dan on the way to the kit tent and was so excited about my new PB and sad that he’d missed my finish, that I completely forgot to ask him how he’d done (and have been feeling rather guilty since!) He’d had a really fantastic race too, even after an overloaded week of training and XC on Saturday and got a great new PB of 1:17:47, finally beating the one he set at Reading Half nearly 2 years ago.
We found my parents who were very pleased for both of us and walked home at high speed to warm up with hot ribena, pains au chocolat and a nice hot shower! It was a great event and went amazingly well for me! It was nice to bump into some TVTers out and about, as well as a lot of vests and a few faces I recognise from racing in Oxfordshire. I’ll definitely be back for more again in 2018!