Mark Allen reports: Less than a year on from being Mr Couch Potato, but now with two half marathons under my belt (B’ham 2010 & Long Marston March 2011) it was on to the Stratford upon Avon Half.
With lots of newly made BVH buddies competing in this race (and the full marathon), suddenly I was starting to take this running thing seriously. Suddenly I was thinking about Grand Prix points!
A sunshine break during the kid’s half term meant I was lucky enough to run every day for a whole week in preparation for the event. What would once have been a ‘beer and burgers knees up’ for me was now just about getting the knees up! “Oh, how you’ve changed”, chirped the wife on more than one occasion.
Come the day of the race and feeling slightly foolish in my Teal vest (I’ve never really been a vest man) I lined up at the start feeling quietly confident of a good outing. I’m learning that confidence builds on good preparation and knowing I’d done a few miles in advance of the day gave me the belief to try to go out and attack my last half marathon time of 1h 57m.
Whether it was my pre-race efforts, my imagination or (most likely) the fact that so many runners were competing in the full marathon so pacing themselves more steadily – I felt like I was going past people from the start. With a strategy of keeping it tight but steady up to the 8 mile hill, then seeing how I felt on the other side (I hoped I could maybe push a bit more on the flatter back end of the circuit), things felt good all the way around.
The water cups proved a challenge once again (must practice my squeeze and pour method more) and ditching energy gels in favour of Fruit Pastels seemed to suit me better. Despite what I’d heard and read about the notorious ‘Greenway’, I enjoyed the support and the lack of hills. In fact, I never realised the pleasure to be gained from perfect strangers shouting “come on Bournville” at me. Maybe that vest was not such a bad idea.
At the marathon/half marathon split, I was glad to be heading for the finish (especially with the sun starting to put in an appearance) and by the final approach, though I had long given up on my inaccurate Nike running watch, I knew I was going well. If I could beat 1h 55m I would be a happy man.
As I entered the final straight, I pushed like I’d never pushed before. The crowd cheered, the body surged………………..and a man in a Chicken suit ran past me.
Then I got my time. 1h 47min 38sec. I’d smashed it. Hooray.
For the rest of the summer it looks like shorter, quicker races will be the order of the day. I’m hoping to work on my technique, as I’m sure there are better ways of ‘doing’ running. ‘Natural running’ methods, anyone?
BvH Half marathon results:
BvH Marathon results:
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