I’ve discovered the relative anonymity of mixed distance races and intend to exploit them.
The fear of entering official races as a routine, back of the pack runner, is that you stagger towards the finish line to find all the volunteers packing up and waiting impatiently for you to pick up the last remaining medal so they can go home. If you enter a half with a full marathon tagged on, you can be fairly certain that although you may be the last placed in your race, you won’t be holding up the entire show.
That’s why I chose the Great North Trail Run and why I then sought out the Thames Meander.
The Thames Meander was a fairly low key event organised by a couple who set up events under the banner of Hermes Running. It started and finished at a posh school in the Kingston environs and took in the sights of Richmond Park and the Thames.
Towing the line with a load of uber fit marathon runners carries with it it’s own level of anxiety though and as ever with races, I shot out of the gates with an adrenaline fueled pace more suited to escaping a charging bull rather than dragging one around a 13 mile loop.
Within the first few hundred yards I’d overtaken 3 runners. This is not supposed to happen and should have been an alarm call. Instead I continued increasing my speed, terrified of the chasing pack. It was like a continuous Zombies, Run! interval.
At 5k my watch beeped to inform me that I’d recorded my best 5k time in about 3 years. Again, not great in a 13 mile event.
At 8k I followed a duff lead and went about 200 yards off track before realising and turning to face the chasing 3 – now 200 yards ahead.
I focused on reeling them back in and in the process managed to achieve my best 10k time in about 4 years.
Alarm bells and klaxons now sounded in a deafening manner and at the half way turnaround point my legs obviously cottoned on to the situation and stopped performing.
Almost immediately I was overtaken and then the brain kicked in with it’s negative speak. I had to drag my body and a nagging, whining, excuse of a brain around for another 90 minutes.
At the half way point I was on track for a finish time close to 2:40, 20 mins faster than my target. Over the last 10k I lost more than 30 mins, a staggering 3 minutes per km!
With only 3 weeks to go to The Bupa Great North Run, this half marathon has proved to be a great training session. Alerting me to the dangers of overly eager starts and inadequate fitness levels. My GNR target has always been to break 3hrs so now I need to work out what the best approach is to refine my performance over the last 3 weeks of training.
Of course I have more questions than answers.
- How long will I be able to maintain my pace for if I set off slower?
- Is it possible to increase endurance within 3 weeks of an event?
- How much faster can I go in those last painful miles, with the whole of South Shields out in support?
The Thames Meander Half was a lovely route, well supported and attracted its fair share of supportive runners who were happy to offer a nod of encouragement on the loop back.
The finishers medal was a thing of wonder and although I usually only run for t-shirts I was prepared to swap that reward for a rather substantial plate of spaghetti bolognaise laid on in the school canteen. An excellent addition to any run!
At only £18 I think Hermes Running laid on an excellent event including aid stations, medal, food, and hot showers.
I read a few complaints in the marathon runners forum that suggested some of the aid stations on their extended section had run out of water, which is a fairly terrible state to find yourself in over that distance but I understand that the organisers are heeding the lessons and next years event will be improved.