“I love it when a plan comes together”
_ Hannibal Smith
The Plusnet Yorkshire Half Marathon – Sheffield 2016. It was another great event. Better than 2015 even and I raved about that one already.
So here’s a breakdown. The highlights if you will.
Quick chat along Ecclesall Rd with both Tom Brockwell (running buddy who spots me out of the blue) and my brother Andy (sibling rival/running nemesis in a ‘playful way).
I break away from both the others as we enter the first climb on Ecclesall Rd South.
My pace is easy enough to avoid disaster, but I’m working harder than I was in 2015, so to secure what I hope will be a course PB (Personal Best).
I spot people I know in the crowds. I receive shout outs from familar faces. Some of them friends, some of them customers from the store. One or two (I suspect) are just randomly attempting to read the name upon my race number, which was sadly misspelt and so looked like ‘Hugboy’. But I’m taking it as a compliment all the same.
I’m nearing the top of the big hill (about 5 miles into the race) and approaching the Norfolk Arms, Ringinglow – where I see the Accelerate staff team and a few more familiar faces. I’m worrying about how easy it feels, since my plan was to really work at the hill and not waste time smiling and waving if it meant making a quicker go of things this time around. But I definitely feel like I’m moving well.
As the route finally tops out and things head downhill – I remember to hold back and not get carried away all the same. I need to allow some fast feet and head downhill quickly, but without pushing so hard that I can’t run on that final 2 mile section on relatively flat ground.
It worked. I ran quickly as I could without getting distressed. I handled the hill comfortably, my attention on descending smoothly at pace, while never feeling like I was running at full whack.
I ran with my Heart Rate Monitor and GPS – so I could check my pace the entire way, but aside from the odd glance, I ran to feel. When I did look, I was pleased with what I was seeing. Once I hit the flat, with plenty left in my legs, I was thankfully able to continue pushing and running strong. Something that in 2015 hadn’t been the case.
By this stage I was confusing hard work with slow running, my senses telling me I was losing steam, but when I once again checked the watch it told me I was still at 6 minute miles or faster. So I reasoned with myself – I wasn’t in any pain and to continue pushing wouldn’t kill me – so CRACK ON!
The subtle uphills toward the end felt a lot harder than they really were and a final look at my wrist confirmed that I was slowing by at least a full minute per mile, but I was still giving my best. I hadn’t really put a move wrong. I’d stuck to my plan, easy on the uphill, fast but smooth on the downhills, sparing myself for that all important 2 mile stretch.
To run that section quickly, rather than to slow down and end up hanging on for dear life, that was making all the difference. If I’d have hurled myself back to town for all I was worth, my legs would have shut down as soon as I ran out of downhill. And you simply can’t run fast enough downhill to make up for a slower than slow climb. You can however, save a lot of time running where you might otherwise have crawled.
So the (comparatively) easy up to begin with. The delay in upping my speed until properly regrouped from the uphill slog. The smooth form on the downs and resisting the urge to blast it 100%. Then finally, the ability and the mental strength to give it that all important fight – right to the line.
The result – a PB for a Half Marathon, by a good minute and a half. Not just a course best, an all time best.
All the fun and atmosphere of 2015 – with the added feeling that I’d this time run my best and the reward of a PB.
What a day!
Naturally, with all the slow movement early on and the fact I was still chatting and waving here or there, it seems fair to assume there’s still more I can do to improve things. But for now I’ll just enjoy this surprisingly positive outcome and turn my attention to training again, once my recovery fortnight has come to a complete close.
In a few days I shall blog about exactly what made the difference in my training and what provided me with more speed than ever before. This didn’t just happen by chance.
My complete Marathon Photos collection can be viewed here.