Having never been a great writer (or reader, for that matter), I realise that I have in all tardiness and lethargy, knowingly not updated blog in respect of my recent training activities. As foretold most of my high-school report cards, I “must do better.”
My last mention was a few weeks ago, having completed the local Mid Argyll Sprint-distance Triathlon, with such a poor performance that I struggled to envision any possible chance of my participation in the following weekend’s Great Scottish Run – aka Glasgow Half Marathon – matching up to my previous half marathon results. Each of my previous 3 half’s I have completed in almost exactly 1hour 45mins; my goal going into this event was to at least match this, but the reality as I saw it throughout that week, was a pessimistic 2hour target as best-realistic hope.
Yet, when Sunday morning came around with a mild 13°C-ish clearing away the heavy, early fog and revealed bright blue skies, it was as close as perfect to being the perfect running day. And without the pressure of setting a personal best – as I was now grudgingly content to settling with a 2hour finishing time – I set off slightly trailing the 1h45 pace-runner.
If you have ever entered a competitive race, regardless of how competitive you are individually, you’ll probably have heard the advice “Set off at your own pace.” Sound advice. Yet the person most visibly who clearly had not paid heed to this sage wisdom was the 2hour pace-runner, who managed to set off well ahead of the 1h45 pace-runner – which obviously created much confusion for us runners trying to run to pace. Was our (1h45) pace too slow, or was their (2h) pace too fast?
We eventually cruised past the 2h runners at about the 3mile mark. I was feeling ok with my running, starting to question my pace, but realising the slightness of difference figured I might as well keep going at current pace as long as possible – certainly the likelihood of a faster finish than I had expected, was now a good possibility, though not probability.
After about 5 miles, we turned into Pollock Park and were forced into running as a tight pack – lots of runners, narrow path lined with muddy puddles and wet leaves. It was a lovely setting with early-autumn colours on the trees, good crowd support and other folk taking dogs out for their walks. Running close together was a constant challenge of taking in the atmosphere while being careful not to trip the runners in front, or be tripped from those behind.
Going over one speed-bump – a blatantly unmarked hazard – a couple of runners in front of me fell but were swiftly back on their feet. I vividly recall thinking that only a complete numpty could be tripped up by a speed-bump and they should’ve been looking where they were going. My thoughts turned to the ludicrous public-liability lawsuits which have become almost fashionable in recent years – “No Win, No Fee” claims for folk burning themselves with too-hot coffee or walking into lamp-posts or falling off a pavement or tripping up while competing in a three-legged race – you know, when folk should have been paying attention to what they were doing, or at very least taken responsibility for their own actions. Off in a run-trance, I didn’t see the next unwarned-of speed-bump…
Like a ninja, I rolled and was back on my feet as if I’d intended to fall in the first place. At least that’s how I imagine it! Having been nursing a pair of mysterious knee-injuries for two years, I was instantly concerned about having taken knocks to both. About a hundred meters on, at the 6-mile mark, there was a first-aid ambulance, and with battered knees, bloodied right arm and a nasty pain in my left hand, I nearly withdrew from the race, but I limped on.
I don’t remember anything particular of the next 6 miles, only trying to keep up with the pace-runner while simultaneously stretching worried joints within strides, trying badly to settle into a semi-comfortable rhythm. Just after the 12-mile mark, I asked the pace-runner if we were on-pace for a 1h45 finish. “About 1h44” he replied. “Sweet!”
So the final mile and a bit, I stretched my legs, initially cranking only a gear or two, upping my pace just a little, not wanting to burn-out too soon yet wanting to cut off as much time as possible. As with previous Half Marathon’s, that last 0.1 mile felt like an entire mile all to itself. My trademark sprint finish and I was over the line. I knew it was a PB and was quickly onto Strava to get my GPS-recorded (unofficial) time – 1 hour 41 minutes 18 seconds.
Officially, my chip-time as I would later receive, my time was 1h42m28s – so a new PB by over 2 minutes. Awesome! And as awesome as the pain which promptly hit only a minute afterwards! Still, work to do to hit my all-time target of sub-100mins…