Where do I even begin?
As you may, or may not, know. In January, Kelly Roberts of “Run.Selfie.Repeat” fame, tasked her followers (of which I am one), to name their challenge for 2018. For my “make the impossible, possible”, I chose to focus on my long-held goal to break 2-hours in the Half Marathon. This decision coincided with my club starting a “sub-2-hour” training group, with the view to all of us achieving our goals at the Coventry Half Marathon in March.
I’m not sure how many of you remember March, but if you have forgotten, it snowed. A lot. Coventry, Warwick, Stafford and almost all other Half Marathons that weekend were cancelled. Not wanting to see 12-weeks of training go down the drain I refocussed on Stratford, which went sailing-ly until my innate clumsiness resulted in me falling over a pot-hole at mile-3. (Fun fact, I’ve fallen over three times since then. My knees have not enjoyed 2018). I tried again at Swansea and Kimbolton, PB-ing at both of them, but 2:07:32 was still a long way off 2-hours. Those last 7 mins seemed insurmountable.
All of this brings me to yesterday and the Autumn Classic Half Marathon at Eton Dorney; a race which consists of 4.5 laps of the Olympic rowing lake. After missing out on sub-2 at both Swansea and Kimbolton, it was (by my own admission) my “last-ditch attempt” to do sub-2 in 2018. Partly because the timing of the event would allow me to get in a good 12-weeks of training, but also because the course is flat. Flatter-than-flat. This race is so flat, it would make pancakes look mountainous.
However, after a particularly busy start to the Autumn term, my training had not been as consistent as I would have liked, and as we drove down to Windsor for the 8:30am race start, I didn’t think I had it in me. Nerves were beginning to get the better of me and by the time I arrived at the Rowing Centre, I was dreading the race. But despite my concerns, the running gods must have been smiling on me, because the conditions were near-perfect. The sun burnt through the morning mist soon after we set off on our first lap, blossoming into a gorgeous late-autumn day.
The race itself was impeccably organised by the crew at F3 events. Parking was easy and close-by, the toilets were plentiful and the site was stunning. There were gel and water stops in two places each lap (one at the bottom of the lake, and one at the top), and all the marshalls were friendly and supportive. I would love to give you a more in-depth race review, but I genuinely did not pay attention to anything other than the mile ahead of me, and my watch. I think that I looked at my watch more in this race than I have done since I’ve had my Garmin. Every couple of metres I was looking to check that a) I was on pace, and that b) I wasn’t pushing too hard in order to keep that pace.
At the start, I purposely held myself back, choosing to run to my HR rather than keep up with the pack. As I hit the main bulk of the race (miles 3-10), I kept a very strict eye on my HR. I have previous when it comes to blowing up in the finishing stages of a race, and I didn’t want that to happen again. I knew from racing at Draycote that I could run 10 miles at-pace, as long as my HR didn’t push too far above 170.
With all the concentrating on pace and heart rate, the miles ticked by fairly quickly, and all of them were a few seconds under the 9:09 I needed to beat 2-hours. This gave me hope that today might actually be the day, but I still didn’t let myself look at the “elapsed time” until I was on the final half of the final lap. It was then, with 1.5 miles to go, that I started to believe.
I may have been starting to believe, but I imagine everyone else was getting increasingly annoyed with me. Fun fact #2, I talk to myself in races when it gets tough, and those final few miles were REALLY tough. So, my final miles were punctuated with me telling myself, “come on Helen, keep pushing, you can do this”. If anyone reading this was at that race, I am very sorry, but it did work, as…
My new Half Marathon PB is 1:58:50.
It has taken me 12-years to say that my HM PB begins with a 1. I am on top of the world, and in shock, all at the same time; I think it is going to take a while to sink in. Until then, I am going to happily exist in my post-race buzz and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.
Surprisingly my new goal is not to try and run sub-1:55. It’s actually to go sub-2 again, but this time at a course with a slightly more “normal” topography, most likely Coventry in March 2019.
So with that, I am off to run up some hills! Until next time,
Happy Running x