Last week Iverene, from my club, asked if I would help her with her half marathon training, but due to the snow that has plagued Ballymena recently we were unable to go out.
We ran together on Saturday, first at parkrun and then five miles straight after, and agreed after that to see what it’d be like today and attempt another midweek lunchtime run.
Again, the weather forecast was against us but it was only wind and rain this time so we decided to go for it. I’ll admit at this point I wasn’t really up for it. I had done an exercise class at 6:30am and was still tired from that but I didn’t want to let Iverene down, plus I knew the run would be good for me.
Typically, it was so cold, windy and wet at the start … but by the end we were basking in bright sunlight. Four seasons in one day!
We had decided beforehand to do a nine mile route but to do it slowly … really slowly. Time on feet, and miles in our legs was our objective today so we aimed for 13-minute miles.
It might sound easy to slow it right down and, believe me, we tried but we failed miserably. Indeed our average pace throughout was 12:28 and it was a struggle to even do that.
But I take huge encouragement from that. We were going faster than we planned, and we were able to chat most of the way so, effectively, we were running at conversational pace which suggests there was a lot more in our legs if we needed it.
The route took us from the Ballee Park ‘n’ Ride, down the Antrim Road – so a nice easy start – then into the town via the leisure centre before following a bit of the club 30-minute run and then down Parkway, along the Galgorm Road right out to the villages of Galgorm and Gracehill.
After that we turned back on ourselves a little before going into the golf club, and running through the grounds. A little way in I spotted a little white washed house, and wooden wings etc. … apparently there’s a fairy trail along here! I know I sometimes run like a big fairy but I wasn’t tempted to follow it!!!
There’s a steep rise going out of the golf club which was the only time really during the entire run that I thought was really tough.
Exiting the club, there was a very pleasant drop for a while before following the Tullygarley Road which is a steady, deceptive rise. It was along here we bumped into Serena, who sometimes leads the 30s or 45s at club, so she ran the final couple of miles with us.
She had just started her run so was obviously a lot fresher than we were but having her run alongside us motivated me to keep going because I was aware of the challenges still ahead.
We turned to go along the Toome Road. Halfway along there’s a really, really steep climb. I’ve never completed it before without walking but, today, I conquered it! I was so pleased with myself … I just picked different points up the hill and challenged myself to get to each one.
There’s a downhill on the other side which was good for recovery before the road joins with the Antrim Road, and the turn towards the finish.
Unfortunately the finish is at the very, very top of the road and the Antrim Road is a long slog but, as with the Toome Road hill, I wasn’t going to let it beat me – and it didn’t. I had to dig very, very deep but I was determined to get up it.
As sod’s law would have it we were still a little bit short of nine miles, so we ran a little bit along the dual carriageway before turning back to the start/finish while Serena carried on with her own run.
It was a relief to get finished but the endorphins were flowing and I felt absolutely delighted to have completed it almost non-stop, especially since I wasn’t feeling it at the start and after doing an early morning class!
Next week it’ll be ten miles. Maybe. But I need a rest first, I’m knackered now!!!!