What an amazing day! That’s really the only way to sum up today’s Larne Half Marathon. It was the second of my 18 half marathon’s challenge this year, and my first at ‘home’.
After doing so well in London earlier this month, and in Belfast a week ago (albeit that was a 10k) I had a bit of a wobble the day before.
I was worried that my bubble had burst, that my recent good form wouldn’t last and that I would struggle given, numbers wise, this was a much ‘smaller’ event. I wouldn’t have the crowds supporting from the sideline, and I wouldn’t have the same number of fellow runners around me out on the course.
In the end, all of those fears were unfounded.
I travelled to the race with my usual running crew, namely Iverene, Judith and Parveen. For Iv and Parv this was their first half marathon and whilst Judith is no stranger to the distance she, by her own admission, hadn’t trained. So we all had our own worries, but it was good during the journey to get them out into the open and I think it helped each one of us.
Arriving at the start line, there were around 100 members of the club milling around and it was good to chat and meet up with old friends etc., – all an important part of the nerve settling process.
The start was delayed almost 25 minutes due to an accident somewhere on the outskirts of the town which led to some busloads of runners not being able to get there in time, but once we did get going Iverene and I very quickly started running beside each other – and proceeded to keep each other company for the entirety of the race.
To me, this was invaluable. We had trained together, and had experimented running in heart rate zones although this often amused us because we kept running too fast despite trying not to.
And so it proved today as well. Completing the first 5k in around 33 minutes we knew this was an unsustainable pace. So we tried to slow it down. We tried walking for short spells in an attempt to reset our speed … but, no, every time we started running we quickly went too fast again! We even attempted to tuck in behind some other runners and use them to ‘pace’ us, but pretty quickly we were drifting past them.
This would have been ok over a shorter race, or in slightly less summery conditions, or in a race without a ruddy great hill slap bang in the middle that we had yet to reach!
At some point I was convinced I was going to blow. But it never came.
This much feared hill, that we had heard lots of stories about, was indeed a fairly substantial climb – a little under two miles long – and did slow us down.
It came just after the 10k mark and, to give you an indication as to my pace at that stage, I was just a fraction off my PB at that point which, in light of the heat, was quite good going!
But we did need to slow down, so the hill served a purpose in that regard although, with hindsight, it was a little too long and ultimately put paid to my chances of setting a PB at the finish.
With the climb conquered, it was back down the other side and onto the coast road that we had ran along a little earlier. Apart from being flat, it also brought a welcome breezy relief from the unexpected heat.
Our earlier exploits began to catch up on us a little, so we decided to indulge in a bit of ‘Jeffing’ ie: run/walk and settled into a sequence of two minutes running/30 seconds walking for the last 5k or so.
This proved to be quite successful and whilst not at the pace from earlier in the race we still weren’t too far away from it. I knew we couldn’t have maintained that, but to get fairly near to it in the latter stages of the race was pleasing.
In the end we finished just over 90 seconds outside my London time which is pretty good taking the heat and the hill into account, and is now my second fastest competitive half marathon.
Once finished, we waited to cheer Judith and Parveen home as well as the runners from not only our club but others too whom we passed out on the course. That’s the thing about running, you get to ‘know’ people who you’ll not see again apart from at the next race but whom you’ll support every bit as much you would a close friend … and you know they’ll do the same for you.
Thanks, Iverene, for your company today and for sharing your birthday run with me. Thanks, also, to Parveen and Judith for your support before and after the race. We’re a little team, and it’s a pleasure to train with you. Bring on the next one!
Speaking of which, as I said at the outset, this was my second half marathon this year. I’m planning on doing 18 (18 in 2018?), as a personal challenge but also, as a Type 2 Diabetic, to show what is possible and to hopefully inspire others who are carrying too much weight and who fear they’ll not be fast enough to take up running.
As well as awareness, I’m hoping to raise a little bit for Diabetes UK as they provide vital support and fund further research into the condition. If you would like to donate you can find my JustGiving page here.