I’m actually not quite sure what to call this one.
Organised by the East Antrim Marathon Series people (hereafter EAMS), they just referred to it as the ‘midweek’ half whereas I’ve seen other people call it the Carrickfergus Castle to Loughshore Half which at least gives you an idea of where it started and went to.
Anyway, this was #11 in my challenge to run 18 Half Marathon’s this year. That’s right, ELEVEN!!!! If I was that way inclined I’d be tempted to work as many Stranger Things references into this blog but a) I can’t be bothered and b) I have a rubbish recall for TV/films etc. … if you haven’t seen it just scrub that last paragraph from your memory!
So, yes, another half. Seven left.
This was a very late addition to my schedule. I only decided on it at the weekend after a number of other potential races became difficult to fit in logistically, mainly due to work.
The EAMS races are generally low key, very friendly and relaxed with the added bonus of some amazing medals waiting for you at the end of it all. It can’t really get much more chilled than a Wednesday morning race with only another 25 souls across three different events (10k, half and full marathon).
It actually suited me down to the ground – no pressure, just sign up, turn up and run.
Due to Northern Ireland’s sometimes archaic public transport system I had to leave home at 6am to make a race starting two-and-a-half hours later just 25 miles away.
But it is what it is. I arrived just as the organisers were setting up so rather than pester them to collect my race number I went for a pleasant little dander around the marina in the shadow of the castle.
In fact, I haven’t felt as relaxed as this before a race for a long time, especially not a half marathon.
The route started at the castle, an old Norman stronghold dating back to the 12th century, and meandered through the marina before hugging the coastline all the way to the Loughshore Park on the outskirts of Belfast, or thereabouts.
I think, from memory, that was 4.75 miles away whereupon there was a turn to go back the same way to the start. Then, from there, we headed out the same way again but only 1.8 miles this time before turning again to return to the castle for the finish.
I’m not a huge fan of out and back, nor loops, but this wasn’t too bad. I think what helped a lot is that for the vast majority of the race I ran on my own and given the different distances coupled with the small numbers running I only sparing saw other runners, never had the sense of being miles behind nor did I know what distance everyone else was running. I really could have been out on a solo training run.
So, how did I get on?
I planned beforehand to run fairly strongly for the first ten miles and then ease off for the final 5k because I was mindful of having to do it all over again in Dublin on Sunday.
The first five miles went well. I felt quite comfortable and maintained a fairly consistent pace throughout, around 11:30 per mile. After a short break at the feed station for a drink and a quick yarn I set off on the return and was pleased to keep up that speed until mile eight. I slowed a little bit around then, partly because I was waiting to cross the road, partly because I was starting to tire a bit and partly because of another brief pause at the feed station. However, I still made it to ten miles in the time I had hoped for, so all was good.
As I said, I decided to tone it down a bit after that. If I hadn’t been running again on Sunday I would have pushed on – a personal best wasn’t out of the question – but I thought I’d be sensible. The last time I did two in four days I set a pb on the Wednesday and then struggled at times on the Sunday, and whilst that might still happen in Dublin I still thought I’d play it safe.
It turned out I was only a couple of minutes or so outside my pb anyway which I suppose is reflective of how I did today. I always say how I feel about my performance is as important as my time, and I was happy today.
Bring on #12 on Sunday then!