This is a half marathon that I’ve done before and despite the fact that it’s advertised as the flattest half marathon in Ireland there is about 6km of it that is run on sand and exactly half of it is always into a headwind so it’s far from the fastest half marathon course.
I was hoping to break 1:30 today. I figured a 1:29 would be a good day, anything faster would be brilliant and slower would be a bit disappointing. Ais had given me instructions to run the first 3k easy and then I could race however I felt. I made the mistake of not getting myself onto the start line and instead jumped in with the 1 hour 30 group. This had the desired effect of controlling my speed at the start as I worked my way through the crowds but it also had a down side…
Even though I was chasing a time and didn’t expect to be competitive I still wanted to place as high up as possible but I had forgotten that my finishing position would be decided on “gun time” not my chip time so in the end I finished about 8 places further down the results because I started further back and it took me a handful of seconds to cross the timing mat. A silly mistake I’m determined not to make again.
I ran a very controlled pace for the first half and as we approached the half way point (it’s an out and back course so you get to count the runners coming back and see where you are) At the turn I thought I was about 98th and had been steadily moving up through the field from about the 5k mark.
I continued to make up places as we turned back into the expected headwind for the return leg. I got a boost as I passed Ais coming the opposite direction and there was the usual high fives and shouts of encouragement.
I started to think about my placing and reckoned that I was moving well. I thought that I could make up enough places to make it onto the first page of the results. I’m not sure why this seemed so important to me but it gave me something to focus on and kept me pushing. I reckoned I would need to crack the top 50 to do that and I kept on focusing on the next athlete up the road and picking them off.
The second time across the beach was tough as I was starting to tire and I could see the seconds slip away as my pace dropped on the sand but even so I was still catching runners ahead. My breathing was hard and my legs were tiring and my effort was high to hold the pace.
The last few kilometers were back on road and path and I pushed as hard as I could to claw back the seconds I’d lost on the beach but I was on my limit at that stage and didn’t really have much left to give. Until I got passed by three runners that was. They were the first people to pass me since about the 2k point. As the first one went by moving a lot faster than me I thought I didn’t have a chance but when the second and third guys passed me I dug in and jumped in behind them. I was out of the wind for the first time in almost 40 minutes and although I was having to run faster to stay in their draft, the relief the offered from the constant headwind almost made up for the extra effort required and I thought I could hang on.
Then one of the lads surged and broke away. I reckoned we still had another 2k to go. I thought about it for about 5 seconds before deciding to try to go with him. I pulled out into the wind and accelerated. He had about 10 meters of a gap on me and I was now back in the wind and having to run faster than him to bridge the gap. My breathing grew even more ragged and my legs were screaming at me to back off.
I pushed once more and made it in behind him. Again I felt the relief from the wind, he was a big unit and did a masterful job of blocking the wind. I was able to hold the pace and even recover a little. Until he decided that he didn’t want to drag me to the finish and surged again. I didn’t hesitate this time and responded immediately. He pushed again but after a minute the pace dropped a little and I was able to hang on.
I guessed we were about 600 meters from the finish and his pace stalled a little as we got caught in traffic passing a few runners and I decided to surge. I pushed hard and passed him and got a gap. I could hear his breathing and footsteps but guessed he was about 10 meters back. It didn’t take long for me to start to tie up and I was way past my limit. When I realised that I’d misjudged not just my effort but also the distance to the end I knew I wouldnt last at this pace to the finish. I was hanging on for dear life when he came charging past me. I’d nothing left and despite trying to surge to stay with him he pulled away.
I knew that a sub 1:30 result was gone but I still wanted to come in as close as possible so kept on pushing to the line. In the end I finished in 1:30:50. I was pretty disappointed with the time but later on talking to Ais she reckoned that it was a solid time on that course in those conditions given my current fitness and the training so far.
If you made it this far thanks for reading.