The Southend Half Marathon was the first race that I did, 4 long years ago. A lot has changed in those four years. Lauren is now my wife, we own a house, I can drive, I've changed jobs, Lauren's been promoted but one constant throughout it all has been my running. In that time I have had some great highs, as well as a sprinkling of lows when results have not gone the way I would have wished. Today's Southend Half Marathon marked my 65th event (including 26 parkruns) and it was also my fifth consecutive running of the race. My results have been as follows:
2009 - 2:17:48 - First event, 5 weeks training, 5 mile longest run.
2010 - 1:45:40 - Arm in plaster cast after breaking my arm ice skating.
2011 - 1:32:09 - PB at the time and still a Course record. ITB gave up on crossing the finish line.
2012 - 1:58:02 - Exhausted from Ultra Marathon and a shocker at Edinburgh Marathon Two Weeks before.
2013 - 1:43:15 - Injured after Brighton Marathon so very light on training.
So a mixed bag of results at Southend, but the focus of this blog is the 2013 instalment of the Southend HM. Since I last blogged about the Brighton Marathon, I managed to injury myself, my first proper injury. Straining the tendon connecting my knee to my Quad in my right leg. This hampered me greatly in the two weeks post Brighton meaning a few short runs each week totalling just 10km each week. I grudgingly visited my physio and was told at least two weeks of no running which I did reluctantly but knowing it was for the best. The next week was a couple of gentle runs to ease my body back into it before the final 3 weeks into Southend where I have started to do something approaching reasonable training. The majority of which was back to back runs with Luke of 12 miles and 10 miles over the Bank Holiday weekend. The remaining training was 5K or 5 Mile steady runs and a parkrun or two.
This lack of quality training in the build up lead to me struggling to come up with a realistic target time, initially post injury just happy to get round in 2hours. As the training picked up in the lead up, 1:50 seemed to something I could shoot at, but anything faster than that was just dreaming. Thus my time today of low 1:43 has really got me happy. It has far exceeded my expectations and even though it is a minute a mile off my HM PB it really does rank right up there in terms of my Half Marathon performances and I have had 16 goes at the distance!
So now you know the result, you may decide to cease reading the blog, but if you do wish to carry on reading the blog to it's conclusion I will fill you in on some of the days details. My prep before the race included a 30th Bday party in Cambridge, so I was on Diet Coke for the evening and drove Lauren and I home and had us in bed around half past midnight. I opted for Steak and Chips for dinner rather than my usual pasta dish, I nearly regretted it as well, with the steak definitely more on the rare side of medium rare!
Waking up tired, but with no other ill effects I drove us to pick up Giuseppe and then headed to the start around 9am, an hour before race start. But as is so often the case at Southend, traffic was heavy and slow moving on the way into the Garrison and Lauren took over the driving as Giuseppe and I headed for the start on foot. Lauren drove to the Kursaal ready to see us at miles 4 and 9. The congestion worsened and so as was the case a few years ago the race start time was put back to 10:15. This was frustrating, particularly given the cooler than expected weather. But Giuseppe and I met up with our boss and had a chat before we let him get off to find a good viewing spot.
The race did eventually get going just after 10:15 and as is the norm the tight, narrow, first mile made the going tough and the first Km was my slowest of the race. Once the first few miles are navigated and you find your way to the seafront, the roads widen and things settle down a little. I was taking it very easy, comfortable with people moving past me as they went off fast. I got into a nice ryhtym and felt good early on, the pace hovering around 5:00km after the initial congestion. This soon moved downwards, and by the time I saw my cheer squad of Ian, Graeme, Mum, Dad and Lauren at mile 4 the average pace was more like 4:50 per km. This is where it remained for much of the remainder of the race. With it being on the seafront, gradients weren't a factor, but there was a decent breeze which particularly effected miles 4-6 and 9-11 but I managed to maintain fairly consistent splits regardless.
I turned around at mile 7 ready for the 2nd loop and saw Giuseppe running really well and gave him a wave. It was at this point that my race got harder though. The legs were that bit heavier and the light, effortless rhythm of earlier was starting to fade, but the pace stayed around 4:50 as my effort level increased. The cheer squad was depleted on the second lap with Lauren, Mum and Dad still cheering me on and taking some great photos. I turned for home at mile 9 and headed into the wind. The fatigue was starting to set in, and my mind was constantly working through calculations of how badly I could fade and still achieve a 1:50. I had been on for a 1:42 for much of the race, but with 5K to go I wasn't particularly targeting that as I could feel my body straining. Giuseppe and I high fived as we crossed over a final time. I then turned left off the seafront and up the only incline of note on the course and on towards the finish. This final two miles or so is always tough for me, mentally and physically and it really was a case of just turning my legs over and getting myself to the finish. Do that and the time took care of itself.
It was then off the seawall and onto the road again as we headed into the final 400m, and the finish couldn't come fast enough! I ran through the line strong and received my medal and some much needed water. Water was the only thing I took all race, no gels or lucozade but I didn't miss them. I did also manage to get a cereal bar in me prior to the race. I rang Lauren and we managed to find each other and headed back to the finish to wait for Giuseppe. He had a tough last few miles but made it home in around 2:11 just outside his target time of 2:10 but 50 minutes ahead of last years time. We all headed home, very pleased with our mornings work.
Lauren and I enjoyed a BBQ at my parents, and I am about to go and take a nap after this weekends exploits. Thanks again to all my on the day supporters as well as those that tracked me on Runkeeper. What a fantastic invention that is! Until next time, keep running....!