Thursday, 19 September 2013

Bristol Half Marathon - A Sort of Journey

This is a story about how I ran a Half Marathon, an actually enjoyed it.

Back in March I received an email from a friend of mine Dominic who I used to play hockey with at Westbury (until he left for London like everyone else). The premise was simple - 'Free entry to Bristol Half Marathon' as long as you run for his charity - Helping Hearts.

Deciding it was now or never, and since getting back I have been trying to get fitter this seemed like a great idea at the time. So I signed up for my first half and promptly forgot about it for a few weeks.

Around June I began to get serious, the usual couple of 4 mile runs and hockey would not suffice so I tracked down a 10 week training guide to hit my target of sub 2 hours. This guide assumed one had already run at least one half and ran a few times a week already.... 1/2 I thought was good enough.

10 Weeks before the event came round pretty quickly and with the week commencing Monday 8th July I switched from running for fun to running with a cause. However the true secret of my success must come from a combination of a Running, Spinning, Hockey and Determination.

My week essentially would follow this routine for must of the ten weeks - Run, Hockey, Spin, Run, Run., BIG Run or not as we shall see. With the help of Runkeeper, my tracker, I was easily able to map my distances, times and improvements.

Weeks 1-3 

These early weeks began fairly easy, the same routines as before 3/4 mile runs about 4 times a week. Supplemented with the odd Hockey game/Spinning I was feeling good and despite a weekend off due to Crowcombe beer festival spirits were definitely high. I even managed to get in a 6 Mile run successfully. 

Total Miles Covered:
 47 Miles
Furthest Distance: 6 Miles (52.5 Minutes, Pace 8:31)

Week 4 and 5

Week 4 was a bad week, I slacked off and didn't get nearly as much running as I should have done. This was slightly redeemed by a full day Kayaking on the Wye which was a definite upper body workout but not so good for legs. Week 5 culminated in the first big challenge a whopping 8 miles in one go. I did this after a jaunt around Ashton Court on the bike the day before and a night out with Liam, Natalie and Nela. Surpisingly I opted for the 4 Mile Road loop which contains big hills rather than the softer and easier route that is the Downs laps.

Total Miles Covered: 22 Miles ( 69 Miles in Total)
Furthest Distance: 8 Miles (1hr 10 minutes, Pace 8:51) (ET Marathon run in 1 Hour 55 Minutes)

Weeks 6 - 9 
This is where I definitely began to see improvements in my own pace/endurance. When my social life was not interfering my runs were going well. However I missed the bigger warm up chances, one time when I was in no fit state to attempt 12 miles an although I felt fairly good (no pain in legs) I had no energy and needed water I called it at 4 miles. My mile times were dropping to around 8 minutes and in some cases around 7:50 where I felt I had really pushed myself.

Despite missing the big warm up runs, which may have led me to being unprepared I still felt strong and when asked if ready I would say yes, meaning I knew I would finish, but I was hesitant on maintaining the pace the whole way.

Total Miles Covered: 50 Miles (119 Miles in Total)
Furthest Distance: 10 Miles (Around 1 Hour 23)

Week 10: Build Up & Race

Tapering began and I settled in for a laid back week. Easy/slow 4 miles on the Monday which I actually ran in around 32 minutes or averaging a pace of 7:56 (which would have put my time around 1hr 44 for the full half*). I felt nervous most of Tuesday until Spin which went so well I changed my mind and just wanted to run at that point. Rest of the week was just Hockey Training, I also played a game of Hockey the day before, which was a bit risky but luckily I didn't come out of this with any real injuries.

The evening before the Race I ate a massive bowl of Pasta out of a mixing bowl with two kinds of pasta (Wildchild I know) before getting an early nights sleep. I woke up and had breakfast of a Bagel with Peanut Butter and walked down to the start. Not having quite figured out my time to beat based on the predictions I figured I would finish around the 1hr50 mark, assuming I kept the same pace the whole way round. After last minute toilet breaks the race was underway and I soon found myself running at a good pace mostly faster than everyone else in the second wave, but not by a long way. I passed Jess(a fellow ex Cothamer) and said Hello  also passing by my parents, embarrassing as always, before carrying on at my comfortable pace weaving and trying to find a clear path. The Portway as mentioned to me by others, went on and on eventually passing mile 4, I did a quick calculation and realised I was definitely on target, perhaps even faster than normal. Another long slog back down the Portway and it was the 8 mile point. This is where I had anticipated my first problems would kick in but everything was still going well as we began to wind back in through the city. We passed on the landmarks I had expected but my mind was really on keeping doing what I was doing which was keeping a good pace.

I felt a bit tired around miles 10/11 but a water point quickly helped with this. I also around this point realised that I could problably beat 1hr40 and so this became my new target, so no time to relax and slow up. I saw my parents again and they shouted something about "a good time, doing well". I was concentrating on putting nearly everything I had left in to a good strong pace, so much so that I missed the marker for Mile 12 or the last mile and had to double check with the runner next to me. One last check of the watch and I carried on, ignoring any growing pain and focusing on what I knew was the finish not so far on. The last 500 metres seemed to go past pretty quick and I sped up for the last few hundred metres, not that those seconds would make too much difference.

Official Time: 1:38:43s
Average Pace: 7:32

Crossing the line, was, in so many words exhilarating, a relief and triumphant. Knowing I had not just beaten my goal but absolutely smashed it. Then came the cramps and the stiffness :/ I collected my medal and t-shirt and set off to have a nice well earned Cider, Cake and Meat Feast.

Total Miles Week 10: 17.1 Miles
Total Miles Overall: 136.1 Miles

Lessons & Training Secrets

I think I learn't (once again) if you train hard and properly, you can achieve what you set out to and better it. That other peoples advice should be listened to and lastly, that event running is way more fun than regular running.

Training consisted, of lots of runs at least 3 times a week, Spinning once a week (good muscle building with none of the impact damage) and hockey.

So that was Bristol Half, I am still quite sore/achey and have no immediate plans to run another half, although a part of me wants to now beat the 1hr30 mark and then call that time on my marathon running but we shall see.
Office time 1:38:43
Sponsorship can still be done here:

* I should note, that because I start my tracking before I start running the first lap is often slower, thereby bringing both my average pace up and the total time run. For instance on this last run before the half the first mile was 9:32 and the subsequent mile 7:42, then 7:39 and lastly 6:48. So I was in fact a) getting faster as I ran and b) closer to the pace I ran at the half. This can be explained two fold, firstly as mentioned me starting the tracker before I started running and secondly the first and second miles were usually either all up hill or partially up hill. Mile 3 is mostly flat and mile 4 completely downhill. If we took an average mileage on the flat of 7:40 for the first mile to compensate for the differences mentioned then my predicted time for the half would have been 1hr 37 minutes (and a half) which is not far off what I ran...
Estimation based of a flat course and a maintained pace.