When I lined up for the Norwich Half Marathon 2018 I was feeling reasonably confident that I could achieve my goal of running a sub 2 hour race.
Ironically during training for the Broadland Half I had got to 10 miles a couple of weeks beforehand and was feeling pretty confident of doing that. But the cold weather and another one of these winter bugs had seen me take my foot off with the training – and particularly the cross training which had been going really well, so having signed up relatively late for the Norwich Half Marathon 2018 I wasn’t quite so sure I could deliver on my early season confidence.
The Norwich Half Marathon was the first half I ever ran way back in 2007, when I was posted 1.56.18.
In fact, I’ve just been back and looked through my previous Norwich Half Marathon times and most of my times were in the 1.50s range.
But that was 11 years ago, and though my PB since then was 1.48 my training since then has been nothing like as intense – I was a newly single dad back then with lots of time on my hands and was pretty demonic when it came to running, using the open road as a way of running from the fallout from those darker days as much as getting fit.
Fast forward a decade and I’m married to a new partner with a child, and that in itself has meant that heading out for 4 runs a week at whatever time of day I wanted to has not proven quite so easy, and whether it’s age or just being in a better place mentally and emotionally, the intensity levels have certainly dipped.
However, although I’ve had a break from halfs for the last couple of years, I’ve always kept running even it if was just parkruns and 10ks and this year I had a goal to try and recapture some of those quicker times.
After running the Wissey Half Marathon last year and feeling disappointed with my time, I needed to prove that I could get quicker again.
But could I?
Lining up at the start I put myself at the back of the 1.45 – 2hr pen. The race takes you around the Norfolk Showground and out into the country and these days the Norwich Half Marathon is a single circuit rather than two laps.
A better more challenging route
That change in itself I much prefer, so now you get to run through hamlets such as Colton as well as Marlingford.
A plan to hook up with a faster running buddy at the start who had promised to get me in under 2 hours failed to materialise – blokes being lame at sorting out their social arrangements. So instead I decided to run my own race, no watch, no app, just me listening to my body and trying to run right.
In fact, I felt like I was running a conservative first half, and by mile five, feeling pretty great, I was thinking to myself that I should really sign up to another marathon and add some other cities to my sole Edinburgh marathon effort – I often feel that I should put more effort now into 26 miles rather than halfs.
At the half way point the clock said 1 hour exactly, so I started thinking about negative splits and whether I should try and run a bit more aggressively.
Raised knees and focusing on form
As it happened during my tempo training sessions I had been doing a trick I picked up from Runners World of striding for short bursts and aiming to get the knees higher up – in training I ‘kick’ my bum with my feet, but it had helped me focus on my running form, which I hadn’t thought too much of before.
Whether or not it’s because of a lack of stretching, my right groin can get a bit twingy as the miles mount up so I decided to try and run it off by bringing my knees up more. I imagined a red line in front of me and kept trying to bring my knees up to hit the line.
I didn’t really know why, but the effect of it seemed to be to propel me along quicker and I was starting to move up the field a bit.
All of which was great and though I knew I was way off my old 1.48 pace and not accelerating nearly as fast as I used to it all felt positive. Meanwhile my new shoes were also holding up really well, too, vindicating my decision to buy them a couple of weeks ago.
But the race had a cruel trick to play – I’d been warned about the hill right at the end just before you come back into the showground, and I won’t lie it’s a tester. But for me the worse one was before that as you snake past the golf course at Barnham Broom – that really did check my stride.
So by mile 11 I started to feel the race catching up with me and that there was little left in the tank. By this point club runners were starting to overtake as they accelerated for home – just in the way I used to do.
And then you’re back in the showground but for a really cruel trick just as you hear the crowd cheering, they make you run round it again for the last mile! Psychologically for me that felt like one of the hardest things of all, and I definitely slowed up at this point. But then the final straight and there’s still a little left for a sprint finish.
But not quite enough. The chip time came back as 2.01.31 – so close but not close enough.
At which point a whole load of mixed emotions started going through my mind.
I’d failed to achieve my goal of a sub 2 hour run
But I had improved on my Wissey half time of 2.04.05 from last year, so things were moving in the right direction.
I’m still nowhere near the form I had of 10 years ago – and will I ever get back to that?
However, it was hard, but it felt like a good race, so all things considered, I’ll take that!
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