I've read hoards of books, listened to God knows how many podcasts and of course heeded the advice of people in the running and triathlon field and I still made a fundamental mistake; I ran the Reading Half Marathon like it was an "A" race………..
This must be part of the journey to being a better athlete and competitor, probably one of those life lessons you can only learn by making the mistake and then knowing that you've done it……I hope this is the case as I don't want to feel quite as drained of energy as I have done over the past couple of weeks and certainly not in the run up to my marathon and first 50 miler.
The Reading Half Marathon was about 6 weeks out from the Madrid marathon and I'd planned to run this as part of my training programme. I ran 13 miles the day before and all was well when we joined a number of great friends on a wet and cold start line on Sunday 17th March. The race starts just outside the city and attracts a large crowd, although I'm sure some people took the sensible option of staying in bed given the changeable weather we'd been experiencing lately.
The race itself went well, I started out with the others but soon moved ahead as I settled in to a pace that I hadn't really decided upon before the race……in my head I was thinking it would be great to put in a 1h 45min time which is a little over 8 minute miles but I had also said that given the conditions not to be upset if that wasn't achievable.
My first mile was about 8.30 pace and it wasn't until about the 2 mile marker that we started to spread out enough and I soon started clocking up the miles at about 7m 45s, which was ahead of schedule but it felt good. As I've subsequently learnt, this is one of Stuart Mills's (Ultra Stu Blog) mantra's, go out fast and hold on, which I certainly did.
The first 10 miles or so were perfect, I didn't feel anything other than great, I knew I was on track for a PB, I could see the 1 hour 45 was within reach and was actually thinking I could maybe make the 1 hour 40 marker.
It was at this point I came across a couple who were having an argument about their pace and choice of trainers and the female who was constantly telling her other half that she couldn't manage the last few miles. I must say that for about 4-5 minutes this made me smile, as well as vow to myself to never put myself in a similar position with my wife. Then it started to get a little negative and so I took on my final gel and pushed ahead in to the peace and quiet.
My fuelling strategy had been to take two gels, one at the 9 mile marker and another at 11 miles, this I did and it got me around the course in a personal best of 1 hour 41 minutes and 19 seconds…..I was absolutely overjoyed……I was annoyed I had to wait around to then tell people how well I'd done, I wanted Nikki and the others at the finish line to revel in the moment with me, but they were running their own races and rightly so. My race statistics are available here and the full results here.
The mistake I made was pushing myself around to get a PB…..it should have been an easy 13 miles and whilst I enjoyed it, I paid the price for the next 10 days or so. Admittedly I did jump straight on a plane to America and had a busy week at work, but my training runs suffered as a result of this hard effort…..I missed a long run, partly due to tiredness from jet lag but mainly because I was still drained of energy from overdoing it the week before…..the snow on the ground provided the final nail in the coffin for that 18 miler.
Chasing a PB shouldn't be the be all and end all of running, my 50 mile goal is more important, they'll be plenty more half marathons. As I said at the start, I think you only learn this lesson by first making the mistake, I just now have to learn from it. Which means I need to pace myself in Madrid, my "A" goal in 2013 is the North Downs Way 50 in May!