Bath Half Marathon 2013

Medal

I wasn’t as worried about the Bath Half this year as I was last year. Last year I hadn’t done enough distance training. This year I managed a 15K including some fairly steep hills a week and a bit before the Half, so I reckoned I was ready.

I also woke up yesterday morning having slept fairly well and without the kind of headache which annoyed me during the last Bristol Half.

Driving to Bath Racecourse to enjoy their usual Half Marathon Park & Ride scheme, the weather was a bit of a concern, though. There was a lot more frost about than I’d seen on previous years, and my car’s temperature sensor said it was ‑0.5C outside. On the other hand, I’d rather be too cold than too hot, and it was the heat that really got to me — and quite a few other people — last year.

Starting Line

A cup of tea at the race course, a quick coach ride into town, a loo stop and an idle wander around the runner’s village, and it was time to form up into our start lines. It was still so cold that I was almost tempted to keep on the £2 charity-shop fleece I’d picked up on Saturday, but I realised I’d soon warm up, so I dumped it at the side to be collected for recycling as the queue started moving.

Apparently there were 11,156 of us, and I could easily believe it for the first few kilometres through the centre of Bath. This was a bit problematic for some, as it made obstacles a lot less obvious. One poor bloke, distracted by cheering supporters at the top of a double-decker bus, tripped right over one of the traffic cones separating the two lanes of the race, which was barely visible in the forest of pumping legs. Still, he picked himself up and carried on quickly enough.

I managed to survive unscathed, and started thinking a bit about the kind of mental trickery I talked about in my last post. What could I do to make the race psychologically easier?

The problem I had with the Bath Half last time was that it’s a two-lap race. You do more than 10K, and then you do it all again.

I decided, therefore, to treat the first lap as a warmup. The first lap wasn’t part of the race at all, in my mind. The first lap was just a jog to the starting line. The real race would be the second lap.

As it turned out, this mental trickery worked well for me. The first lap passed fairly quickly — I may write a separate blog post about what goes through runner’s minds when they’re on long runs — and was no problem at all. The halfway point came up sooner than I was expecting, in fact. Around there, I spotted my friend Mandy cheering people on, too, which was a bonus.

And thus began the second lap. I decided to break it up into two 5K runs in my head, with a break about halfway through where I could eat the gel energy thingy I was carrying.

I carried on, passing again the excellent live rock band who had been doing a suitably-raunchy version of Sweet Home Alabama on the first lap, enjoying the support, passing some lovely fancy dressers, which included overtaking a Smurf, and generally enjoying myself.

After 5K more, I decided to take a quick loo break, as I’d been wanting to go for a while, and I spotted a free cubicle by one of the water stations. On my way back to the road, I took the chance to check my time and do a few mental calculations, and was pleasantly surprised.

All I had to do was jog 5K at about my normal pace, and I’d be coming in under 2 hours 45, which is comfortably under my personal best.

Of course, it’s never that easy, and though I forced down my energy gel, it didn’t seem to give me that much energy, and the last few kilometres were quite a struggle. I kept on going, though, increasingly relying more on bloodymindedness than physical strength. I passed my cheering friends José and Emma, which was a nice boost, and soon after that passed Mandy for the second time, and knew I was nearly done. And at least there wasn’t much danger of overheating, as it was still bloody freezing!

It was quite tough coming up to the finish line. There was one very happy reason for that, which was that even if I’d stopped jogging and walked there, I’d still have beaten my personal best. But I resisted the temptation and jogged all the way.

Here’s a little Vine video of my finish (you can click on it to stop it playing, if it’s making you seasick 😀 ):

In the end, I managed to get around in 02:42:05, a whole five minutes faster than my previous best time. Hurrah!

So, my sixth half marathon was definitely a good half marathon. Not only that, but as of this morning, I’d raised £215 for the MS Society on Just Giving. Thanks for all the support, you lovely people 😀

So, there we go. I’ve now done six half marathons and three 10Ks, along with a few charity 5Ks and fun runs here and there. It’s surprising how fast those medals seem to mount up…

Back to training for the Bristol 10K now, I suppose…

Gongs

Charity Update

Thank you, everyone who sponsored me for the Bristol Half Marathon. My company were kind enough to match all the donations, too.

So, working it out, with the donations, the matching, the gift aid, and the small fee Just Giving take, I think I raised £272.50 for St. Peter’s Hospice, which is brilliant.

Due to post-half-marathon sore feet, a big long photo walk the following weekend, and being extra-busy in the last few days of my day job, I’ve not actually been running recently. This seems to happen for a while after every half marathon, so I’m not too worried yet.

And on the plus side, having given up the day job to concentrate on learning new stuff (specifically iPhone and Android development) at home for a few months, I should have more time to go running. This should be extra-good over winter, as I’ll have a lot more chance to get out when it’s light. But I’m going to have to work harder on sticking to a schedule without the structure of working days to guide me, I think… We’ll see!

How Not to Train for a Half Marathon

From recent experience, here are a few tips on how not to train for a half marathon:

  • Pick a half-marathon that’s run at the beginning of March. This makes sure you have to keep training through the freezing, dark winter months. The Bath Half Marathon is an ideal choice.
  • Pick an over-ambitious training plan that has you running three times a week, even on Boxing Day. Make sure it’s a group plan, using something like a RunKeeper FitnessClass, so you can see lots of other people sticking to the plan all over the world, while you’re failing dismally.
  • Get stressed out by the spectre of an approaching Christmas, with all the shopping and other worries that it entails. Also develop a niggling ache while running. This two annoyances combined should let you decide to take the whole of December off from running, which is clearly excellent training.
  • Take up drinking again just before winter, thus ensuring you write off a few Saturdays where you could otherwise be running by drinking too much the night before at various Christmas parties.
  • Speaking of Christmas, try putting on nearly a stone in weight by over-indulging in December and carrying on eating at that kind of level post-Christmas, too. Even though you wanted to lose weight before the half-marathon, not gain it.
  • Be sure to get ill a few times. If you can come down with a cold before Christmas, something gastric between Christmas and New Year, and then follow that by another bad cold in January, that’s about perfect.
  • Make sure you pick a year where it rains a lot at weekends, especially if your normal favourite route takes you along towpaths that flood easily, and through forest paths that turn into foot-deep mudbaths after a shower.
  • In February, if you arrange for your job to go crazy with reporting deadlines, and also get the auditors in to double-check everything you’ve done recently, that’s excellent icing on your cake of bad training.

Sigh.

On the plus side, despite this blog being quiet, I have managed to run a bit in the last few weeks. I’ve not been out in the evenings — running is so much easier in daylight! — but a couple of weekends ago I ran 7K, last weekend I ran 8K, and yesterday I ran 10K.

Well, I say “ran”; the first couple of weeks I had to stop for a couple of breathers and walk up the hill, because my late-January cold was still lingering on and affecting my breathing. But yesterday I made a conscious effort to jog, albeit very slowly, all the way up the big hill in Leigh Woods, and I felt a lot better for jogging a decent continuous distance.

Especially as it’s now only a couple of weeks to the Bath Half!

Speaking of which, I’ve just set up my Just Giving page, where you can sponsor me to help out my chosen charity, the RNLI. A very worthy cause, and I’m not just saying that because one of my university friends now helps to crew the Clovelly Lifeboat!