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half measures: a lifetime equalling pb

lifetime-equalling PB in the half-marathon

My club’s annual half marathon took place today. Normally this is an event that I specifically train for, if I’m not helping out with marshal duties. However, this time around, I went in with nothing but my steady weekly miles and my weight training behind me. The psychological benefit of having finally broken 70mins for 10 miles a few weeks ago was also in my candid preparation’s training log. A real chest of half measures for such an event.

My pacing at Beat the Train 10-mile race was so steady that it gave me a lot of confidence heading into this half. From the starting pistol I settled into the pace range that I was hoping for; it felt, dare I say, comfortable for the first time. I had no speed-work done for this race. I was out for blood but I didn’t have the aerobic threshold training behind me to know if I was going to sustain the pace.

a different kind of confidence

There are many times in a race that you’ll feel better than you expect. It may not always happen; sometimes it might last only one mile but everyone can relate to a time when they have experienced it. For me, this feeling set in at the start of mile 4 during this race. The first of the 2 big climbs along the route was behind me and I felt a bounce in my stride.

matching the pace to the route and letting the elevation dictate the mile splits
pacing reflected the elevation quite well with a strong finish

I run the roads of this route quite a lot. Most of it is my backyard for training on a weekly basis. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes that’s bad. You can occasionally and subconsciously moderate your pace to prepare for slower sections, even if you don’t need to. I don’t think I did that this time around. It felt like I was pushing it the whole way, letting the course dictate my lap times.

pacing strategy

Since I’m kind of going there anyway, let’s talk about pacing strategy for this race. There are two reasonable climbs between miles 1 and 2.5 and from 10 to 11. There is also a short challenge around mile 6.5 that is quickly rewarded with a nice downhill stretch. With this in mind, the game plan was to bank in the first mile let the hill take its toll. Then run at pace/try to bank a few seconds before the hill at 6.5 miles. Finally, try to steady up again and bank a few more before the last climb.

good splits, no half measures, kept to the plan but a casual unfocussed mile almost cost me the goal
good splits, no half measures until mile 9 when I must have just lost concentration

Nothing groundbreaking about that strategy – only basic common sense. Looking at my splits now, shows that I more or less kept to it, except I dropped a lot of time on the flat before the last climb. I don’t recall feeling tired nor slowing up here but something sucked time out of my pace. On the route, I knew that something was off coming into the last 2 miles. Hence the reason for that last 1.1 miles to the finish that delivered a one-mile split 30 seconds below target pace and a 0.1 mile finish nearly 2 minutes under pace. The time was slipping away but my legs still had the power to push – Dublin could not have been any more different.

Without that final push however, the lifetime-equalling PB would not have happened. Yes, the route does finish with a short downhill section in the last mile but I don’t think I’ve ever put in a final mile that strong finishing a half before. Furthermore, I believe that it was a lapse in concentration that caused me to miss out on a new PB around mile 9.

This is different: I’m used to analysing my runs and thinking that I suffered here and there or that I need to train more for this type of running. This time however, I’m looking at the analysis and thinking, “You know what, I messed up there. There was a lot more in me.” I’m beating myself up for bad execution rather than identifying weakness. This is very different…

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