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race day: beat the train

That time of year again, following the Dublin Marathon. Time for the fantastic Beat the Train race on the Waterford Greenway, in support of Down Syndrome Ireland. A superbly run event, organised by a local running group The Saturday Road Runners. Twelve months ago I had just started my guinea pig trial and with nothing but marathon fitness carrying me, this race produced my first ever sub-70 minute run for 10 miles.

In my post about this race last year, I spoke about the rollercoaster of thoughts, emotions, and summoning up the strength to keep pushing for the line; shouting at myself more than once! It got me there in the end. Reflecting on the race afterwards, I recall thinking there was much to figure out. How had I managed the time with no specific training for the race? Twelve months since and many of those questions have been identified, challenged, and some answers discovered.


Just 10 miles of greenway and the sole objective is to ‘beat the train’. Anything beyond that is the realm of very personal battles. The others and myself had spoken about the target time for this race. It is after all a stepping stone to the Waterford AC Half Marathon in December. Still chasing an elusive sub-90 half marathon, this race had to prove it was possible. We set a target of 68 mins 20 seconds. That’s 20 seconds below target half pace at 10 miles or 2 seconds a mile quicker.

beat the train and smashed my PB in a well-run race
beat the train and smashed my PB in a well-run race

I am delighted with these splits. Honestly, I don’t think I could have run the race better on paper! In addition to the target time I wanted a negative split for the second half. We did it… and it felt good. Looking at the heart rate data (from the wrist and a bit jagged as such) I can see that I was pushing myself. That’s ok though, this was a full-tilt race from the gun and I wouldn’t have expected anything different.

a strong race and full-tilt from the start, lots of zone 5 and so there should be
a strong race and full-tilt from the start, lots of zone 5 and so there should be

The charts make for similarly pleasing viewing. No question of the effort put in, quickly dipping into negative Performance Condition after about 4 miles. The pace graph though – that’s the kind of chart I dream about, hoping I can run a smooth race. Everything fell into place (view Garmin data).

probably as smooth a pace chart as I'll ever see in a race
probably as smooth a pace chart as I’ll ever see in a race


Yes, I beat the train. I repeated last year’s achievement of a sub-70 run. On top of that I took a serious 2 minutes off the PB time I set last year on this same route. It was a very good day indeed.

I rolled my ankle slightly in work during the week and it was niggling me. The kind of niggle that you’re not sure if it’s going to get worse with exertion or if it’s just being an annoying little $%&@. I wasn’t going to let it stop the plan though and taped it up before the run. If anyone asked, I was still going out full-tilt. If the ankle held up, it did and if it didn’t, nothing could be done about it. Go hard or go home – I was still going to give it everything.

Thankfully it did hold up and I finished the race without having to yield. Better still is that after some rest, I don’t appear to have made the problem any worse – fingers crossed.

I mentioned earlier that after the race last year, I had questions and I feel that over the twelve months since, I have challenged and answered some of them. One of the outcomes of this year of experimentation is confidence. I made my way to the startline for this race not once thinking that sub-70 was going to be in question. I didn’t think that the target of 68:20 was beyond me. My ankle, albeit in my mind, wasn’t taking centre stage. If it worked, it worked, I wouldn’t be the one that failed. Confidence from the gun, I attacked the splits, focussed on the plan, turning at mile 5 to pick up the tempo and powered home.

I firmly believe that this is a result of the experiments this year. Running blocks at a target pace and changing the pace targets throughout a long run. It has given me huge confidence in knowing that I can simply engage the motor and do what is asked of me. Of course, I haven’t always gotten it perfect but so many training runs have delivered. The official time from the race is 67 minutes 47 seconds – 33 seconds faster than the target time, over 3 seconds a mile quicker than the goal. This is a great place to be before the upcoming half marathon.

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