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speed check: run 1:35

Albeit a last-minute decision, I decided it was time for a speed check this weekend. The brethren of the #BVSC planned a little half-marathon some time back. For a while, I was on the fence about doing it, still not comfortable about running in a group. I decided twelve hours before the run that it was time to allow myself to run (distantly) with others again. The route was a bit of a test, with some hills from mile 8 onwards. The plan: run 1:35 or as close as possible. Not race pace that I know I managed before but I’m not in race shape right now.

Echoes of familiarity about this run. Last year in Danesfort during the lead-up to the Dublin Marathon, I ran the same controlled run. I am not fast enough to say that 1:35 isn’t a bit of stress on the body. I wish I was that runner! However, knowing how close I came to breaking 90 in the Waterford AC half last December and how I ran to target in Danesfort, I should be able for it.


Our small group broke into two smaller sub-groups at the start. One was chasing 1:40 to support another runner to a PB and the other aimed for 1:35. I took off a little quick to be fair. Saying that, I also wanted to bank a little time early on, during the flat section of the course. Clocking a sub-7-minute opening mile may have been a gamble. However, I composed myself once at pace.

By mile 3, there were 3 of us working in a small group. We banked a total of 30 seconds against the target pace. A slight uphill section for the next mile evened that out, sucking back 15-20 seconds of time. That worried me slightly at this early stage – on a slight incline I should not have dropped that much time. However, on the far side I hit my rhythm again. I logged the next 5 miles either bang on target or banking appropriately for the hills to come.

a decent set of splits for a half marathon speed check with a confidence-inspiring last mile
a decent set of splits for a half marathon speed check with a confidence-inspiring last mile

At mile 10, I thought it was all over. Clocking a 7:33 after a long climb and two significant inclines to come… I told the others to go get the job done. It was time to speed check my speed check! However, it’s amazing what a good drink of water and some proper breathing can do. I ran the next mile easy, giving myself a chance to recover and somehow summoned up a second wind. By the time the last mile arrived, I pulled back the time lost and was ready for a fast finish. The pure joy of racing even though I wasn’t racing. Such a great feeling. Nothing beats running with intent for a target, even if that target isn’t a PB under normal circumstances.

it's beginning to look a lot like a set of race charts again!
it’s beginning to look a lot like a set of race charts again!

The charts reflect accurately. I can’t say anything else about them. It may be over 4 minutes slower than my PB from last December but I worked hard for the time. There were a couple of moments when I thought it was out of reach but somehow, regaining composure, having somebody to keep pace with, made all the difference.

An average of 158bpm on the heart rate. Definitely hill-influenced as the charts display. Perhaps on a flatter route, where I didn’t have to bank time for hills, the chart would be smoother and the average a few beats less. I’m happy with it though – it wasn’t exactly on the redline for the entire run (view Garmin data).

a Zone 4 run, yes it was but look Ma, Zone 5 is still there
a Zone 4 run, yes it was but look Ma, Zone 5 is still there

For the last few months I have mostly forgotten what Zone 5 looks and feels like. My training/running simply hasn’t been in that place. The notable exception being the Lockdown 5km challenge that I ran, my first time back on the roads since Lockdown and no speed training at all. That hurt!

For sure, this effort is nowhere near the effort during the virtual 5km race but still, the comparable lack of Zone 5 time is both a surprise and a comfort. Perhaps my recent weeks of faster road runs are paying dividends in terms of my fitness and speed. I don’t know for sure but I do know I have gotten my appetite back. More miles please!

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