Know Your Pace

Now this is a rant, but it’s also a rave. The title is also a terrible pun that I hope will come clear later in the blog.

On Sunday I was one of 8,000 runners who lined the start line at the docks in Liverpool ready to snake through the streets and parks of the city and oh boy was it a good race. I think this has to be one of the best Half Marathons I’ve run yet, and maybe one of the best races. The streets and parks were lined with supporters more so than the Great North, or any of the 10K’s I have done, and while the atmosphere may have just been background noise to my music I could sense a real thrill and buzz coming from the crowd, proud to support their friends, family and the overall occasion.

Now I should be happy with my result. Just over a year after starting running with my third half and 6th race I go and get another PB. In fact taking 14 minutes of my first half marathon time that was over six months ago. I look back on the Great North and remember how scared I was, will I ever complete it, will I get under two hours and then I look to the night of the Liverpool Half where there were no such thoughts or feelings, the half marathon distance was just another run, those 13.1 miles were now something I could throw out on a Sunday morning as part of my long jog. I noticed this with the 10K, that when I started training for the Great North, suddenly the distance and thought of running 10K turned from fear and thought of a long distance to that of a short run that I’d bang out before work as quickie.

Anyway, the game plan was to go slow, it was to try my marathon pace out and see how I felt. I thought it was going to be tough as the day before I decided to do a 11 mile hike up Kinder Low in the Peak District and my legs felt a little heavy on Saturday night. So on went the compression tights and plenty of carbs to re-stock the old legs. The thought of marathon pace, made me hopeful that the hike hadn’t ruined my chance of finishing. However what happened on Sunday is I went off fast, and I mean fast. Were talking 10K pace, and what followed for the next 7 miles was my legs working like a horse in a race, the sheer buzz and enjoyment of the day supporting the music pumping in my ears carried on the rhythm, I was speeding through this. The hike must have helped, it must have acted as a recovery run, pumping fuel into my tired running muscles ready for the race.

It’s true I did set of too fast and this was maybe a result of the pack, but also the course. The course is a fast one. It is mainly flat and in many places you are running on very wide road leaving plenty of running for the pack to spread out and over take. By Mile 8, my legs were starting to feel it and slowed down, by mile 9 I took on a gel and in doing so, sped up. As I came in onto the water front at mile 10 the captain must have given the command for “Full Steam Ahead” as I started running at 5K pace. I’m going to fast I thought, I can’t keep this up for 3 miles, not after running at 10K pace for 10 miles, but some how I did, and with the feeling of walking on air I ploughed on and clocked watched every couple of seconds. 1 hour 30, and I’ve done 11.5 miles, Jesus I’m going to get a new PB and with the thought came more speed, by mile 12 I was flying passing everyone and then into the home straight with .70 miles to go I got a stitch and slowed right down.

Looking back If I kept it up, I could have broken the 1:40 barrier. To say I’m happy about my new PB is not really the truth, I went off the game plan and if I’m honest I’ve chucked the race out of the window. The race was a training session to make sure my pace for the marathon was a good one. The worrying thought now is what if I go off at 8 minute miling on April 29th, as opposed to 9 minute miles. I suppose, you could argue, that 6 months ago the pace I ran on Sunday would have been too quick and I’d have burnt out within miles, so maybe with the right gels, and getting some more speed and hill works in 8 minutes a mile could be achievable, after all I was running at an average 7.45 a mile, running 15 seconds slower.

Now, back to the point with the pun. The ‘Know your Pace’ is not about me, but in fact about other runners knowing their place. I’m not for one minute slating the fun runners, or those who wanted to get fit after christmas, or lose some weight, run one race a year or had a bet in the pub or in deed those people who like me run to raise funds for charities that are close to our hearts. I think everyone should run, I try to get all my mates to run, I enjoy seeing people smile as they run and this race was no exception. People who were in pain by mile one were still smiling and being boosted by the crowd and as you ran you could see the colourful body of the snake as it weaved in and out of the streets. Everyone had different reasons to run but everyone was enjoying it. Running with people makes running enjoyable and maybe is one of the reasons I shot off to quickly, trying to keep up with the crowd. But here lies a problem. Some big events will place you in waves judging on your finish time. Admittedly some people do not know their finish time, when I ran the Manchester 10K I estimated it to be an hour, half way through my training I was on to break 55 minutes. However a lot of races just have you all start together and see you all pushing for the front. This is where the pun comes in.

Be realistic people, Don’t go to the front of the crowd if you are a 2 hour finisher, If your pace is 10 minutes a mile, go to the back. It’s not just runners who run slow, it’s ones who run slow as a pack in the centre. Keep to the left, or pavement side, don’t run in the middle in a group, or those who start to walk after a mile, those people should get to the back, as there is nothing worse than settling into a rhythm and then have Brenda suddenly stop in front of you.

There are secret rules in running like keeping to the left and over taking on the right, if you need to pull out or stop running for what ever reason be it a shoe lace needs tightening then moving over to the side of the road by the pavement is the rule, not stopping in the centre. Don’t get me wrong, I think everyone should run, and for some this may be their first and last adventure into running but for many of them who are the fun, or part time runners know your place. If you don’t have a game plan, or are going to burn too quickly don’t huddle at the front and ruin other people’s chances of PB’s or a good race. I suppose my argument is, if you don’t know your finish time or not use to running then get to the back, or stay in the middle. The first two miles saw me pass so many runners all of whom I thought were on to cross the line after 2 hours, so why were they at the front, it just makes my life harder to weave in and out to get in front.

Oh well, all in all a jolly good fun day and truly a race I would do a again. Also for a first half, it is worth doing, a very flat, fast course. But if it is your first and you’re  unsure of your finish time then don’t queue up at the start with me.