So today is the day. CamelBak is filled with a litre of heavily diluted Ribena plus a pinch of salt for good measure. It’s stopped raining – joy. although I’ve just started reading ‘Feet In The Clouds’ by Richard Askwith and if I am going to seriously class myself as a distance runner or even a muddy masochist then I should probably get the phrase:
Rain? What kind of pathetic, sybaritic, yuppie am I
Tattooed on the inside of my skull for my brain to read. Thanks Mr Askwith, Scott Jurek showed me that a marathon is a means and not an end and you have shown me that only Romans go around hills. Anyway. Enough motivational procrastination.
The joy of this weeks attempt is that I have a new route picked out which has safe ways across all the major arterial roads I encounter so I do not have to stop at lights or play pedestrian roulette with the Tuesday morning traffic. I’d planned to take this nice and slow, run between 9:44 and 10:00 mins/mile for the first two thirds then see if I can step it up for the last four or five miles. However my legs were having none of it and I had to settle for a pace in the low 9’s but the weather is pleasant, the swishing of the liquid in the CamelBak developed a rhythm which is distractingly hypnotic and I’m feeling pretty good.
I’ve been going for about an hour. Running along the river along Chiswick riverside was a little strange, I lived in that area about 6 months ago and used to run along this part of the river all the time. I’ve come a long way since I was last running along here. In distance and speed mainly, back when I lived in Chiswick I couldn’t even conceive that the distances I am running now were even realistically achievable in any sort of decent time. Running without music allows one to go into ones own headspace and I began to wonder if this reflective nostalgia will be present at the Ealing half, since I used to run sections of that route too – the first time I started running. In Hammersmith I run past ‘The Dove’ a nice pub, outside they have an advertising board and in big white letters is written:
‘Joggers! What are you running away from? Come and hide inside with us!’
Nice Pub, funny sign. I began to wonder, as I approached Hammersmith bridge, why people always assume we are running away. I would like to think I am running towards a goal, not away from something. Towards what? Who knows? The future! No, too easy. I need time to ponder this question but, ironically, this is not the time. I am approaching Hammersmith bridge, the pedestrian walkway is separated from the road by a high barrier and I always encounter slow moving pedestrian groups so I need to warm up my shout box and get ready to throw “excuse me’s” and when all see fails “MOVE”. On this occasion, Hammersmith bridge is clear and I cross without incident, now I am on the Thames path, I am over half way, the route is riverside path all the way to the end. I can switch off, put my head down and focus on my blisters.
12:10pm Mile 10 – Barnes Bridge – Lactic acid nightmare
I’d developed a niggle in my right hip about fifteen minutes earlier. Nothing serious, a fatigue thing that I haven’t found an effective way to manage yet, it is impacting my lap times and I have dropped down to around the 10min/mile mark. But I am more than half way and on target to hit the twelfth mile a around the 1:56 mark which is a few minutes quicker than the the twelve I did about a month ago so I am feeling happy but then my thighs begin to stiffen and my pace falls away. The next three and a bit miles are a mental battle between what my legs want me to do – stop. stop now – and what I know I can. I still have a lot of drink available and my sweating less excessive which I cannot work out if it is a good thing or not but I know that this battle is not to do with how much stamina I have but how long I am prepared to ignore think of my legs as that irritating child on the bus who will not shut up.
The final stretch and the cool down
I pass under Kew bridge, my final bridge before the end at the twelve mile mark. At this point I have two more miles to go, my pace has dropped right down to the 11mins/mile mark and I am for all intents and purposes fucked. Royally fucked but I am now in new mileage territory. am 1.1 miles away from the sort of distance that awaits me in just over thirty days am I know that if I can put in the ground work today, next time, maybe next week – will be that little bit easier. I hobble along at over 11mins/mile, trying not to trip up, needing to stretch my right leg but knowing that if I stop now I will never get going again. I hit the 13mile mark 12 minutes later and it takes me a further, agonising, 2 minutes to run the .1 of a mile to hit half marathon distance. Shortly after that I stop, well stop timing anyway. I decide to walk the rest of the way. This is an exercise in leg preservation, now I am at a slow walk there is no way I am going to be able to spin back up to a decent running speed for the last .9 of a mile. It takes me 30, thigh burning, sphincter clenching, bowl charring minutes to hobble home.
I would have liked to hit the 14 mile mark. That was my intention but after running for a couple of miles through lactic acid I know I can at least run the entire 13.1mile/21k distance. At training/just get round pace I did it in just under 2:10 which means with a few more runs around that distance and race day adrenaline, plus that wonderful oddity in mass-participation runs where the crowd can pull you around means I am positive that I can run a sub 2hr half marathon and as I wrap this up, I am think that a 16 mile race 6 weeks from now is also achievable. The Fast one will be happy.