Ealing Half Marathon – race report

I know this is a few days late but my brain, like my body, needed a few days to recover and process Sunday 30th September 2012.

If you have read any of my other blogs, you will remember that I have been pretty psyched about this race for some weeks now. Three consecutive half-marathon-esque distance runs and some creative thinking when my bicycle was no longer available as a mode of transportation left me confident in my ability to run my first “half” sub 2 hours.

EH day

06:00am

Miraculously, despite my minor freakout three days earlier and doing a night shift Friday night / Saturday morning, I manage to get a solid 8 hours sleep which means my 6am alarm clock is less of the hassle than I imagined it would be. A decent mug of coffee and a generous portion of almond milk porridge with sliced banana later and I am all set.

08:30am – 09:15am

A slow walk from where K-Theory parked her car gets myself and TheFastOne – my fellow masochist for the day to the running village (as they tend to call these things) a good 45 minutes before the race is due to start. A uninspiring group warmup and multiple meticulous inspections of the porta-loos they have shipped in for the event mean we are ready to go when the call to the starting pens is announced. TheFastOne is looking to finish a good fifteen minutes before me so we part ways at this point. Now, it’s just me.
Well.
Me…..
….
….
and the hundreds of people with in eye and earshot of me. Our combined body heat acting like a giant blanket as we patiently wait for the start of the race.

09:37am – Start

We were meant to be off at – 09:15. For 45 minutes I have been listening to the event organiser with the PA remind us how important it is that we are ready to go at 09:15, Ealing Council have shut some very busy roads and race time is limited. It is predictably ironic that at 09:15 we are told there is a 5 minute delay, which then becomes a 15 minute delay when it is reported that there has been a car accident on the course that needs to be cleared. The race officially starts about 09:35 and I immediately loose the 2 hour pacer, he seems to have vanished in the seconds it took me to get my Garmin going. I know my best strategy is to slot in behind him and stick with him for the next 11 miles, he should be running 09:15s and I know I can definitely do that – if I can catch him.

He can’t be that far ahead the race has just started.

At this point I spot one of the official race photographers. I smile and wave but later discover that he is focused on the start line – there is a great photo of me running in a crowd – at the start – starting my Garmin. Anyway, the course is flowing with my fellow runners, all jostling for good running lines that avoid running into one another and the course is lined with the residents of Ealing – who have come out in force – it seems – to cheers us on.
10:00ish – mile 2 – hill 1

Ah Eaton Rise – kind of a hill and the steepest hill on the course, according to WalkJogRun. I tackle this with ease – it is not very taxing and I have run it many times in the past. I can see the 2 hour pacer about 10 meters in front of me. If I can keep this distance I should have enough clear air to make a push at the 11 mile mark without tripping over anybody else who has the same idea. Eaton Rise is also exciting since K-Theory and friends are at the top – there to cheer me on.

10:40ish – mile 6 – hill 3

Again another ok’ish hill, this one is a little steeper but I caught up with (and have been running behind) the 2 hour pacer for the last 3 and a bit miles and apart for the occasional balloon in my face as the wind catches the balloons strapped to his back to make him more obvious, things are going well. He mutters that this is the last of the big hills so on the way back down, I lengthen my pace a little – changing my stride to fit a seven mile run on relatively flat terrain….

10:50ish – mile 7 – HILL

The running mob is beginning to thin a little – there are still hundreds of runners in front and behind me as far as the eye can see but I have a little more freedom. I have adjusted my pace to the 2hr pace maker who is running a 2 hour race with fast and slow miles instead of a consistent 09:15min/mile pace of which I was expecting, but so far so good. I round the corner onto Greenford Avenue and am comforted with another hill. As we begin to climb I push forward, choosing to attack the hill but the steepness gets to me and I am forced to drop my pace, the 2 hour pacer begins to edge off ahead of me. I manage to run to the top of the hill without damaging my pace too much, I am still on target but Mr 2 hours is a good 300 meters in front of me. I know I can catch him, as long as I have enough time to recover on the downhill, but the downhill isn’t long enough and I don’t quite get the recharge needed after my exertion on the HILL.

Till the end

The next 5 & 1/2 miles are an emotional roller coaster. The terrain is not as flat as I thought it would be and the sections where I want to take it easy are the sections where the crowds are, pride denies the pace reductions I think I need. I am also desperate for a piss but the rest of the route is all residential roads and small parks – no options to nip behind a bush. I am resigned to soldier on. Dig deep. Focus on the pace. I notice a guy wearing Vibram 5 fingers who is still going at the 10 mile mark. I want to say “Hey. Your feet must be killing you, good effort!” but I cannot muster the energy to engage in conversation.

I push my way through the last three miles, having to walk a few times, on account of a sore knee – I suspect a bruise for an incident on my bicycle a couple of weeks ago – and the final half a mile is a knackered-runners nightmare – spectator lined all the way, runners thinned out enough that, if they wanted to, each spectator could give each runner some individual attention – not what I want to be thinking when all I want to do is walk a bit, build up some energy reserves for the 600 meter push. However I am denied that luxury and as the crowd is relentless, so I relent.

400 meters to go

TheFastOne who I will discover ran a 01:33 launches a verbal assault of encouragement at me. I am both surprised, relieved and a little peeved at the sudden attention all at the same time but his mad rantings give me the shock I need to push off and burn up the remaining meters with whatever is left in me.

Finish

I cross the line at 02:04 – 4 minutes off my ideal time but still my quickest 13.1 miles to date. I can honestly say, it is one of the hardest things I have ever done and I will not be doing 16 miles on the 14th October. Great day though. Cannot wait for the next one.

See also TheFastOne’s race report on my blog.

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