Last Sunday I took part in the first real test of my fitness at the Reading Half Marathon. I’ve run this race a couple of times before (’10 and ’11), mainly for fun, and my times have been unspectacular (2:15, 1:54). My plan this year was to use the event as a pace test, to prove that I could run a comfortable pace for the full duration of the race. Clearly I wasn’t going to be cycling 56 miles beforehand (as I will in my Half Ironman test on the 19th May in Bedford) so it wasn’t perfect, but I wanted to finish in 1:50 with an expectation that the bike ride might cost me another 10 minutes to finish the 13.1 miles in 2 hours (for a 4.5/5 hour marathon – yeah, right)
Anyway, on the Sunday morning the weather was awful. Driving rain and bitterly cold. So on went the long sleeve running top and the running tights (stopped short at taking some gloves and a hat!). I took the train the short trip to Reading and jumped on the courtesy bus out to the Madejski Stadium and the start line. What greeted me was the sight of 16,500 other semi-frozen, wet through runners – impressive, but it didn’t serve to cheer me up much if I’m honest. I started to jog my way back through the queue of runners to find the 1:50 pacemaker who I intended to stick to like glue for the course of the race, on my way I noticed the 1:40 pacemaker just as the rain got heavier and the wind picked up. I felt pretty good that morning (thanks to the deliciously squidgy energy) so joined the mass of people around the 1:40 man.
After a short wait (and the obligatory mass participation warm up) the gun fired and we were off. Well, everyone else was off, I must have been in a daze or something because hundreds of people flew past me before I realised, including the 1:40 pacer who was out of sight and down the road. So I set off and felt really good, maintaining a pretty consistent pace and, more importantly, staying within my Zone 2 HR goal (well, for most of the way). Seeing most of the extended family through Reading town centre certainly helped!
To cut a long story short, I felt strong the whole way round, kept well within myself and felt I could have gone faster. I had saved enough for a solid fast finish but didn’t quite catch back up to the pacer. I eventually finished in 1:41 according to the Garmin and I was initially over the moon. Now I think I could have and should have gone faster, just a bit, to finish in the 30’s – next time!
What it has made me realise though is that a 2 hour half marathon should be achievable in my Half Ironman event if I can get over the wobbly legs quickly, maintain an even pace and keep hydrated and nourished. Maybe I should even think of decreasing my target time – maybe.
I think it’s now time to test my bike legs, so I’ve signed up to a Sportive to see how quickly I can knock out 74 miles. That should be fun.