It seemed like an age had passed since I last raced when I stood on the start line of the Scottish Half Marathon last Saturday. I had run the Jog Scotland 5k in early August and took part in the Perth Relay Wild Triathlon towards the end of the month and I suppose that’s nothing compared to the distances I was running earlier in the summer!
I haven’t been lazy, just focusing on getting some valuable training runs in and having bought a bike at the end of July, I’ve been using that a lot also. I’ve had a few requests from friends to go on bike rides of 20 miles + but with the Loch Ness Marathon still to go, I’ve had to politely decline. I would like to do this but I feel I must focus my time on endurance runs and doing several short, fast journeys of 1.5 miles every day on the bike has been helping with my running fitness.
Even in the car on the way through, I hadn’t really given the race much thought, as partly the main focus is the marathon and I knew I could do the distance fairly comfortably. I hadn’t set a target for time but figured I’d be pretty close to the 1hr 34mins I ran in May as part of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival. I was delighted to be there with Mark Riddell, a guy who took up running at the beginning of the year by coming to my Zero to 5k club, had run his first 10k race in Edinburgh in May and was doing his first Half Marathon. Also there was Phil Lidstone, who I’d worked with last year in improving his fitness and his running has come on in leaps and bounds since then.
After my second visit to the toilet of the morning, I made a sharp line for my starting pen who had by now moved forward, closer to the start line. We weren’t there long before we were off. The route is fairly familiar to those who have run the Edinburgh Marathon as we join Lyres Road in Longniddry (where the dog’s leg bit in the marathon is) and then out onto the coastal road, turning at the entrance to Gosford House and then back towards the finish at Musselburgh Racecourse passing the “scenic” Cockenzie Power Station along the way. It’s actually a very nice route, fairly flat with a number of bends and few long straights to keep things interesting.
One thing I had noticed was that I was running slightly different from the way I normally do. I was aware from the outset that I was running more upright, using my arms and feeling like it was effortless, something I encourage my runners to do. I’m not saying that I don’t practice what I preach but this was the first time I was consciously aware of doing it myself. I’m not sure if it was these coaching tips I had passed on in a training session with new runners in my group two nights previously or from watching Alistair Brownlee in a Triathlon the week before or a combination of both. What matters though was the fact that I was running way faster than planned while I was doing it! I passed through the first mile in 6:25 then the next few in 6:45/6:30. Normally when I see that time for the first mile, I start to think that I should probably settle down a bit but I felt really comfortable. Some things started to blow my mind. With working on the Perth 10k the week before, my only distance runs were a couple of 9 milers on the previous two Tuesdays. The Tuesday before the race I had managed to run 4 mins faster than I did the week before on the same route. I had been happy at getting my 8 mile times down to just under 57mins which I consider to be among my best however, in the race I had managed to sail through 8 miles in 53mins. I felt a bit ‘heavy’ in mile 9 and still completed it in 7:07 and just seconds over the hour mark. I’ve never run this fast before!
I started to think that even if I started to slow down, I could still get a PB but the curious thing was that my body wasn’t that keen on slowing down and wanted to speed up again and went through mile 10 in 7:04. This was incredible, my body was doing all the work on its own and my mind was trying to understand what was going on! In total, I only ran 4 miles over 7min/miles and those were the last 4. All in all, I was really excited because I knew I was on for a PB even though I hadn’t really trained that much for it. What I became aware of was that there seemed to be a bit of a difference between the mile markers on my Garmin and the actual course markers. I put it out of my mind until we got closer to the finish and I glanced at my watch to see that I had run 13.1 miles in about 1hr 29mins 40secs but still had a couple of hundred yards to go! I crossed the line in 1hr 30mins 49secs, which is still a personal best by about a minute, and my watch suggests that I had run 13.36 miles.
It would seem that there was a discrepancy in the actual distance with just about everyone recording around 13.3-13.4 miles. The official line seems to be that the route was officially measured by an IAAF marker and that any additional distance could be down to crowds, nuances in the course and discrepancies with GPS watches. While that’s possible, any additional distance, in my opinion, would be a few yards and not 200. The most likely answer is the turning point between mile 5 and 6 was slightly out of position as that’s where the mile markers started to go way off compared to my Garmin.
I’m not going to complain as I know what it’s like as a race organiser myself and when something goes wrong, and by the time you discover it, there’s nothing you can do and just have to go with it. I’m delighted as I got a PB either way but I’m more inclined to go with my Garmin time rather than the official time as that’s what I usually compare my training times with.
Not only did I run under 1hr 30mins for the first time ever, I also ran the first 10k 30 seconds faster than I ran the 10k race in Edinburgh in May, where I also ran a 5k PB! I also ran this distance 5 mins faster than the Half Marathon at EMF in May where I had to race it in order to get back in time to start the Marathon although I wouldn’t have been able to run a further 26.2 miles after I crossed the line on Saturday. All this gives me hope of a good time at Loch Ness on the 28th September but I’ll see what happens on the day.
Photos courtesy of my wife Allison aka The Running Princess
I am running many races this year for Macmillan in memory of my dad who lost his battle with cancer last year. I am aiming to have completed 1000 miles between running and cycling by the time I cross the finish line at the Loch Ness Marathon on 28th September. I am also aiming to raise, between myself, my wife and others who have supported us throughout the year, £10,000. Please help me help Macmillan support all those affected by cancer