I woke up early on Sunday morning with a feeling of optimism. I had, two weeks previously, ran the Warwick Half Marathon in 1:45:26, a PB of more than 10 minutes and Coventry, I was told, was a much easier course.
I got to the “race village” and met up with Paul Baxter, a fellow member of the RandNAC. Our plan was to start with the 1:45 pacers, Paul seeing how long he could keep up with them with my plan being to stay with them until around mile 9/10 and then break off for a 1:43 ish finish.
I was pleasantly surprised at Warwick. The elevation profile suggested it would be much harder than I actually found it, hence the increased optimism for Coventry. That was short lived however, as Sunday proved to be far more difficult than I had originally expected.
Following the pacers meant that I had to deviate from my usual race plan, which involved a) starting slowly, maybe 30 secs slower per mile than my target race pace for the first mile or two to ease in, before pushing on back to race pace and then beyond in the latter stages, and b) taking it easy on the inclines (again around 30 secs slower) whilst attacking the downhills, conserving energy for later on.
The first mile went by in 7:47, the next two in 8:04 and 7:49, a much quicker start than I had previously experienced. All seemed to be going well until mile 7 and a long incline which lasted a mile – 8:24. A long downhill followed, allowing me to recoup some of the time lost. The downhill continued as we turned right off Tamworth Road into a down and back, a psychological killer seeing the other runners struggle as they came back up on the other side of the cones. I pushed it coming back up the hill in an attempt to catch back up with the pacers and received a small lift as I saw Baxter enter the section as I exited it. I tried to shout some attempted words of encouragement in his general direction before heading right, further downhill.
I exited Waste Lane shortly after my watch buzzed for the end of the tenth mile, knowing that it was all downhill from here. This was supposed to be where I was planning to kick on but I could only manage to keep up as the course took us down Barker Butts Lane, I was running on empty. Turning right at the primary school (the one I attended I might add) I was right on the shoulder of the pacer, but there was one final, short and sharp hill remaining. I pushed it to the top and literally felt sick when I got there. I regained composure heading down to the ring road and finally pushed beyond the pacer as we went under the underpass.
The crowds at the finish gave me that little bit extra that I needed as I pushed and crossed the line in 1:44:41. A PB is a PB, and a sub-1:45 was a goal that I had wanted for some time. tougher than I had anticipated, but I got there. I crossed the line to see my 3 year old daughter standing almost directly in front of the finish, holding a sign saying “Go Daddy!” Relief and joy…