It feels like an age since I booked the Coventry Half Marathon and this weekend, the time has finally arrived. I can’t quite work out whether I’m excited, nervous, or just looking forward to getting it over and done with. After all, training for it has not been particularly enjoyable.
Despite turning concentration solely to the half marathon just six weeks ago, I’ve been training for the event now since Christmas. First of all was a ten-week block of 5k specific training, with some longer runs in to maintain base, followed by the six weeks of half marathon specific work to get me ready for this weekend. Both blocks have contained a large section of threshold running which, although isn’t all out running, is still pretty tough going. I haven’t been particularly enjoying my running recently, and I believe that the difficulty of the sessions has been the reason. I quite enjoy the long, slow runs, but that’s not really how you train for a half marathon PB.
Currently then, my PB is 1:41:22, achieved at Stratford just under a year ago. My goal for some time (around 18 months) has been to get under 1:40, and this is my aim for Sunday’s race, at the third attempt. I thought I was there at Stratford last year but injury and a fading away in the last couple of miles hurt my chances.
1:39:59 equates to a race pace of 7:37/mile. To take any potential GPS inaccuracies into account, I’ve been training at a pace of 7:30/mile, and that is the target for race day. In the past week, leading up to the race, I’ve been flipping between questioning how on earth I am going to sustain that type of pace for 13 miles to believing that I could maybe go faster.
I completed an encouraging session a couple of weeks out from the race. Following 5 miles of easy running, I did 3 x 2 miles at race pace, with 5 minutes easy jogging in between. The start of the first mile at pace was inside a park, so I struggled a bit with GPS and therefore went a bit slow at 7:39. I tried to make up for it slightly in the second but went a bit too fast with a 7:13. After that though, I posted solid 7:26, 7:31, 7:28 and 7:31. Not only was this good to know that I can find race pace, but also on tired legs. That final mile was over 1:30 into the run and after 12 miles, so it’s good to know that the stamina is there. In terms of feel, there were times when the pace felt really comfortable, and times where it felt just a little too fast to be able to sustain it for long periods.
I’ve said it a number of times before though, it’s partly the course that is concerning me. Following a few undulating early miles, there’s a 3.5 mile climb leading to the end of the eighth mile which really isn’t pretty. Once beyond that though, it’s predominantly downhill into the finish, aside from a couple of fairly short hills. I just need to get to the end of the eighth with some energy still intact to attack the final miles. I just remember saying the exact same thing in the lead up to Stratford last year though, and a hill at a similar stage took it out of me and I struggled in the final stages.
I’ve also not been too comfortable with the taper. The training plan that I’ve been following has brought about a taper that is a lot less active than I am used to. Just two runs, amounting to 50 minutes in total has been the guide for race week. I did debate doing a bit more, but I’ve been following a plan for a reason so have continued following it to the letter. I’ve been feeling a few niggles in the past week too, most likely just maranoia (half maranoia?), so maybe it’s not been such a bad thing to be a little less active, allowing the muscles and joints to recover in preparation for Sunday’s intensity.
The advice here, at this stage, is to have a defined race plan and to believe in the training. When I line up on Sunday and begin to head off, I just need to keep in mind that I can run at my target pace, I can run at it on hills and I can run at it on tired legs, and I know all of this because I’ve done it. On race day, with taper-fresh legs, I’m confident of achieving my goal, and will be heading out aiming for 7:30’s from the off.