Since starting my training plan for the Coventry half marathon at Christmas, it has been interrupted twice due to heavy snow fall and ice. It was only fitting then, that the race itself would be cancelled due to forecasted extreme weather.

There’s been a bit of a backlash on social media regarding the cancellation, with many quoting terms such as “man up.” You can understand the decision though, and can’t really argue with safety first. At race start time, at the time of cancellation, the forecast was for a temperature of -1, feels like -9. Whilst some of the faster and more experienced runners would not see this as much of an issue, as they would be suitably prepared for such conditions and, in running faster, would avoid exposure for too long whilst keeping warm in the process, you could see how less experienced runners may struggle. On top of this, consideration also needs to be given to the marshalls, stood out on the course for up to 3 hours in such temperatures really isn’t ideal.

So cancelled it is, and the right decision in my opinion. An announcement is due by Tuesday “at the latest” regarding rearranging/refunds. I personally hope it is rearranged as opposed to the organisers offering a refund, I was quite looking forward to the event. They have to be careful as to when (if, of course) they rearrange it for though, with many other local races coming up in the coming months, not to mention the fact that many would have been using this as a tune-up race in preparation for London. To maintain that status, it would have to be rearranged for sometime very soon. This could also cause issues for myself, with the Stratford half now just 8 weeks away. We will find out more on Tuesday but my attention has now been diverted to Stratford.

Leading up to the Coventry half I have often wondered what would be the best way to train for Stratford. Almost all training plans focus on building an endurance base in the early stages. As I’ve already trained for the distance, I am already there with the base and just require fine tuning on the pace. I could adopt a 16 week training plan and begin from the ninth week, assuming the build stage has already been completed. I think I will almost invent my own training plan, using guidance from my previous Asics plan, along with half marathon specific training from others.

Back to this weekend, more than anything I was frustrated with wasting two weeks of training. Having successfully completed the main block of training, I entered this weekend having had two relatively easy weeks, obviously expecting to be running a 13 mile race on Sunday. Determined not to see those two weeks go to waste, I sought out a race that I could participate in this weekend. With most cancelled, similar to Coventry, I opted for a parkrun. As I was dropping my children off with their grandparent in Wolverhampton on Saturday morning, I thought I would take one in on the way home. One I had earmarked to do at some point was Dudley. I thought I would have a look on Facebook before heading over to double check that it was still on. As it turns out, there hasn’t been a parkrun at Dudley since November, due to renovation work taking place on the athletics track that they use for part of their course. Wolverhampton parkrun it was then.

I had done Wolverhampton once before, so I knew what to expect. Quite a popular event, Wolverhampton parkrun is a 3-lap course, with around half of the lap downhill and the other half uphill. The uphill section is tough enough to notice a drop in pace and a rise in HR, but it is by no means a severe hill. It is therefore quite a quick course, and the last time I was there I recorded a PB so, given my recent training block and taper, I was expecting another PB.

One issue with a 3-lap course is that you end up lapping quite a large portion of the rest of the field. For a 21-22 minute 5k’er, you would expect to lap everyone finishing in 30 minutes or slower. This can prove tricky when really going for it and having to go the long way around fellow runners. The start can also be tricky, as it starts next to a bandstand, where several park paths join together. In fact, there doesn’t appear to be any official start point. Everyone generally lines up in position, but there are no signs (that I saw at least) signalling the start point, so trying to ensure that you are at the front can involve a bit of hustle and bustle. At the start, the course quickly goes from an infinitely wide path to one that is about 4-people wide. If you’re not at the front, that bottleneck can really harm your start.

Luckily enough, I started off well, negotiating the start well enough to be in the clear after the first couple of turns. My aim for the event was 21:20, which would mean 4:16 km splits. The first km came up in 4:13. The second, taking in that hill, was completed in 4:22. Downhill for the next km, 4:12. At this point, I was almost running on my own. No one behind me and those in front far enough away that I knew I couldn’t catch. That almost makes it harder. If you’re on the shoulder of someone that you can chase, or if someone’s on your shoulder that you want to shake, it encourages you to push harder. I managed to keep up the pace though with a fourth km in 4:15 and the fifth in 4:13. I crossed the line, collected my token and proceeded to the barcode scanners. “How did you get on mate?” I glanced down at my watch and read off the time, “21:16, a PB of 30 seconds.” “Go and ring the PB bell mate.” I did, reluctantly.

So, as disappointed as I am in not racing a half marathon this weekend, I really didn’t fancy running in the forecasted conditions anyway. It’s not the temperature, I’ve ran in colder, but more the wind that concerned me. I experienced a taster of it during the parkrun and it was bad enough there, out for less than 30 minutes! And I was pleased to have at least achieved something over the weekend, with a big PB in the 5km. Now it’s onwards to Stratford, with a loose training plan devised by myself. My goal for Coventry was sub-1:40. That may need revising for May’s HM. Another 8-weeks of training should hopefully bring me closer to 1:35 than 1:40. I really feel that my running is going well at the minute and want to capitalise on that.

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