Sunday, February 25

The Roding Valley Half Marathon 2007 Click for more info

Today was the 25th annual Roding Valley Half Marathon, and I was a runner. This was to be my longest run since the London Marathon in 2004, and so I was both excited and nervous about rejoining the lower end of a more serious level of running.

A month ago, when my neighbour and I first decided to run it, we had set ourselves a target of 1:45. This meant eight minute miles, and so was pretty ambitious considering we ran the usual ten, and even that for much smaller distances.

I had a bit of a scare a few weeks ago when I hurt my knee ice skating; and although I'm still a bit stiff it managed to sort itself out before this morning. I'm glad, since I was pretty determined to take part in this race and so it would have been pretty disappointing to have to pull out and wait another year.

Nevertheless, after three training runs of around eight miles each, never going below nine and a half minute miles, we re-evaluated our target time up to the corresponding 2:00. If I'm being honest I thought even this was a little ambitious. I was quite depressed at this considering I did the same race in 1:33 way back in 2004 in preparation for London. Age doesn't help of course, but the main thing that helped me back then was the marathon training itself - at that point I was doing runs much longer than the 13 miles each week.

The race itself was pretty good. We fell into the usual trap of being sucked in with over-eager runners wanting to do the course in under an hour; we paced the first mile at around eight minutes. Luckily we checked ourselves pretty early and stepped down a gear for the rest of the race - we managed to stick to our nine/ten minute miles for the other twelve miles pretty easily, passing a few of those trailblazers on the way.

The course (map here) was actually made up for three loops - one smaller one and then two identical larger ones. This gives runners a psychological advantage of allowing them to mentally visualise markers to aim for (and as an aside, most of the the larger loop made up our training course too). This repetition helps with pacing too; I took it easy for the first long lap, and then exploited that experience in the second.

Overall it was pretty tough. I managed to gun it a bit on seeing the "200m left" marker, but today was nothing like my previous race here. By my watch I managed to finish in just over two hours (EDIT: 2:2.16 to be precise, placing me at 454th out of 660); I feel that I pushed myself and ran the race smartly and so I'm pretty happy with that, especially given the now-clearly inadequate training we had.

As for my career in running, well, I've established a few things. Firstly, I'm definitely plan on taking part in this race more regularly - so next year and every year after that hopefully. Secondly, if I do enter I know to train a bit more and to start earlier (hopefully this shouldn't be a problem since we had integrated the training this time into our usual Sunday runs). And, finally, I don't think I'll ever be running a full marathon again: it would take too long to get back into that condition and quite frankly I don't know how I could manage the training.

I'm glad I ran today. It's vindicating, and good to know that I was still able to complete the distance, even though it wasn't a patch on my previous efforts. Oh and yes, some of you will be glad to know that I am in a lot of pain.