Reading Half Marathon – The Crowd Roared!

April 2, 2012

As my alarm sounded at 5.40am yesterday I gave a momentary curse before remembering that the early start was for very good reason.  Another race day had arrived, this time the Reading Half Marathon.

For several reasons, I really didn’t know what sort of performance I had in me.  This was my first race longer than 10k since the London Marathon last April, I was short of training miles compared to previous half marathons, I’d followed my training schedule much less strictly than usual, and I’m trying to master a new, improved running technique courtesy of The Running School.  With so many variables my genuine best guess target was somewhere between 1:31 and 1:33 depending on who was asking, but secretly I hoped I could sneak under 1:30 and maybe, just maybe threaten my PB of 1:29:12.

The organisation at the event was excellent with a great race village, fantastic marshals, plenty of loos and a spacious start area.  Through the far side of my start pen I found a huge open field with a few runners getting ready, so unusually for such a big event I managed a really thorough warm up.

The biggest problem with not having a clear target time in your mind is judging your pace in the early part of the race.  My plan was to find the organised pace group for 1:30 and tuck in with them, ignoring my GPS watch, for the first few miles and then assess the situation.  My plans changed sooner than I expected when I couldn’t find the pace group at the start. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

The gun went off and I was over the start line quickly, setting off at what felt like a natural pace.  Early glances at my GPS watch provided a surprise as I was going quicker than I thought.  I was, of course, concerned that I would pay the price in the second half of the race but I never felt that I was being stupid.  I felt confident enough not to ease back.  I was through the 10k mark in around 41 minutes which is about 1:26:30 pace for the half marathon and realised that if I didn’t blow up the PB was on!

The course was fast with the only uphills being a long gentle drag in the third mile and a shorter incline in mile eight, and plenty of downhill stretches by way of payback.  The crowds were good in places with all the usual big event shenanigans – bands, kids looking for high fives, people handing out sweets and so on.

I started to suffer at about the 9 mile mark but managed to maintain my pace through to 11 miles and faded a little from there.  As you can see from my splits, though, I didn’t crash too badly at all.  So, I came into the last 800 metres shattered but safe in the knowledge that the PB was in the bag with my excitement growing at the thought of the finish which makes this race so special! As I passed under the 13 mile marker the course turned sharply to the right and into the Madejski Stadium where two of the four stands were filled with roaring spectators including the missus and our baby daughter, who brought me down to earth soon after the finish by puking on my medal!  A sprint finish was inevitable and my finishing time was 1:27:22, a PB by a full 110 seconds.  The time was completely unexpected and I actually felt a bit emotional after I crossed the line!

Here’s my big finish – I’m in the white top with the black shorts:

(Just to be clear, I did catch that little lady before the finish line!)

As ever, I’ve analysed my performance and I feel I can go even quicker.  With a bit more mileage in the legs I would have finished more strongly and I know my execution of my new technique was far from perfect. I owe a big thank you to the guys at The Running School for their help and I’ll be blogging about my experiences there very soon.

A quick word for my various friends old and new who also finished the race in great times – well done guys!

Next up I’ll be having a crack at a couple of 10k races to see if I can grab another PB before starting to crank up the mileage as I build towards the Loch Ness Marathon in September.


6 Responses to “Reading Half Marathon – The Crowd Roared!”

  1. MedalSlut Says:

    My comment is regarding the photo at the bottom. What distance did you run in that, and were there any chaffing issues? Sweet time, by the way, I’m more of a plodder.

  2. Pingu1874 Says:

    @MedalSlut – cheers! Thankfully I’m the sensibly dressed one on the left. I don’t actually know the guy in the middle but I expect he’ll have issues sitting down for a few days!

  3. […] going into this one.  On the one hand, I had two more months training under my belt, I’d smashed my half marathon PB two weeks earlier at Reading and I’d made significant improvements to my running technique […]

  4. […] has been a month of highs and lows. The start of the month brought a half marathon PB, the middle of the month a disappointing 10k and the last couple of weeks, time out injured. I […]

  5. […]  On the flip-side, I’ve been performing better than ever in training. So, against a previous PB of 1:27:22 I decided to set of at about 1:30 pace and see how I got on.  Badly, it transpires.  The hills […]

  6. […] April I completed the Reading Half Marathon in 1 hour 27 minutes and 22 seconds, an unexpected huge PB. If you look at race time predictors like the McMillan Calculator, this is […]

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