Barcelona Half Marathon
The half marathon . It doesn’t even have its own name, it’s the diminutive relative of the marathon , not as trendy as it’s big brother nor as popular as the 10k, it sits in the middle ground and is often neglected.
Have you ever actually trained for a half? Me neither until Barcelona.
Half marathon pace is a beautiful thing, sitting very close to your threshold or ten mile pace , when you spend time developing this pace your fitness improvement is awesome. Your marathon pace will feel easier and you will feel stronger in 10k races as you teach your body to work harder for less effort.
So after roughly 20 marathons I decided to train for a 13.1 miler. As usual I peaked late, not really nailing any sessions until 3 weeks out when I finally averaged 5:20 for 8 miles of work around Humber bridge. Backed up the next week with 8 mile reps averaging 5:10 without really digging deep. Finally the hard work was showing and the dream was on.
To break 70 minutes you need to average 5:20 pace or under and I had been optimistic as usual but realistically my training wasn’t showing it until those two late sessions. Right then it’s on!
I followed a standard marathon taper for this race as I had never specifically tapered for a half so stuck with what I knew, basically reducing mileage by 25% the first week then a further 25% the second week and reducing my final workout to just 2 miles at target pace 4 days out ( plus warm up and cool down). I always end my final three easy runs of the taper with 6x 100m strides the first two days and 4x60m strides the last day to get the legs greased and feeling sharp.
Without the added bulk and bloat of a carb load I was feeling sharp and ready to race.
Made it to the start line, picked my number up from Kris who had collected for me the day before ( thanks bud!), had a coffee, bag dropped and changed, time to warm up.
Standard warm up of a mile and half with some drills and pick ups/ strides , just enough to get a sweat on.
I had been fortunate enough to blag a spot on the “elite” start which gave me front line position and an elite tent zone with toilets and energy drinks etc. This was awesome, Scott Overall, Ben Conner, loads of other excellent British athletes, the East Africans were there as well as plenty of top European runners both male and female made this an unforgettable experience!
As we were called out to line up I was stopped and instructed to go back and cover up my East Hull Harriers logo with my number. That was a new one. Panicking slightly I did and went back to line up, at the back , out of the way of the fast runners.
We started and the surge from the runners behind caught me off guard, elbows out like a cross country race, pushing and jostling trying not to trip- wasn’t expecting that!
Keep it steady, my best chance was even pacing and a relaxed first mile of 5:14 eased me into it.
Bang on pace through 5k in 16:34, 33 flat for 10k feeling comfy I knew it was my day. I don’t remember any of the course just focusing on the road ahead or the back of a runner in front. I knew I had to hit 10 miles in 53:20 and it was a pleasant surprise to go through in bang on 53 minutes with plenty in the tank! All I had to do was run 5:30s for 5k and I had nailed it. 5:15, for mile 11, 5:29 -my slowest mile by a long way mile 12 into a freshening sea breeze, still totally in control.
The 13th mile was 5:19 which should have set me up nicely for a comfortable sub 70 . Unfortunately I had been relying too much on my watch and not paying attention to the course as the final 800m was actually over a kilometre and the ticking clock in the distance wasn’t getting any closer as I threw myself down the longest finishing straight in Europe, crossing in 1:10:21 with my dodgy garmin measurement of 13. 25 miles and an average of 5:19 no consolation at all. I was pissed off!
So I did what all good Harriers do and went and got lashed up , starting immediately after the race finished at 10 AM and finishing when my train arrived in Hull at half past 10 that evening!
Here’s to half marathon pace, try it you might like it!