The Belfast Half Marathon is now a mere three weeks away and I’ve been anxious about the lack of long runs I’ve managed to squeeze in. My longest, to date, had been 10.6 miles with my brother in law several weeks ago but, since then, a combination of inclement weather, other commitments and a general lack of running mojo have restricted me from getting out there and pounding the roads.
This morning was my last chance until we were thrown into another week and a packed diary. The kids return to school tomorrow and all have after school activities this term. Adam has rugby training most days, Hannah is joining a musical theatre and drama society and Rebecca is starting at the local football club. Fionnuala and I will be sharing the taxi duties and, combined with the darker evenings, running opportunities are at a minimum.
Despite having run nine marathons and over two dozen half marathons I am a less than confident runner, always fretting over my ability to maintain the pace and distance I expect of myself. I had a couple of untimed runs during the week to ease this pressure but knew today I’d have to record the time and distance to ensure my training was on track. The plan was to run 11 miles at or around two hour marathon pace.
I was greeted by dry, pleasant conditions as I reluctantly dragged myself out the front door. I felt sluggish the first few miles as I’m not a fan of morning running. Mile 4 is always a problem mile for me, I’ve no explanation as to why, and as ever it was a slow one. I stopped briefly at the house at the half way point for a drink and energy gel, then it was off again for two further loops of the village, along a road called Rock Lane.
Rock Lane is an undulating 2.5 mile loop but I always seem to pick up my pace when on it. The energy gel also kicked in meaning my mile splits began to steadily improve. After the first loop I knew I had a sniff of getting back on sub 2 hour pace so dug deep for the final loop. With two miles to go I was back on track so focused on maintaining my breathing and rhythm as I counted down the distance.
I felt better at the 11 mile stage than I did at the 4 mile point, so much so that I latched on an extra third of a mile at the end. It was a relief to finish and I was tired but pleased to have eased four seconds per mile inside the desired pace. I’m pacing a colleague at Belfast and he’s aiming for a sub 2:15 time, it being his first half marathon. It was nice to know I’ve still got a sub 2:00 in the tank if need be.
We are also running for the office charity so the aim is to get round in one piece and raise some money for a worthy cause, the Northern Ireland Hospice. My days of killing myself over attaining personal bests are a distant, and somewhat unpleasant, memory. That was a different me, back then, a me I have no desire to return to. I’m much happier running for pleasure now, as opposed to my ego driven previous incarnation.
So that’s the dull running update over. Thank you to those of you who made it this far. You are real troopers. Despite the anxiety preceding it, I know the longer term mental and physical benefits outweigh any thoughts I might have of packing running in. I’ll continue to run where and when I can. One or two more long runs should have me ready for Belfast and I think 12 miles will be the next step up. Here’s hoping.