Sunday 12 June 2011

St Albans half marathon

James Edgoose and I go to the St Albans half marathon - I give him a lift; it was him who suggested entering, he did it last year. Its only an hour, down through Stevenage etc. And St Albans is a name from my childhood - not far from Berkhamsted, and I recall childhood trips where we went to look at the roman remains with no great enthusiasm. Children are like that. In the car, he says that the course is quite hilly, and not to expect a great time - he reckons the hills are worth 3 minutes or so on your time.

Arriving is a bit confused - they haven't signposted the car parks well - and we end up following someone else and parking in "Premier Foods" which to me has shades of Reggie Perrin. To Verulanium park, with the cathedral very distant on a hill. It is raining, so people are huddling under shelter, and since we're early we retreat to the sports center and its small but very convenient cafe and toilet (don't underestimate the virtues of an indoor toilet at a race). We put on our numbers, grease up our nipples, etc and then head off to dump kit at left luggage. I join the loo queue outside, despite not much time, and am relieved when they say there will be a 20 min delay (still not quite sure why, maybe clearing the roads). So I lose track of James, who has left me with the very helpful tip to start further up than normal, because the course narrows soon. Anyway, after one last wee in the bushes I join in about where I think might make sense, and fairly soon we're off. Its still raining; it keeps raining, fairly lightly, thoughout the race.

James turns out to be right, in that after 100m the course narrows for about 1 km to a path alongside a hedge, and predictably enough there are lots of people who have been hopelessly optimistic about their running speeds. But I squeeze past, and indeed the extra adrenaline is good for speed. Given James's advice about the hills, and not having trained for this at all (I'm sort-of quite pleased with myself for just being happy to enter casually) and instead of tapering doing a hard outing yesterday, I really don't know what time to aim for. After a while I decide that a sub-5 min/km average overall is a good target (which makes 1:45, roughly) and I start counting how much spare I've banked over that, and am pleased to find it building up. 5 km in 22:40, and then 10k is coming up. It isn't going to be a PB but its going to be good: 46:20, which is a second PB (45:26 to 10k is my best so far). So stop thinking of keeping sub-5, because that is too easy now, and start wondering if I can get under 1:40, which is my next target. Up to 15k (1:10) this looks plausible but the next 5k are hard and I slip a little, and start being overtaken a bit. Think to myself that going down the hills fast is the key to this race - you are bound to slow down up the hills, so you need to get it back downhill, and I find myself zooming past people, hitting the dizzy heights of 3/k at one point.

And so, with a bit of a push close to the finish line, I come in 1:40:22. I'm actually quite pleased not to have much push left for the finish - it means I've pushed earlier and not left any spare, which is what I want. James gets 1:43, so I beat him, ha! The first time I have (well, I did at Norwich too, but he was deliberately going at marathon pace then). After race treat is an ice lolly, lovely, though the gentle rain is still falling. Running conditions were good, the rain kept me cool, and having my glasses wet up wasn't too annoying. Collect left luggage, slowly put on kit, and then head back to the car (get lost) and head home (though traffic jam in St A). Home: weight self as first thing, of course: 69.2, w00t! It was all worth it :-).

Notes on the race:

* its a good course, mostly rural. Not perhaps a fast one but an attractive and interesting one. * needs a few more loos at the start. But if you're a gent, the bushes on the far side are available. * they had lots and lots of water stops - far more than were needed in the conditions.

Bit added after: I thought I ought to add, that during the best bits of this race (the first 15k I suppose) it was a real joy to run: everything was going well, I felt light not heavy, times were good.


* GPS track

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