The Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon is my first running race for the 2016 calendar. At the end of 2015 I decided to step up my running, but I had no idea about the best way to improve my time. Luckily I know many top runners from whom to seek advice. Where else to turn to but my favourite running group, HuRTS? Mike Ho took on the task of overseeing my running. The advice was to add a longer run in the week and step up the weekly distance. So I did, months and months of accumulated Kms, I was feeling stronger and faster, but then I went away on holidays and as you do while on holiday, I gained 2Kg and only put in a few training runs. I was in need of some good running to get back to form. Mike Ho gave me the plan for “10 of 10” I had ten days till the race and 10Km every day was the suggested training plan and this is how it unfolded on race day.
May was a cold month for me, considering I had only just got back from a good holiday in the summer of Thailand where the average temperature was 38 degree celcius. On race morning I rocked up to the startline wrapped in many warm layers of clothing, my running friends didn’t recognise me when I said hello to them, or perhaps I just wasn’t cool enough to talk to….haha.
The Saturday night before the race I didn’t get much sleep, as usual someone in my apartment block had a big party that ended when my alarm clock went off at 4:50 AM! I got to the stone pillars to catch up with the other HuRTS runners and to find a pacer. I had a tip that Tom would be pacing Timmy for 83 minutes or so which should work for me as I was aiming for sub 85 minutes. We lined up at the start but no sign of Tom, I was getting worried that I would have to do the work solo, which is ok as I had a backup plan. Earlier I had asked for tips from a world class triathlete Pete Walker for a run plan to get sub 85. As I was running through the plans in my head, Tom came running over to the startline and swiftly climbed over the barrier to stand next to Timmy, oh here we go, I can jump on this 83 minutes bus. Tom was actually pacing Tim for 82 minutes, I just told them that i'll hold on as long as I could, at that moment, I didn’t even have the slightest though that I would be able to keep up.
Bang goes the start gun, we took off a bit quick, I didn’t even look at my watch but as we got to the rocks the 80 minutes pacer came running past us, the pace was high but it was ok as the start is a slight downhill. As we approached Hickson Rd, Tom pulled the pace to around 3:40min/km, Timmy was glued to Tom like chewing gum in a girls hair. Me, I was struggling at this stage, a few meters back thinking to myself, “as long as I keep them in sight i'll be ok.” As the course started to climb up the highway over the back of Darling Harbour, I started to feel good, there I latched on to Tom and Timmy was dropping back a bit, then came the downhill again. Just before we turned to The Star casino Timmy pushed back in front of me and pulled away with Tom again. I just kept trying to keep up as the course twisted and turned around Pyrmont. I didn’t really like the turns as I always lose my racing line to this other guy who decided to jump on Tom’s 82 minute bus. At all the rises I would push my way closer to Tom and Tim would drop back slightly, this kept on going for a while.
I got to 10Km at 38:35, my thoughts then were, “wow, I’m doing well” only to be stunted by an older guy running in a pair of flip-flops, thongs, sandals, whatever you call them in your native language, how on earth did a guy in a pair of thongs get to 10Km in under 40 minutes? I quickly, stopped thinking about that and went back to focusing on my run game, must not get distracted. At this point I was nearly disconnected from Tom and Tim, I put the foot down a bit to get back on as we neared 14Km and popped a gel as advised by Pete. Timmy went for the free Gu Gel thing, only seconds later they came shooting out of his mouth over to my face, I quickly dove for cover as Timmy continued to expel gel bullets out of his mouth, that stuff must have tested like crap. Or maybe Tim wanted to lose me. Luckily I brought my own gel. Arrived at the squashed car just before we turned hard right up the hills of Millers Point, Pete and his son Luke were there cheering me on, in Pete’s words “you had that look in your eyes, you were thinking of passing Timmy”. Yes, I was thinking that as we hit the climb. Timmy was dropping back, I pushed hard up the hills still feeling good. All I could hear now was Tom “stretch those legs Timmy” as Tom repeated those words I too stretched my legs. Not knowing if I should push hard and keep going or to hold back until later, I stayed just ahead of Tom as he dropped back to Tim. As we got to the Cahill Expressway I started to push to get to the next group, I was hurting there, I was alone there. As I got to Macquarie St, I was still running solo and picked up a few runners that started to fade. Right then the Walker family were cheering me on again, thanks to young James and Row, I was able to push through, bringing my pace from 4:05 min/km back to 3:50 min/km. 17Km done still not puffing out, I checked my watch and did some quick calculations, if I keep it a touch under 4 min/km I would be in under my target time, sub 85 minutes.
When it occurred to me that I would reach my target time of sub 85 minutes, I started to give my legs more power, running down to Mrs Macquarie's chair I saw Mike Ho flash by with a smile who later finished at 71 minutes and in the top ten overall. I kept turning over the tired legs towards the Art Gallery NSW, Lissy was there with the camera and cheered me on. That was a good place to have some support as the crowd only waited near the finish line. I looped back around passing the Art Gallery for the final time and my last cheer from Lissy, I kicked into my top gear and dug deep trying to get under 83 minutes, that was my plan now. Not sure how I did it but I crossed the finish line at 82.59. My second ever 21.1Km race. I was super happy with my time. Having thought that my last half marathon two years ago was around 87:50 or something, I was shocked by a 5 minutes PB. No way that I could have done this on my own so thanks to Tom and Timmy for pacing me rough to 16Km.
5 minutes PB was not the case as I checked online, my 2014 time was 85:51. A 3 minutes PB to be corrected, nevertheless, still a good improvement for me.
This run on Strava https://www.strava.com/activities/576184152