I must apologise for being a tad disconnected the last week – I have been in a “pre race relax week” which translated for me as “try to go to bed early, keep a calm head, don’t over do it & ‘oh, let’s make the work week as busy as possible’ the latter was not intended as pre-race preparation”.
You see yesterday was the Bath Half Marathon, the race I had been training for with a scary personal goal. A goal I have to say that I thought almost unachievable when it was conceived last July. It was a goal to run it in under 2 hours which meant hacking 17 minutes off my personal best (2011) & almost 25 minutes off last year’s time. When it was conceived I was almost too scared to dream that I could achieve it, since that would elevate me (in my mind) to being a different kind of runner – one that chases a time as opposed to a survivor, enduring the 13.2 miles (or is it 13.1 miles – I get confused), getting round in as few pieces as possible (this has been my previous experience!). I knew though that I would be so proud to get in under 2 hours. And so it became my target & I became a driven obsessive: elevating races & runs at weekends above the opportunity to socialise; worrying about the impact of the Christmas break on my training; cutting out booze after Christmas except for birthdays (yes- it’s true!!)
I have never been so nervous in the lead up to a race. In some ways a busy work week helped distract me, because every time it was mentioned, I got huge wobbles in the pit of my stomach. Even though my training gave me every indication that I was on track, I had not ran further than 11 miles at my “target” speed. And at the end of the 11 miles I was wasted. Could I pull out the stops on the day? Would adrenaline, crowds & atmosphere pull me through? I just didn’t know.
My confidence waned. I’d found due to the finish time I predicted when I entered (pre July, not realising I would improve so much) I could not start in the same pen & run with my buddies I’d been training with & I’d have to run on my own. So many mental challenges that I had to overcome (& that’s a big part of running for me, my head)
But I did it! I came in at 1:58:42! I was so emotional when I finished I was on the verge of a blub.
So what was my secret? (I write this in case it can help anyone else, if anyone recognises themselves & any scrap of my experience can give them a lift)
- I invested in a personal trainer (twice a week) – one that focused on the mechanics of running & gave me exercises to strengthen key muscle groups, identify my imbalances & work on them, core strength & balance being key. He has never seen me run. He is the one that set my sub 2 hour goal with me in July. He was/ is as committed to my goal as I was myself. I reorganised my expenditure & habits to be able to afford it.
- Having invested financially in a personal trainer & having such a motivational goal really lined up my commitment. It was a case of just how good can I be? And all the things I did fell in behind that.
- For my longer runs I trained with faster people that ran at the pace I wanted to run at – sounds obvious, but training with people slightly faster than you helps get you faster!
- This being a local race, our long training runs often incorporated the last mile and a half – it’s a notorious energy sapper, slightly uphill & always that bit farther than you think. It became more familiar to us & therefore decreased its negativity.
- I entered races as part of my training – helped me to get faster, because oddly (or not ;-s ) there’s something about the atmosphere at a race, no matter how small, that raises your own personal game. Entering a 10 mile race three weeks before the Half was a great test of whether I was on track.
- You can probably tell that all of this helped me to get my head sorted out & take it seriously, however for the race itself, since I had done it three times before & knew the route & where it is I would be challenged I created an awesome playlist. (This year we were allowed music with one headphone, previous years it had not been allowed). I spent Saturday working through how long tracks lasted, where I wanted to listen to them, where I needed certain tracks. I had tracks to prepare myself while I waited for the start (Skyfall by Adele was most effective at creating a goosebumpy expectation if you’re curious). I ran up the last mile to “Gonna Fly Now” (theme from Rocky) & “More” by Bobby Darin was playing as I reached the finish line. (Tracks can be found on my running page)
There. By writing about this I feel a sense of completion. What will be my next goal? Not sure yet. I have another Half (a place in the Great North Run no less – excitement or what?) In September, & a number of local 10ks to enter. Today is a day off. I shall now head to the sewing room. I’m sorry I have got behind with some of my intended posts – they exist in my mind, & I have lots to catch up on – a few new garments to show & some desert island sewing – but this might explain where my head has been.