What a difference a year makes!

Posted on: 23 Mar 2015

Another weekend, another race – this time the Stafford Half Marathon.  I’m pleased to say we had none of the weather dramas that spoilt the experience of my last run in Stafford a fortnight ago, in fact Sunday was near-on perfect conditions and we were even treated to a bit of sunshine towards the finish.


It’s my third time running the Stafford Half and they really do put on a terrific event.  Well organised, well supported and with a decent quality medal and technical running shirt to greet you at the finish.


Around 3,000 people take part, plus they have a mile-long fun run for the kids.  The course was re-routed for this year because of road works and while it wasn’t as picturesque because it stayed mainly in built up areas, it did feel a tad more forgiving, despite having a long climb around mile 10.


I needed a good run to give me a confidence boost after my disappointment at the Stafford 20.  I broke the rules by going out on both Thursday night and Saturday, although I did lay off the booze and drove both times.  Still, getting in at midnight the night before a race isn’t really textbook stuff and an approach I don’t plan to replicate at London.


Then again, maybe I should because I’m delighted to report a new PB and a run that’s left me buzzing and genuinely shocked about how much better my performance is getting thanks to VMLM training.


Rewind to March 2014 and my second attempt at Stafford.  I clocked a time of 1:56:17 – my best to that point – and was absolutely spent at the finish, it had taken every last drop of energy to cross that line.


Yesterday was 1:43:39, three minutes better than I’ve done in training and averaging 7:57 minute miles over the distance – first time I’ve sustained a sub-8 pace for a half.  Still shocked when I type it!  I was almost expecting the chip time to show me up and confirm a catastrophic Garmin failure, but nope – they were literally two seconds apart.




It isn’t just the time that’s pleased me though.  It’s how I ran the race and, for the first time, managed to pace a run so that my speed improved along the way, building up to a fastest final mile of 7:35.


It’s also a strange feeling as you embark on a competitive half while marathon training.  Many of the people around you are apprehensive, at their limit, perhaps taking on a half for the first time.  Yet in my head I’m thinking: nice day for a run, and what a luxury to only be doing 13 miles!


Presumably a result of my increased fitness and stamina, I also felt I could manage an extra turn of speed when needed.  For example, a quick burst to clear the crowds when the road was congested.  Or a faster mile to compensate for a slower split after an uphill section. 


So all in all a wonderful day and a PB I don’t think I’ll be threatening to improve on again any time soon.  Certainly not in marathon training at least – I’m going back to slow and steady now to avoid any unwanted slip ups before race day.


A glance at my training plan also confirms that long Sunday runs are soon to be a thing of the past!  I’m down for 18 and 20 respectively over the next fortnight and then it’s tapering.  I almost feel a bit sad – they’ve just become part of the routine since last autumn when this whole crazy adventure began…


Five weeks to go – I’m so looking forward to London right now, bring on the big one.


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