I wasn’t expecting that

Posted on: 05 Apr 2016

Here’s a slightly belated race report on last month’s Stafford Half Marathon – and it comes with a very unexpected PB alert!

Proud to say I’ve shaved another 40s off my previous best, which was from last year’s Stafford half, and bagged a 1:42:54.

I did train pretty hard for this race, but because last year I was in full swing for London training my head kept telling me ‘you won’t be as fit as you were in 2015’ – trying to manage my own expectations, I guess.  But when you take the pressure away and just think about enjoying the occasion and trying your best, it’s surprising what you can actually achieve.

This was my fourth consecutive Stafford half and it’s always a great event.  Well organised, well supported, busy enough to have atmosphere, but not so much that you’re constantly getting boxed in.  The fact I’ve managed to clock a PB every year, including my first sub 2-hour half in 2013, probably also accounts for why I like it so much.

The weather was spot on for distance running as well.  Cool, but not cold.  Very still and even the sun came out about halfway in.  It’s far from flat, but the course isn’t too taxing.  There’s a nasty climb during mile 10, but that’s where local knowledge helps because you soon realise the last few miles are either downhill or flat and therefore it doesn’t matter if you use up a lot of your energy reserves tackling that climb.

I was really pleased with how I paced the run – miles 4 to 8 were all within a few seconds of each other at around 7:45.  I kept thinking I ought to back off and conserve some energy, but everything felt good and I knew if I could maintain this pace there was a strong chance of a PB reward at the end.

The last mile hurt – a lot!  And the finish line photo isn’t one for the family album as I gurned my way down Stafford high street.  I hadn’t dared look at my watch all race (except for mile splits) but what a wonderful surprise when I finally did.  I left Stafford feeling very pleased with myself and keen to work out what my next challenge is going to be.

Something that did trouble me while training for Stafford were my feet.  Annoying little blisters, rubs and then aching soles after any kind of distance.  I over-pronate, so could only conclude that the support on my trainers had gone – again.

That’s three pairs of Asics now (2x Kayano and 1x GT2000s) that have lasted little more than 400 miles each.  Time for a change – so for the last month I’ve been using Brooks Adrenaline GTS.  The 15s were on sale through Up and Running and they had my size in stock. 

I’d say we’re getting on pretty well, because in addition to my half marathon PB, I’ve also trimmed a few seconds off my personal 5k and 10k records.  I’ve even clocked a new fastest single mile at 6:18. For now then, I’d safely say I’m a convert!  The big test, of course, is how long they last.  

With Stafford done and spring seemingly with us, it begs the question…what next for me (and my snazzy new trainers)?  Obviously there’s no spring marathon on my calendar this year (it’s going to be very emotional watching London on the telly and reliving my amazing experience from 2015), but my next race is the Great Midlands Run in June, an 8.5 mile course around my old home town of Sutton Coldfield.

The last time I did it was in 2012 just as I was rediscovering my love of running and starting to train for my first half marathon.  It will be interesting to see what sort of time I can manage now that I’m leaner and fitter and whether I can successfully conquer the ominously named ‘Cardiac Hill’ at mile seven.

Then it will be decision time about whether or not to commit to an autumn marathon and try again to hit that elusive 4 hour target.  It still feels like unfinished business and at least if I stick with Chester in October I will know what to expect out on the course and do a better job of pacing myself (last year I was too quick through 20 miles and had to endure a grisly final 10k, eventually limping home in 04:11).

One thing I am certain of is I don’t want to stop running any time soon.  I miss it when I’m not training and still feel a true sense of achievement after clocking a new PB or completing a new event.  It gives me valuable headspace and ‘me time’ when I need it and helps me stay at the weight I want to be without having to compromise on my diet or lifestyle. 

What’s not to love?


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