Half-pint marathon

Posted on: 24 Sep 2019

Our regular Sunday morning trips to junior parkrun have been continuing throughout the summer and it was shortly before the start of the school holidays that Izzy was awarded her half marathon wristband.

These are issued as an incentive to the junior runners once they reach certain milestones: 11 runs (roughly 1.2 miles each) secures entry into the half marathon club; 21 equals a marathon; 50 makes for an ultra.

I really enjoy these events. Obviously there’s a lot of pride in seeing Izzy get more confident, to the point where she now runs the distance non-stop. More than that though it’s just a great showcase for sport, exercise, friendly competition and the importance of volunteers so that weekly parkruns can be staged in the first place.

We run together and her times have steadily improved. Not that I’m avidly clock-watching, however she’s aware of the sort of pace we can manage and does get excited when PBs are achieved (hardly surprising given that her reward usually involves a Costa stop on the way home!).

That said, I did come perilously close to an ‘overly competitive dad standing on the touchline’ moment a few weeks back. Her times had been slowing anyway and then during one run she backed right off on the final stretch to a virtual walk.

One of the timekeepers was cheering her on (as was I, having moved aside because parents aren’t supposed to cross the line) and called out something like ‘don’t let her catch you’. This was because another junior was hoofing it to the finish and promptly burnt Izzy off with just a few yards to go.

Now I’m fully aware that junior parkrun (and indeed the main adult event) is absolutely not intended to be competitive. I’m also delighted that my girl chooses to run most weeks and we can enjoy the experience together.

But this just felt a bit… well, disappointing truth be told and I wrestled with the idea of giving her a gentle talking to about always trying your best and never giving up. A little life lesson, if you will.

In the end, I left it alone for that day and instead chatted to her a few weeks later en-route for our next run. The response was positive, the attitude good and, moreover, her actual performance was transformed.

She took nearly two whole minutes off her time and scored a massive PB of 13:03, including a decent sprint finish. Pushy parent? I hope it doesn’t come across that way. Proud parent? Absolutely!

We’ve signed up for another 5k this coming Sunday, the Walsall Rotary Club run, building on her debut at the HU5K back in May. Once again we’ll run together and the gentler pace will be a good thing for me as I’m less than two weeks away from the Chester marathon.

Autumn marathon season has come around startling quickly this year and I have to say the build-up has been actually rather enjoyable and, thank goodness, drama-free.

I’m not nursing any injuries or sore limbs and my footwear problems from earlier in the year seem to have calmed down (I’m rotating between a well-used pair of Brooks Adrenaline GTS 17s and a nearly-new pair of Asics Kayano 25s).

I don’t seem to have that much in the way of speed, but my stamina is holding up well and clearly that’s the ticket when it comes to marathon day. Long runs into work topped out at 18.5 miles on a newly discovered route that took in some really picturesque canal paths – who knew such a large chunk of my commute could be done away from congested roads!

Last week I was off, using up a decent chunk of my remaining holiday before I leave this job and head for pastures new. That enabled me to focus on my final two long runs, starting with a mid-week 20 miler.

That went a little wrong only because I misjudged the route. The clock stopped at 20 miles (with an average pace of 9:15 minute miles), yet home was another two miles away!

I walked one for recovery as by now the temperature was getting really rather warm, an unseasonable 20-odd degrees. Then I ran the remaining one for good measure, pleased with my efforts and cautiously optimistic for marathon day.

Two five milers followed, plus two core and weights sessions, and then on Saturday afternoon I rounded things off with a half marathon mainly along trail paths surrounding Chasewater. Again the sun shone, but it was pleasant rather than sweltering – a lovely run with some cracking scenery to boot.

Months ago I treated myself to a pair of trail shoes for these sorts of outings (and the ultra I so desperately want to tackle, when the time is right). Up and Running recommended me the Peregrine ISOs from Saucony and while I was nervous about the lack of support (I’m a mild over-pronator), they were absolutely spot on for this sort of terrain.

No blisters, no soreness, no hamstring or thigh pain. What a contrast to this time two years ago and my calamitous, injury-plagued marathons at Manchester and Birmingham. I count my blessings and hope this good fortune continues.

And so with a total weekly distance of nearly 44 miles safely in the bag, I’ve started tapering. Chester comes first on 6 October; then three weeks later it’s an exciting return visit to Snowdon.

I’ve refrained from talking about target times for either race. Snowdon is all about the joy of running and the challenge of the mountains – I’m relaxed about how long it takes. Chester is my PB course and the closest I’ve ever come to the ultimate four hour goal.

All I can do this year is give it my best shot. Four is the target pace I’ll run at (9:10 minute miles), I might even latch on to the relevant pacing group and see how long I can stick it. But I won’t be stressing about it or putting myself under excess pressure.

Marathon number 11 beckons. And with it, another chance to be proud, only this time hopefully of myself and my own achievements.


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