Brentwood 1/2 marathon Report 2016 - Grit your teeth

The Brentwood half marathon has always had a place in my heart as it's my local race and have run it many times before both pacing friends and setting personal bests. I felt that this year I should run a sub 1:30 based on recent sessions in training despite not doing much of a taper. However, I had been suffering all week with sore calves (blamed on new minimal support work shoes, more on this later) and had smashed a 8x800m session the Thursday before so the jury was out for the moment on whether I could pull it off.

Tracy and the kids normally come along to spectate at this race but probably because they can sit down to eat the great cakes and drinks the church lays on. Lucky them! This was my fifth running of the event so we knew exactly where to go and how long it should take in the car. There were quite a few other people I knew who were taking part including Ross B, Paul W, Richard Q, Richard E and Andy Q.  hoped everybody would hit their target for the day and enjoy the race.

At the starting line I didn't see anyone I knew until the last few seconds when Ross and Paul spotted me. As it took quite a bit of time to get out from dropping off my changing bag I didn't have time for a warm up. Not a good start. A minute or two before the gun went I found Ross and Paul on the start line. Our quick chat pointed was focused on what my time goal was for today, "6:50 pace average I hope" was my response.  Ross was unsure but said he would give it a go while Paul was happy to go out in 7.10-7.15. With no pacers at the event it was good to have someone else running out at a similar pace.

The first 100 meters is usually full of people who don't mean to box you in but unfortunately do and as always we found ourselves in this position.  Ross and I pulled out of the way and started to motor down the hill. A quick check of the Garmin and it showed that we were running at around 6:25 pace. A bit too swift for my liking and certainly not within my reach. Many others slowed down but Ross and I were almost running in step coming through the first mile (mile 1 in 6:37)

Over the next couple miles Ross and were in sync the whole time. The initial crowds had dissipated and we tried to settle into a good rhythm although we were no longer going downhill. At this point no cause for alarm (mile 2 6:50, mile 3 6:49). The course is challenging and is undulating throughout so it's difficult at times to go out and run an even pace especially with the last 1/2 mile of the course an uphill to the finish. Having something in reserve is therefore needed to push into the red before smiling through the finish line.

All of a sudden I didn't feel that comfortable, my breathing was heavy and my legs didn't feel strong. We were running on a slight uphill so perhaps it was this or maybe due to not warming up properly but I definitely felt that I was having to work a lot harder than anticipated. I said to Ross that I am going to have to ease off just a little. I let him drift around 20 meters in front of me and a quick glance at the watch I could see I was slightly off my desired 6:50 pace (mile 4 6:56). This was a little concerning but at this point I didn't want to think about not hitting target and would question this later.

The key thing at this point was not losing contact with Ross. I kept him just ahead of me and used that as a way to keep the pace consistent. The miles ticked by and we were coming up to the halfway point of the course which if I am frank is not a good place to run through. The winding road through fields that are not too scenic does play tricks on how you are feeling. Fortunately though the sun started to coming out and this lifted the gloomy, cold and windy conditions which took my mind of things although I definitely didn't want it to warm up too much (mile 5 7:01, mile 6 6:47).

By the halfway point my average pace was 6:51. I knew that I was on for a new PB (current 1.32.03) but how much did I feel I could get that elusive sub 1.30. The truth was my legs were not feeling great but I started to overtake runners which was a bonus (mile 7 6:54). I knew that a sub 1.30 was now either do or die. This is always the toughest part of the course for me and if you push too hard you can definitely blow your race. I pulled back alongside Ross who had wondered where I had been. He said that he was beginning to feel the pace which is a weird way spurred me on although I knew I had slowed down (mile 8 7:09).

Around mile 9 I started to slightly pull away from Ross although it wasn't a big push I felt like I had to move on. I must at this point give a big shout out to the crowds of well wishers who lined the village streets. There is nothing like an enthusiastic crowd to spur you on and in fact it did help me relax a little bit. At this point I did a quick math check on that sub 1.30 which it turns out that unless I could do the last four miles in 6:40 pace it wasn't going to happen (mile 9 6:58). With this now a reality I refocused on cracking that PB which was set on this course 3 years ago. The chase was on!

I didn't check my watch for the next couple miles and just got back into the race based on how I felt but pushed as hard as I could without overcooking things (mile 10 7:07, mile 11 7:02). In every race there comes a point where you want to sit down and to help make that happen more quickly I tried to push on a bit more but the legs just hated me with every step but fortunately I knew that the end was not far away (mile 12 7:01)

As I entered the last mile of the race I could see other runners a few hundred meters ahead of me making their way back up the hill through the high street. At first glance it doesn't look like much but with 98% off the race behind you it takes every bit of strength to push up that hill, turn the corner and hammer it down to the finish line. You never forget that feeling pushing uphill trying to keep form and pumping those arms and legs. Running shorter distances is always painful!

As I got to the 3/4 mark up the hill my breathing was heavy, legs saying to stop  but mentally I was in a different world. I couldn't feel the pain (mile 13 7:05). I was still catching runners at this stage and as I turned the corner I put the hammer down and crossed the finish line with a big smile (5:48 pace for the last bit).

I am smiling yes but it's bloody hurting
Results wise I finished 184th out of 2,826 runners and beat my PB by 37 seconds with a 1.31.26. I was perhaps a little disappointed that it was not a sub 1.30 but overall I was happy with that performance off the back of the week I had and of course a new PB.

Post race I found out that Ross finish a mere 30 seconds behind me to set a new PB along with Paul Paul only 3 minutes afterwards in a new PB as well. After my shower there was more good news was had when I met up with  Richard Q and Andy who both set great times and new PB's. A great day had by all I have to say.

And the marathon predictions? Well, McMillan has me at around 3:12 for the marathon based on this performance. Damn! Although not fully tapered the question remains do I have what is needed for a sub 3:10. Over the next 4 weeks we shall have to see. One things for sure I need to get this body and mind into 100% working order before lining up to do so. This is definitely going to hurt.