A Personal Best And Some Lessons Learned From My Difficult Brighton Half Marathon 2013 Experience.
First of all I’d like to direct you over to my recent interview with Jay from the wonderful Born To Plod blog. We discuss why I run and what keeps me motivated.
My Brighton Half Marathon 2013 experience.
On Sunday I ran my 11th half marathon in Brighton and set a new personal best of 2:07:07, 4 seconds better than my time in the Great Birmingham Run last October.
The run itself was one of the most difficult races I’ve completed.
The main reason for this was that my Garmin Forerunner stopped working at the starting line, meaning I had to pace myself naturally which proved to be pretty damn difficult as I’ve used my watch to time every one of my runs so far.
I started out way too fast and ended up faltering at the end. I’ve never came so close to quitting a run since my first half marathon, but thankfully I kept with it.
My mind kept screaming to stop and that fear of stopping made my heart race, which made me feel even more anxious.
I thought I was gonna have a panic attack as the anxiety, fear and hate were coming in waves and it was gaining momentum.
I don’t even know what ‘it’ was.
I just knew it was bad and that stopping would somehow ease the discomfort.
Thankfully the Brighton crowd saved my race.
Without their support it’s doubtful that I’d have finished at all.
Each time that I was ready to give up someone would cheer me on. They could see that I was struggling and picked me up. They did not have to do that. They could have screamed “suck it up you lazy twat and get those legs a-pumping!”.
In the end they drove me over the finish line, but my pain was far from over.
After the race I stood around for 5 minutes expecting to never walk again let alone run.
I was feeling that bad.
Fellow runners kept coming up and asking if I was alright, kindly offering me both their concern and their water.
I tried walking, but it was if someone had turned the gravity up.
What concerned me above all was the dizziness and vertigo I experienced for around half an hour after the finish.
My discomfort was intensified tenfold by the fact that there was only two exits from the finishing area. The first and most direct route involved climbing the steps up to the promenade.
The other option was a half mile detour around Dukes Mound.
Since I had a mental video of me accidentally bellyflopping off the promenade and landing on and crippling a real athlete, I chose Dukes Mound.
It took me about 50 minutes to walk the mile back into Brighton City Centre, where I immediately located a bar for post-race refreshments.
I wasn’t expecting a personal best. In fact I was worried that I’d just ran my slowest ever half marathon after the disastrous last 6 miles.
Then I checked the race results online.
At 2pm in the seaside bar, I discovered that I had set a personal best of 4 seconds.
It made my day.
I hadn’t ran a great race at all, but I still managed to come away with a small victory even though I missed out on my 2:05:00 target.
Lessons learned from my 11th half marathon
- Embracing the atmosphere of a race can drive me onwards – In the past I’ve tended to keep myself to myself in races. This is OK if the run is going well but when you’re feeling weary and negative the last thing you want to do is retreat further into your own mind. I fed off the crowd and starting giving really poor high fives to kids and adults alike.
- I rely on my Forerunner too much for pacing – Without it I was struggling to find any sort of rhythm. I wasn’t far off a 2 hour half marathon pace at halfway but I just couldn’t sustain the tempo. I dropped back to a 2:15 pace for the last half and even that was a struggle. I have major respect for people who go out their and shave 10’s of minutes off their personal best. It shows real balls to go out into unknown territory and to challenge your limits in that way.
- I need to accept the kindness of strangers more often – As I was crawling around Brighton after the race at least 5 people stopped to ask if I was alright. I’ve become quite cynical over the last few years. I assume that people act in kindness only if they want something in return. This is not the case. Those people were acting out of genuine concern for the limping leprachaun who was looking ready to topple over any minute.
- I need to turn up for races earlier – I had to push and jog up to the baggage area as I was running late. At one point I thought I was gonna either miss the start, or run 13.1 miles wearing my backpack. The stress was unbearable and I could have done without it. I made it back to the start line on time, but by that point I’d ran at least an extra 0.25 mile and my nerves were shot.
- Sometimes you have to put up with pain on a run and to keep going – I started out too fast and by mile 10 I was exhausted. I wanted to stop so many times. I managed to keep going by saying that I could stop in 5 minutes time if I was still feeling terrible. Breaking down the distance into smaller segments definitely helped here.
- Sometimes you will get hit by water bottles just after refreshment stations – A girl threw her drink away from her and hit me in the side. I was ready to get all mouthy but there have been plenty of times that I’ve thrown away a full bottle of Lucozade by the roadside only for it to bounce off the curb and nearly hit someone on the head. She didn’t mean it.
- Going without food on the morning of a race is a bad idea – I wasn’t hungry when I woke up so I didn’t force myself into it. Without food in my stomach I felt ill from hunger by the 10th mile.
- Running 7.25 miles on the day before a race with fartlek intervals is too much – I thought I’d be able to handle it as I ran 8 miles last Saturday and followed it up with 17 on the Sunday. Saturday’s speed intervals were largely responsible for fading so drastically at the end.
Anyway I really enjoyed the race and I can’t wait to go back to Brighton some point.
The race was well organised this year and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again in the coming years.