Breaking Through The Sub 2 Hour Half Marathon Barrier On My 15th Attempt.
I’m just home from Dublin after spending a large part of the day walking aimlessly around the city centre after my run.
In case you haven’t already heard through my Facebook or Twitter accounts, I managed to break the 2 hour half marathon barrier at the 15th attempt.
15 times. I should have given up long ago but I’m glad I didn’t! My official time was 1:57:55 and my Garmin Connect run is here.
Mile by mile breakdown of my pace.
I’ll keep this simple. Here is a breakdown of each mile, my pace and my thoughts at the time. I’m too tired at the minute to write a ‘real’ post so this will have to do.
- Mile 1 – 9:30 min/mile – Arrive late to the start, have to start at the back with 2:30 pacers. The beginning of any race is always stressful as you never know if someone is just gonna stop right in front of you or not. Quickly find my legs and hammer out a 9:30 mi/mile.
- Mile 2 – 9:13 min/mile – Settling into my race. It’s at this stage that I’m uncertain about how it’s gonna turn out. Too early to tell. Hit the first hill and kill it up past Temple Bar. Call the hill a whore in my head and march on defiantly.
- Mile 3 – 9:13 min/mile – Hit the first proper downhill stretch and I’m beginning to feel excellent. Zero anxiety. Zero pressure. It’s all about relaxing and trying to smile. Being in Phoenix Park helps with this. It’s quite scenic (for Dublin).
- Mile 4 – 8:59 min/mile – I decide on mile 4 to hit the 9:09 min/mile average by the half way mark. No point in leaving it all to the end as usual.
- Mile 5 – 9:04 min/mile – Can’t really remember this mile? Hit some serious flow. Hoping there aren’t any CCTV pictures of an angry jogger pissing in a phone box and berating zanily dressed charity runners behind glass and spit.
- Mile 6 – 8:59 min/mile – First time that I actually think that the sub 2 hour half marathon is really on. Keep the pace steady. Keep attacking the mile as it rolls into the next one. Try not to smash anyone with my elbows.
- Mile 7 – 8:46 min/mile – This was the big one. A big bastard of a mile. We got a Powerbar Gel in this mile at a water station and I accidentally grabbed 3 of them from the little boy who was handing them out. In my guilt, I tried throwing the 2 gels onto the water table but knocked over a few cups of water and they fell to the ground. I’m running faster in case the gel boy has any brothers in Gangland Dublin.
- Mile 8 – 9:03 min/mile – Starting to feel shit. The guilt from the gel situation earlier is messing up my running form. I always let these silly little scrapes fester in my mind. I’m still running at a pace that’s sub 2 hours though.
- Mile 9 – 8:56 min/mile – Back to joy and bliss. I’m loving life and running again. At this point I’m trying to just get to mile 10. I can’t break down now can I?
- Mile 10 – 8:57 min/mile – Hit a serious hill but I tackle it with ease. Before the race I’d agreed that if I could get to 10 miles at 1 hours 32 minutes, I’d have an amazing chance of achieving my goal. I’m at 1:30. A 30 minute 5k and it’s in the bag. Try to make my peace with the children of Dublin and Hi-5 the outstretched hand of a child. Much too hard. Gonna focus on keeping myself to myself from now on otherwise the Gardai will bring an abrupt halt to my race.
- Mile 11 – 8:52 min/mile – Can’t remember this mile at all? Usually mile 11 sucks in a half marathon. You’re close to the finish but there’s still long enough to go for everything to break. This time around I was in the zone. I hadn’t a care in the world.
- Mile 12 – 8:47 min/mile – This is another one that escapes my memory…… Worrying?
- Mile 13- 8:17 min/mile – I zone back into the race when a volunteer shouts “it’s all downhill now!”. Even I can’t mess this up from here. I start running like a bastard and stop caring about hitting the wall or burning out.
- Mile 13.1 – Not really a mile, but I remember crossing the line thinking “shit, I should feel happier, shouldn’t I?”
Why I broke through the sub 2 hour half marathon mark…
- Practical approach to pacing – From the very first mile I tried to keep as close to the 9:09 min/mile target as possible. I never let it out of my sights.
- I relaxed for the large parts of the race – Instead of constantly pushing and then worrying about crashing, I left my pace fall back to around a 9:20 minute/mile for maybe the first three quarters of every new mile. In the last quarter I ran at a higher tempo to try to stick to 9:09. If I had the energy, I aimed for a sub 9 minute mile.
- I believed I could do it – I hate all those memes and inspirational pictures about believing in yourself and all of that shit, but I think it’s true to an extent. If you don’t believe something’s possible without at least trying to prepare for it, then you’ll never do it. I never considered myself a sub 2 hour half marathon runner. That was something that fast people achieved. But it’s something you can do if you put the time into it and train towards it.
- I didn’t drink quite as a much alcohol on the night before the run – 4 pints of Cider was more than enough on Sunday night.
- I kinda stopped caring half way through the run – It wasn’t as important as I thought it was after all. By imposing goals and aims and objectives on yourself, you tend to limit yourself by your own lack of ambition. In my case I was constrained by it.