Edinburgh half marathon 2017

Apologies for wandering off topic for a little bit, I’ll be back on parkrun message come the weekend. It’s been a few days now since the Edinburgh Half, and I have a few thoughts on the matter I need to work through, so I figure why not bore people on the internet with them.


Let’s first of all replay the race, and maybe during that time I’ll hit on why I didn’t enjoy myself all that much. Actually no, first of all I need to go back a little bit further and delve into the complete lack of half marathon specific training I did, and why this gave me a lot more confidence than I deserved.

As will be fairly clear from this blog, I’ve done quite a lot of 5ks recently. In terms of training, I have followed no sort of plan whatsoever. My usual weekly schedule is to run when I feel like it, which usually turns out to be 4-5 times a week, and in that regime is a club session and a parkrun. The other runs making up the numbers will often be slower, shorter runs.

The club session each week will be a choice from three, and I will often stick with the same coaches that I like rather than being more race strategic. I tend to end up doing intervals, occasionally hill sessions. The parkrun then adds a second speed session to the mix.

Until about a month ago, I hadn’t done any runs much over 8 miles at all this year. I just didn’t have the inclination, time or energy. I figured this had to change coming up for the half, so I basically added distance either side of parkruns to make up the numbers. One week I even went out for a ‘long run’. Even with these limited forays into running for a bit longer than 22 minutes, I should have probably known that my endurance over 13.1 miles might not be quite at its peak.

However. In the weeks running up to the half I was feeling good. parkrun times were as good as they’ve ever been, and in training I was pleased with the numbers I was seeing. In the week of the half, I started to wonder about what sort of pace I should be running. Most people with any serious intentions turning up to the event will have spent weeks doing tempo runs at expected race pace, but not me. I decided on Monday I should go out and see what 7.30 pace felt like. With limited time available on an office lunch break, the plan was to warm up for a mile at somewhere around 8.30 pace, then hit 7.30 for a mile, turn around, same again, then cool down for the last mile. This is not exactly what happened, with the 4 miles being 7.39, 7.05, 7.00 and 7.15 respectively. This was incredibly stupid. It left me feeling a lot more fatigued than I should have been, but also, a little part of my brain started to believe my own hype.

Wednesday training came with another opportunity to get it right this time. The session I opted for was ‘2 x 20 minutes pre EMF do whatever you want’. I took this as another opportunity to try and stick to 7.30, and maybe actually do what I’d told myself to do this time. The route we ran on was a slight decline out, then incline back up the way. It was around half way back that I knew that I was out of my depth. I managed to actually hold the pace this time, but in the last mile I was already hanging on for grim death, and knew that if this was the case at halfway come Sunday, the results would not be acceptable viewing for a family audience.

On this basis, the plan was to go out easy, take the gains if they came on the downhill on Lochend Road, try and get on the 7.45 train and settle in for the ride. Somewhere though, deep in the back of my mind was still clinging to Monday, telling me that this was a blip, I was tired and that given a few days’ rest and enough pasta I could still do it. 7.30 after all would mean sub 1.40… imagine!

I have a bit of a checkered past with half marathons. I have done a few, but in honesty I can’t think of any where I have either prepared for it properly, or actually raced it properly. The courses I have done in the past have usually been ones that I’ve chosen because the scenery will be good. I’ve never chosen one that would be described as PB potential, so the PB I had to beat was from the appallingly organised Loch Rannoch half last year, which was around 1.46.

So there I was, under prepared, over confident, and ready to go. I met with my club mate who I’d been talking about running with and tried my best to shake off the pre-race nerves. Into the pen, and the race starts incredibly promptly.

Here is my potted history of the run on a mile by mile basis:

1: 7.41 – hurrah! Perfect! Bloody hell there are a LOT of people.

2: 7.18 – hmm, might want to rein it in a bit…

3: 7.33 – mainly downhill and on pace – brilliant! There are still a LOT of people.

4: 7.23 – dear Ollie, what on earth do you think you’re doing?

5: 7.40 – trying desperately to stay in ANY shade I can find. Pace now finally about right… time to gonk a gel. YUMMY.

6: 7.43 – Porty prom and absolutely nowhere to hide from the sun. Am melting.

7: 7.44 – Bang on message, but only half way and I am not feeling good. When is that gel going to envelop me in its magic? Those other people are still here too.

8: 7.47 – that’ll do. We’re off the prom, the sun has taken a bit of time off behind a cloud and I am clinging on for grim death. I had hoped that wouldn’t come until mile 10.

9: 8.00 – It’s around this time I stopped looking at my watch. I comment to my running buddy that if she’s feeling good to just ditch me and carry on, I am selfishly very grateful when she says she’s feeling much the same.

10: 8.22 – gel station in Musselburgh with a drink and a short period to get my breath back. Feeling awful. We go past the finish line and begin the sadistic out and back section of the course. I want to go home.

11: 8.10 – When oh when is this gel going to do something? Is that the turn I can see? No. No it isn’t.

12: 8.16 – We’ve turned the corner, brilliant! We’ve had a tailwind all this time and we didn’t notice! We now have a headwind that we definitely have noticed.

13: 8.09 – Breathing now all over the place, I plastered a great big grin on my face and buried myself. I’m kind of like a blocked Henry the hoover that’s missing a wheel. As I passed one spectator, I said with a very big forced grin on my face ‘this really hurts!’

0.1: Sprint finish? Yeah… go on then.

Finish time, 1.42.40. A pretty big PB by around 4 minutes. So why am I not pleased with it? I guess it comes down to a few things. Firstly the race itself being a pretty gruesome affair. It was too hot for me, and having felt defeated for the last 5 miles of the race, it’s difficult for me now to feel anything other than beaten. The PB I had before was from a tough, undulating course into a headwind, so I struggle to get excited about beating it on a flat course with a tailwind. I wonder how I would have felt about this analysis back in December when my back went and I had trouble standing up straight, let alone running. He’d probably call me an ungrateful shit, and he’s probably right.

Given the preparation I did, this is exactly how the race should have panned out. I ran at a pace I knew full well I couldn’t sustain, on a day that was pretty hot (for Edinburgh), at a distance I had little training for. From 8 miles onward, I blew up, and since I’ve done very little training over that distance, of course that’s what happened. The thing with running is that you get out EXACTLY what you put in, and I knew that.

Only, I didn’t. I talked myself into thinking I was quicker than that. That I could somehow get a freebie. I did get a t-shirt though which is pretty nice, and a medal that I reckon you could do some serious damage with.


2 thoughts on “Edinburgh half marathon 2017

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