My first week of (f)unemployment took me to the New Forest for a few days of walking, cycling and harassing wild horses. Culminating, last Sunday, with the Oxford half marathon.
Oxford appealed to me for two reasons, firstly because back in 2010 I lived there for a period of 3 months, but secondly and more importantly, because the Oxford half takes place on the same day as London Royal Parks Half Marathon. Having run Royal Parks in 2014, towards the very start of my running journey, I have subsequently applied for ballot places in 2015 & 2016 and been unsuccessful both times. I’m a stubborn little thing, who doesn’t enjoy being told I can’t run a half marathon when I want to run a half marathon, and I wanted to run a half marathon on Sunday 9th October. So, Oxford half marathon…here I come! (/There I came!)
By the morning of the half, I was feeling a little nervous. As per usual, my training hadn’t been as extensive as it might have been (does every runner always feel this way?!) Plus my previous half marathon race back in May, the hot HOT Hackney half, felt a long time ago. Did I still actually have it in me to run half a marathon? Surely, probably…err maybe!
Half marathons do always prove to be a challenge for me, still taking me that little bit outside my comfort zone. Last Sunday however, the Oxford half marathon went, if I do say so myself, incredibly well!
Whilst I haven’t yet been able to fulfill my personal objective of a sub two hour half, my time of 2hrs 2mins and 43 secs, was a personal best for me by some considerable way. (Let’s just say that the reason I’ve never been too forthcoming with my half marathon times in the past, is that, to be honest, they’re pretty abysmal! Still, running, albeit veeeery slowly, is better than not running at all, right?)
For the first almost 11-or-so miles of Oxford, I was on track for my much-coveted sub 2-hour race. By mile 10 I was still feeling surprisingly fresh and my mile splits were actually getting faster!
Unfortunately, by mile 10.5 I started to feel the first nigglings of a familiar pain in my right knee and when, at mile 11, the route became uneven, taking runners off-road and through the park, I had to stop a couple of times to stretch out my knee.
On the positive side, this race was still a massive success for me. My fuel and hydration plan worked well, and I was feeling fitter than I ever have done over this distance before. Despite the knee pain, by mile 13, and for my second half marathon race in a row, I felt like I could have carried on.
I seem to have taken a lot tactically from my recent 100km walk. (I’m glad to have gained something from the day aside from a multitude of blisters!) Once you’ve walked that sort of distance, and for near enough 23 hours non-stop, any other distance feels conquerable. 13.1 miles is, mentally, a breeze, if only because at some point in approximately 2 – 2.5 hours time, it will come to an end!
During the walk, I broke the journey down into digestible short stages, because thinking about the full distance was entirely too overwhelming! Similarly, with the Oxford half, for the first time at a half marathon, I took the race each mile at a time. This enabled me to reflect on how far I had come, whilst feeling capable of running further, rather than focussing on how far there still was to go.
I now genuinely feel confident that a sub 2 hour half is within me, and I’m strongly debating signing up for the Dorney Lake half marathon to have one final bash at it this year. If that doesn’t work out there’s always 2017 – another year, another extensive running calendar!