If I had to name my worst races ever, then the Victoria Park half in March 2016 would definitely be up there. I was on antibiotics at the time for an infected blister on my toe and they had really messed up my gut. I thought I was going to have to drop out for the majority of the race, there were many toilet stops and many negative thoughts but I somehow got round- I think it’s my slowest ever half though not including trail ones.
So when I found out my brother was signed up to do the race this weekend, I have no idea why I was so keen to join. The race has no big pull being 6.5 laps, but maybe I felt I had a little unfinished business. I got to the start super early and it was utterly freezing so I was delighted to get moving after about 40 minutes of standing in the cold. The first mile clicked over in just over 8.30 pace which I was surprised at as I felt we were moving much slower and I felt very comfortable.
The half marathon started about 30 minutes before the 5k and 10k, so it was never crazy busy on the course but there was always plenty of others around on each lap especially the middle few. Having done the race before I knew to keep track of how many laps as I had done as it can get quite confusing especially if you don’t have a GPS to know how many miles you have done.
I ran with my brother and we spent the whole time chatting, spotting dogs (4 dachshunds!!) and looking out for our cheering crew who deserve medals for standing in the cold for 2 hours. I warmed up very quickly once we got going, and although it got a bit windier later on in the race I would say it was perfect running conditions.
The miles were ticking over, and my miles seemed to hover consistently between 8.30-8.40, again I was surprised at how comfortable this felt, especially as I had had a heavy training week and my legs had felt pretty shit since being ill over New Year.
I had a medjool date between miles 7-9 for a little energy boost, and I had my hydration pack so I felt well hydrated the whole way. As a side note the amount of plastic bottles used in races is appalling, even a small race like this produced a horrifying amount of plastic waste. I wish more races would follow Centurion and get rid of plastic bottles/cups. Bringing your own cup to fill up on route or carrying your own flasks or hydration pack should be the rule and not the exception. Rant over.
I was surprised by how good I felt around mile 9 and I felt I was running well within myself and that I had never felt that strong towards the end of a race before. Usually I go out too hard and then the wheels come off at the end, but not today, I had a lot left in the tank.
We had started to slow slightly from mile 9 onwards, and at mile 12 I realised I was quite close to PB and my brother wanted to slow down a bit, so I went off ahead and told him to stick behind me. The last 2 miles were my fastest of the day- I can’t believe I ran a sub 8 minute mile for the last mile and a bit of a half- and for the first time I actually felt like I was working hard. I finished in 1.53.09 which was surprisingly a PB of over a minute, which I was really chuffed with considering how easy it had felt and how much talking we had done the whole way round. It was also a 10k PB as I haven’t done one in about 4 years. It will be interesting to do a half when I actually have trained for one as I feel I can go a lot quicker and I’m still very early on in my long distance training for the year.
I hung around for a little bit to chat and then I headed off on the canal for my extra 4 miles of my training run. I didn’t want to do the miles before and stand around in the cold getting stiff and I’m kind of glad I didn’t as I don’t think it would have been a PB either. I took the wrong canal path and ended up totally lost in Stratford and Bow, but discovered a new running path and eventually got to where I was going.
This race has gone way up in my estimation after 2016. Yes it is still 6.5 laps, but I think if you have someone to do it with it ticks by pretty quickly. It’s great mental training too, if you can do 6+ laps of a course I think it prepares you for other challenges ahead and makes you a stronger runner mentally. It’s a fairly small but well organised set up, there were ample portaloos, race pack pick up was quick and easy and you get a decent medal for 20 quid too.
A PB is always a good place to start the year, hopefully onwards and upwards.