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This was my first “official” half marathon. I had done a trail one in the February but that was 400 yards short, unfortunately….. This event wasn’t originally on the plan but an event was cancelled in early March due to snow. All the alternatives that I was offered I was either doing another event or unable to compete due to other commitments so this was the one or lose the cost of it. As I had done half marathons as part of triathlons, but never as a stand alone event, I knew I could run the distance so this was more of a training run to see how fast I could do it on fresh legs and to enjoy the atmosphere of running round some very familiar territory as I used to do a lot of work in the area.

The run up to the race had gone to plan this time. I had done a long run about 10 days before the race, a shorter one the following week and then a parkrun the day before following my usual plan. My nutrition had still been on point since the middle distance triathlon and I’d had a few more carbs in the preceding couple of days. A lot less kit was required and I was generally more relaxed about it. A bowl of porridge for supper and a good nights sleep set the day up properly.

Another early start (5.30am) on race day and I crept out of bed leaving my partner dead to the world, I was going to this one on my own which would bring its’ own challenges and meant having my recovery shake and a change of kit in the car rather than at the finish. The drive over was uneventful, they usually are at early times on a Sunday, and I found the car park with a minimal amount of hassle. The lads manning it didn’t look too clever and it did worry me slightly but there was nothing of value in my car so I parked up and set off to find the start. I was early as usual, I don’t like being on the last minute, and all was quiet around the start area. My car was a good 15 minute walk from the start and I chatted to a gentleman who was in charge of the post event masseurs as I walked in the general direction of White City. I wasn’t really nervous this time, after all this was a training run….

The weather was dry, but how long for was anybody’s guess. As a result I had bin bag as a temporary waterproof rather than trying to run in my proper waterproof (it keeps the heat in as well as the water out). All was quiet, eerily so as I am used to the start area being busy with traffic and no extra barriers being there. There was still over an hour to the official start so I wandered about. If I’d realised how close I was to the finish then I would have organised a drop bag for the end but hey ho…. so much for being a “local”.

By 8.30 it was getting busy so I headed off to my start zone. I was aiming to meet some friends of mine and was at the appointed place but couldn’t find them. Not to worry I thought, I hope they enjoy the race. As I got to my start zone I got chatting to the people around me. I must have been a bit nervous but didn’t feel it, unlike the last event I did. It was amazing to find out that some of them had done very little training but had put quite fast times down where as I was effectively at the end of my season and doing this “for fun”. The “warm up”, led by someone we couldn’t see, mainly involved us jumping about and doing a few kick backs and star jumps, quite challenging when you’re all crammed in together with very little space.

The time came then to move forward to the start line near the arch at White City. The adrenaline had kicked in by now and I was shifting from one foot to another.. I had been looking for a pacer to help me run at a steady pace without having to think too much but there wasn’t one in our block. I looked at the block in front and saw one for an overall time of 1 hour 55 minutes. My aim was to run sub 2 hours, no problem given that I was on fresh legs (not having had a swim or bike ride before it) but the pacer would give me a security blanket to ensure that I hit the target. I also needed a wee and dived into the toilet block as we moved forward. This worked in my favour as I ended up jumping forward a batch and into the group where the pacer was. RESULT!!!! We moved forward again and then it was time to go…. I felt good as I jogged across the official start line and tried to find a bit of clear road to run on. I hate these mass starts, but they have to be done, as its always difficult to find a bit of space and get going properly. I managed it though and was soon into my stride. The pacer was about 100 yards in front of me and I kept him in sight. We weaved our way round the streets of Old Trafford and came back to virtually where we had started. I was amazed at the number of people that were already out on a drizzly Sunday morning to cheer us on. This was going to be a great race, similar to the atmosphere at the Leeds triathlon when I was running through the city centre. By that point I had caught the pacer up and was slightly in front of him which was good.

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We headed out down Stretford Road towards the motorway. I was beginning to get warm so took my top layer, a long sleeved top, off. It had my number on and I had a t-shirt on underneath but I wasn’t worried as the chip would still be picked up by the timing mats. Unlike triathlons where the chip has to go round my ankle, these must be more sensitive. By now I was well into my stride and running comfortably. The stretch down to the M60 seemed to take no time at all and before I knew it we were heading into Sale. The pacer was still nearby and I was feeling great. There were more people about and I was giving the kids high fives and smiling at people and taking jelly babies and sweets as I ran past them. They in turn were cheering me on. I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular, just enjoying the moment in the race. I was well and truly “in the zone” and actually enjoying the run, something I rarely do with doing triathlons. It was raining by now as well, not heavily but that fine stuff that wets you through, but I wasn’t really bothered. My mantra at the best of times is that wet legs dry quicker than wet trousers, especially if they’re moving….

Then the inevitable happened, I needed another wee!!!! Fortunately there were some toilets at the next water point at about mile 8 and I made use of them. That however meant that I had lost contact with the pacer. At that point I was slightly in front of him but now I was way behind him. The toilet stop had taken nearly a minute and I wanted to pull this back to ensure that my chip time was around the 1.55 mark. The competitive streak in me took hold and I knew that I had to catch him up again so I picked up my own pace. For the next 3 miles I was in my own little world. I was focused on moving that bit faster than the people round me to catch back up to the pacer. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other that little bit quicker than I had been and eventually caught him up. When I looked at the stats after the race on my Strava, I was impressed with how it had gone…

Once I caught him up I settled down again and was back to a steady pace. By now it was mile 11, less than a parkrun to go and I was still feeling good, so I kicked on steadily for home. No aches or pains or hot spots on my feet, I couldn’t believe this was happening. It was still raining too, good old Manchester, but I wasn’t really bothered. I ran with the pacer for most of the last complete mile and was chatting to him. I complimented him on how well he had done to keep going at such a steady pace and his motivation which he gratefully received. I then said farewell as I put on a final spurt for the finish and even managed a sprint finish, this is usually unheard of for me especially after a triathlon, as I crossed the line with a big smile on my face. The rain was unimportant, it had been with me most of the way round, as I moved through the finish area to collect my T-shirt and finishers pack. There was malt bread in it!! YES!! I’d forgotten how good that stuff is after a long run and hadn’t had any since Castle Howard in July so it was most welcome. I wrapped myself in the space blanket too to endeavour to stay warm. That is the only thing with running in the wet, when you stop you get cold very quickly……

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Official finish photo done I headed off back to my car, stretching as I went. I also stopped to change my top and put my temporary waterproof on to stay dry and warm. I had a feeling of satisfaction about having completed the race in less than 2 hours and was more than happy with how the race had gone too. All in all a great end to what has been a great season.

Next year is already planned. It starts with the Manchester Marathon in April and culminates with a big end to┬áthe season in late August and early September and will include swimming in the River Thames…. Watch this space. The training plan is already in place and there are a few different things in it for winter to help the conditioning for the legs, arms and core. All will be documented through here. Here’s to a great winter training.