The whole point of this blog is to keep an online diary of what I’m doing to reach my goals; but thought it was important to look back at my 2017 goals, and where I came from, before looking ahead.
In 2017 I had two goals:
- Finish a marathon
- Break the 2 hour mark for a half marathon
Goal one was easy (relatively speaking) and accomplished on 9th April. Goal two was a lot harder. I only gave myself 3 half marathon races to try to break the sub 2 mark.
The first was the North London Half Marathon in February. It was hilly, hard AF, and I had to walk a bit, but in the end I hit a PB – 2:01:26. My previous PB (2:01:35) was my first ever half marathon in Boston with Willy back in 2013.
The second half marathon was Wimbledon Half at the end of July. Again, another hard AF half marathon that I hadn’t anticipated, and, despite not stopping at all, I came in with a 2:04. I was damn proud of that time because I worked hard to get through that course without stopping.
I had one last shot to officially break the 2 hour barrier. I say barrier, specifically, because during my training for Berlin I broke 2 hours during training runs a handful of times, and on one training run even hit 1:56. So I KNEW it was possible, I just didn’t know if I could mentally push myself to that point during a race.
We selected the Lille Half for its flat course. I think Willy and maybe one or two others knew what I was trying to do for this race. I didn’t really tell anyone what I was aiming to do because I didn’t want the pressure of failure on top of the already huge amounts of pressure I put on myself to attempt this. On race day I was more nervous than ever, but when the start gun went off, I went for it. I thought that if I could bank some time that when I needed it, I might be able to squeak under the 2:00 mark.
First lap was 8:40 ish, and that felt good (I was chasing Willy for about 500M before he flew off). Second lap was about 9:00 and I thought it was still good, but wanted to pick it up a bit to bank more time. Miles started flowing and I was feeling comfortable. At mile 5 I went to take my first gel and it slipped out of my Flipbelt. No worries, I thought, I’ve got a spare. Except, it wasn’t there. It had ALSO slipped out.
OH FUCK. OH FUCK. OH FUCK. How was I supposed to get through 13.1 with NO fuel?
Keep calm, keep running. When you hit that point, dig deep and make it happen. That’s what I kept repeating to myself as I continued to run. Calm the chimp down and just run.
Miles kept going, and I was doing fine. I took water at the water stations, and fuel that they offered (dried bananas, I believe), and I was feeling good. I had a runner in my sights that I kept following.
At about mile 8 or 9 I caught up to the 2:00 pacer. HOLY CRAP, I thought, I caught the pacer, which means I’m on track for sub 2:00. OK, my next thought was to play it safe and get that sub 2:00, or to keep going and see how far below the 2:00 mark I could get.
I felt good, so mentally waved goodbye to 2:00 and kept on going. Now, the Lille course had a funny little detour where some people branched left and some people branched right. If you speak French, you’d know that the branching right was for those not on their way to finish the course, but those who needed to do a little loop before heading to that final straight. My French is bad on a great day, but add in the race elements and it was non-existent. So I had to stop to ask a marshall if they spoke English, and then ask where I needed to go. That cost me some time, but I was on the right path, and my brain kicked in to pick up speed and not lose the momentum of time.
I think it was between miles 11 and 12 where I started to fatigue and look for any lost gels on the course. I needed it, but didn’t see anything. So I just kept pushing, and at mile 12 I knew I was nearly there. Push, kick, fight for whatever time I was going to get (at that point I was really hoping for 1:55.)
When the finish line approached I went for it. Whatever I had left I gave and crossed the line strong. It’s only when I crossed that the realization set in – 1:53:34. An 8-minute PB!
I couldn’t believe it. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect that time for this race, and it changed EVERYTHING! Suddenly I had visions of running better in Berlin, and possibilities of 4 hours marathons.
So I SMASHED my goals for 2017, and it made me hungry for more.