Hackney Half: A Tale of Two Races

The Hackney Half Marathon will always hold a special place in my heart… as the worst half marathon experience ever.

Flash it back to 2016 when I first ran this race. We had just moved flat and said good-bye to our beloved cat Maggie. I was an emotional wreck, and didn’t give this half marathon the proper training it deserved. Add in a properly HOT London day, and I spent most of the race walking it. I crossed the finish line in an abysmal 2:30 something.

This year I was determined to have a completely different experience.

Similar to 2016, this year’s Hackney Half was going to be HOT (why do my races this year need to be HOT?), but I felt mentally prepared. I was a bit nervous given that it’s only been 1 month since London Marathon, but my recent runs had me feeling confident that I could pull off a PB attempt.

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Strategy: 

I knew I wanted to try to race this, so I set myself up with the 1:50 pacer in my group. Just before we started I heard him say we were running 8:20 splits. I knew that was slightly faster than 1:50 pace, but thought “f*** it, let’s go for it and see how long we can hold on for.”

Race: 

Overall, this was better than I remembered from last time. I remember that the course is hilly in some parts, but it didn’t seem so bad on the first half of the race. The pace was fast and I couldn’t stay with the pacer from the second mile, but figured I could hang back a bit and just keep him in my sights to get my goal.

Miles 1-6 were solid. Looking back at my Garmin results, my splits were strong. Some miles were fast, but I was on track for my goal.

Mile 7 was hard – my slowest mile yet, but the cheers from LDN Brunch Club crew had me re-invigorated and ready to keep going.

Miles 8-9 were solid half marathon pace efforts. I was mentally flagging at this point – the heat was getting to me, but I knew the Wild Bunch crew were just around the corner.

Mile 10 was the last good showing. I was on the wrong side of the road for Wild Bunch, which means I missed them completely. No cheers, no chance to get a top up of energy.

Mile 11 was faster than mile 10 – pace picked up, but my will to fight was losing, BIG TIME.

Mile 12 is what broke me. I couldn’t run more than a few paces before I decided I needed to stop for a walk. I was telling myself to keep going, but there was no mental will. My slowest mile.

Mile 13 is where my will to finish outweighed my desire to quit. I wanted to finish this bloody race and drink a beer.

What did I learn?

In the end, I definitely beat my 2016 race time by over 30 minutes, so I learned that I’m stronger now than I was 2 years ago.

I took a big gamble on a hard pace, on a hard day, with a challenging course. I ran a solid 10 miles, and then crashed spectacularly in the last 5K.

I’m not disappointed with my time. I ran 7 miles in under 60 minutes and 10 miles in 1:26. These times show that the potential is there, and that the time will come sooner than I think.

Cheer squads are everything. It sounds cheesy, but seeing your mates on the sidelines cheering your name is just such a positive boost. When you miss each other, it can be a mental mindf***.

I didn’t care for the Hackney course 2 years ago, and my feeling hasn’t changed. The route includes a few immediate u-turns and a lot of narrow streets. I feel that the field size needs to be smaller to allow runners the space to run. I can’t tell you how many people I had to dodge around or slow down until I could find a space to open up.

All said, I redeemed myself for 2016, ran another sub 2 half marathon, and learned what I can do, and what I need to focus on in the coming months to get that 1:50 half marathon and sub 4 marathon.

What’s next? 

Willy and I are running the Vitality 10K on Bank Holiday Monday. A shorter race, but hopefully the chance to test myself a bit more. It officially marks the start for Berlin training, so I’ll be blogging more about my training.

 

 

 

 

 

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